The Society for Commercial Archeology’s 2014 conference was held in St. Petersburg, Florida, April 9-12.
From the beginning the growth of St. Petersburg depended on selling the city as a destination. In relying on natural and recreational amenities, the city boomed first in the 1920s and then again after World War II. In that second mid-century growth spurt, development moved away from downtown towards the beaches and western side of the peninsula.
Two bus tours during the conference allowed attendees to see roadside resources of the Gulf coast from Weeki Wachee to Sarasota, with particular emphasis on the recreational resources of the golden age of roadside attractions.
Two fascinating tour guides were produced for this conference. Check out the St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs, Weeki Wachee, & Ybor City guide and the St. Petersburg to Sarasota Florida guide.
Wednesday, April 9, 7 – 9 p.m.
Opening Reception at the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club
We welcome you to Florida’s Suncoast and launch the conference at the world’s oldest and largest shuffleboard club, which will be closed to the public this evening so we can enjoy the club to ourselves. Enjoy a barbecue dinner accompanied by adult beverages. We will be welcomed by our friends from the City of St. Petersburg and the Shuffleboard Club.
Thursday, April 10, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunshine Skyway to Sarasota Modern Bus Tour
Our first tour will review some of the 20th century resources in downtown St. Pete and southern Pinellas County including the iconic World Liquor globe, the Gulfport Casino, mid-century churches and the wonderful hotels and motels of Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach. Traveling across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to Sarasota, we will explore the mid-century survivors of the Sarasota School of Architecture, both residential and commercial, and then visit Sarasota Jungle Gardens, a surviving vintage roadside attraction. There we will have lunch, watch the kitschy wildlife shows, and feed flamingos. On our return we will travel down the Tamiami Trail stopping at sites in Bradenton including historic McKetchnie Field.
Friday, April 11, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The heart of any SCA conference is the papers symposium where members and new friends have been selected to make visual presentations on roadside resources they have been photographing, writing about and researching. We will also welcome “five-minute stories” – an SCA tradition where members can sign up that day to share short presentations on favorite topics or interests – and hold our SCA membership meeting.
The 2014 symposium will be held in the City Council chambers at historic St. Petersburg City Hall, an example of New Deal-era Mediterranean Revival architecture. We will take a break between morning and afternoon sessions to enjoy a delicious catered lunch. Paper topics will include both papers that will build on the themes of recreation on Florida’s Suncoast, and those related to the roadside in other regions. Check the SCA website for a complete list.
Floridiana Bazaar at the St. Petersburg Shuffle, 7 – 11 p.m.
Every Friday night the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club opens its doors to shufflers of all ages as generations meet to play what is becoming the hip game of shuffleboard. Get lessons from hall-of-famers or shuffle to indie tunes with college kids. And as part of the conference festivities the club will offer a Floridiana Bazaar for vendors of vintage Florida products. Participants include authors Lu Vickers (“Weeki Wachee, City of Mermaids: A History of One of Florida’s Oldest Roadside Attractions”), Rick Kilby (“Finding the Fountain of Youth: Ponce de León and Florida’s Magical Waters”) and Ken Breslauer (“Roadside Paradise – The Golden Age of Florida’s Tourist Attractions”), among others.
Saturday, April 12, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Windows to the Past: Sponges, Mermaids & Cigars Bus Tour
This tour heads north for a big day of touring and exploring, including our closing dinner. (Note that the tour bus will not be returning to the hotel before dinner.) We will start by viewing vintage motels on 4th Street and make a quick stop at vintage attraction Sunken Gardens. After exploring one of the area’s many trailer parks full of vintage travel trailers, we will travel to the legendary Kapok Tree Restaurant site in Clearwater. Lunch will be on your own at the Sponge Docks at Tarpon Springs, where authentic Greek cuisine is readily available. From there we stop at a former Sinclair gas station shaped like a dinosaur and head to Weeki Wachee Springs, home of legendary mermaids. Finally traveling to Tampa, we will point out roadside resources including a former tin can tourist camp on our way to famed Ybor City, site of Tampa’s famed cigar industry.
For those who choose to join us for the closing dinner, we will enjoy the old world ambiance, dinner and a flamenco floor show at the original Columbia Restaurant in Tampa’s Ybor City, a Florida tradition since 1905. Reputed to be Florida’s oldest restaurant and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world, the Columbia has won numerous dining awards—including being named one of 50 named All-American Icon by Nation’s Restaurant News. Admittedly dinner and the show here will make our bus tour more expensive than the typical SCA tour, but our conference planning team thought our experience here would be worth it. Still for those members who’d prefer to stick to their budget and find dinner on their own in Ybor City, the bus will make a stop to drop off/pick up folks for a few hours on-your-own. We will return to the hotel around 9 p.m., marking the official end to the conference.
SESSION 1: Council Chambers, City Hall
- Ken Breslauer
Bring Your Camera: A Pictorial History of Florida Roadside Attraction Signs and Entrances
- Matthew Hayes
Florida’s Grapefruit League: Preserving Baseball’s Southern Spring Training Site
- Kimberly Hinder
Paradise Found: Florida’s Roadside Garden Attractions
- Chris Berger
Go to the Dogs: A History of St. Petersburg’s Derby Lane
- Bill O’Grady
Sunken Gardens: Paradise Preserved
- Aimee Ross Angel
What’s the Deal?: Tourism and Recreation in the Sunshine City
- Jonathan Tallon
The Curious Tale of Jack Kerouac’s Death in St. Petersburg: Iconography, Commemoration, and Defining a Legacy
- Barbara Gossett
From Mineral Spa to Midcentury Modern: An Architectural Tour of Palm Springs
- Megan McLaughlin
Preserving MiMo as a Revitalization Strategy: Success and Contradiction in Miami
- Jeffrey Murdock
Roadside Romance: The Architecture of Robert Reichert
SESSION 2: Conference Room 100, City Hall
- Keith Sculle
For Personal Satisfaction: Looking for the Lost on the Doorstep of Yellowstone National Park (The Cody Road)
- Frank Brusca
Time Travel along U.S. Route 40: A Half-Century of Landscape Changes along America’s Midsection
- Dick Bjornseth
Modern Relics: Roadside Remnants of the Sunshine State
Icons of the Road
- Kevin Patrick
Diners and the Suburbanization of New Jersey
- Christine Henry
Storybook Ending: The Many Lives of the Enchanted Forest Theme Park
- Penny Perkins
Neon Icons: Vintage Roadside Signs along Florida’s Scenic Byways
Loss and Change
- Martin Treu
The End of the Trail: Three Visions for Sarasota’s Historic Gateway
- Bryan Weinstein
Tampa Changing: A Pictorial Evolution of Tampa’s Built Environment
- Joe Weber
Exploring America’s Lost National Park Unit