Winter 2018
St. Petersburg is changing before our eyes! New buildings, new museums, a new Pier, and lots of new people—residents and visitors from around the world—are all about us! These changes contribute greatly to our economy, culture and urban vitality. The Waterfront Parks Foundation (WPF) applauds the successes of our city and continues to work to preserve one of our greatest attractions, the vast and verdant Downtown Waterfront Parks on Tampa Bay. This tremendous asset, our emerald gem, was privately acquired by visionary citizens over 100 years ago and given to the city to be preserved for the enjoyment of all St. Pete’s citizens and visitors in perpetuity! The WPF has taken up the mantle of the founders’ vision and will continue this legacy as a thoughtful voice for the future of our Downtown Waterfront Park system.

I am thankful to our illustrious and dedicated Board of Trustees for their commitment to this vision. We would like to introduce each one of these fine people to you in coming months and we are starting with a profile of Harvey Ford in this issue of Park Views. It is good to know the people who are working to make a positive difference in our community.
Another one of our Board Members, Will Michaels, PhD, is especially well-versed in the history of our city. We have included a column by Will in this issue that is sure to broaden your knowledge of our remarkable historic waterfront.
Finally, it’s time again for our Annual Fundraiser to benefit the Waterfront Parks Foundation! Join us for the ‘Sunday Shuffle’ on Sunday, April 8, from 3:00-6:00 pm. The event will be held at the historic St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club at 559 Mirror Lake Drive North.  See the ad, in this issue of Park Views, and be sure to get full details and register on our website: I hope to see YOU there! Be sure to invite your family and friends to join us too.
See you in the park!
Phil Graham, Jr., President
Waterfront Parks Foundation
Harvey A. Ford
"It’s in the DNA”

by Velva Lee Heraty
For most of his life, Attorney Harvey Ford has lived, worked and played in the heart of St. Petersburg, Flo
rida’s impressive downtown area. Having studied at Vanderbilt University, Harvey, along with his wife Kathleen, also an attorney, joined forces in January 2002 and launched Ford & Ford P. A., a successful law firm. After raising their two children, Drew and Maggie, near the downtown waterfront, the Fords now live near Weedon Island in northeast St. Pete and enjoy a grand view of the sunrise over Papy’s Bayou. Harvey, an avid sailor, loves to be near the water. “I prefer simple, uncluttered settings," he remarks. "Nature, open spaces, and the sea. It’s an unforced attitude that I think many folks develop in St Pete. I hope we stay that way. Regardless, I am privileged and humbled to witness the wisdom of the Waterfront Parks Foundation.” It seems to be in his DNA.
Another, more personal part of Ford’s St. Pete DNA was forged in 1903 when his great-grandfather, C. A. Harvey and his wife, Lucille, left Thomasville, Georgia and moved to Lassing Park, the Southeast section of then-sleepy St. Petersburg. C. A. made quite a mark on his chosen city during the remaining eleven years of his life. His vision was to develop a deep-water industrial port in Bayboro Harbor and, to that end, he purchased 250 prime acres of property south of what later became Bayboro Harbor.
As St. Petersburg began to take shape, C.A. and his friend, William L. Straub, realized their appreciation for the downtown waterfront as a leisurely, social location for residents to enjoy. (See more on Straub in the accompanying article.) When a difference of opinion arose between the city fathers regarding the waterfront's future, C.A. and William joined ranks to prevent the industrial development of the downtown Pier area, which remains part of the downtown waterfront parks system that Harvey now supports in his work with the Foundation.
C. A. and Lucille had three children—Ruth, Estelle, and Lester. Ruth bore Lucille, Ford’s mother, who graduated from Stetson University Law School in 1965 and gained recognition as a successful local attorney. Lucille certainly must have been proud to pass on her professional DNA to her son, Harvey.
Harvey’s father, Halsey Ford, contributed to his love of the water as an avid sailboat racer and an active fisherman. “I guess that’s my thing,” Harvey remarks, “Being on or near the water….whether it is crabbing along the seawall or offshore sailing.” As he has for several years, he’ll again be racing to Havana this year on his J-112e named Silver Surfer.
The Vinoy Hotel could be considered another DNA marker for Harvey. In 1925, on the grand hotel's opening day, his grandmother, Ruth Harvey, was married there. Ninety-one years later, the Vinoy was the setting for the Fords' daughter Maggie's marriage to Billy Tapp.
Where the DNA takes future generations remains to be seen, as Harvey and Kathleen eagerly anticipate the birth of their first grandchild to their son, Drew, and his wife, Chelsae.


Watch for another Board member to be featured in the next edition of Park Views.
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Our website,, is continually updated, and we are working toward an interactive site that will provide the community and our visitors with the “flavor of life” on St. Pete’s waterfront. Be sure to check it out and, while you're there, sign up for our 2018 Sunday Shuffle!
William L. Straub
Father of Our Waterfront Parks
by Will Michaels

From earliest times the downtown waterfront was a mix of commercial and recreational use.  Along with early town builders, Peter Demens and his railroad sought to promote tourism in addition to shipping. In fact a large bathing pavilion was added to the Railroad Pier at what is now Demens Landing for the use of tourists in 1890.
In 1902 a new channel, called the Little Coe Channel, was dredged in the vicinity of what is now the Central Yacht Basin to expand commercial shipping and better compete with the Port of Tampa.  The editor of the St. Petersburg Times, William L. Straub, was not enthusiastic about the dredging of the channel. While Straub favored the expansion of the city’s port facilities, he was also worried that expansion would destroy the potential beauty of the downtown waterfront. Straub was also an artist who appreciated the natural beauty of the bay. He was equally concerned that further commercialization of the waterfront could negatively affect the growing tourist trade. The waterfront was already becoming littered with unkempt docks and smelly fish processing houses. There also was the electric power plant with two tall smoking stacks. At one point the Board of Trade issued a report declaring, “We found that nearly the whole water front was in an insanitary and unsightly condition—decaying seaweed and other vegetable, as well as animal matter, produced obnoxious odors, rendering residence along the front almost intolerable and beyond all question detrimental to health….The general appearance of decay and neglect between the two docks—old boats, rotting piers, all sorts of riff-raff, and especially where the outgoing tide leaves large stretches of sand covered with a variety of animal and vegetable matter in all stages of decay—does not well comport with a live, progressive city such as St. Petersburg claims to be.”
A struggle ensued between various business and civic interests over whether the downtown waterfront was to become primarily a commercial port, or a waterfront park for use of tourists and as an amenity for adjacent residential neighborhoods. Straub’s eventual solution was to preserve the downtown waterfront by promoting C. A. Harvey’s proposed port further south at Bayboro, in the vicinity of 10th Ave. South. A commercial port was in fact developed there and prospered for many years. This site is now primarily the location of the University of South Florida--St. Petersburg, although the Coast Guard still has a facility there, small cruise ships dock there from time to time, and there is a marina.
Debate over the idea of a waterfront park began in1902 after the Board of Trade approved a resolution calling for a public bayfront park between Second and Fifth Avenues North. Straub backed the resolution through editorials in the Times. But the first real advance of the park vision occurred in 1905 when J. M. Lewis, a retired army officer and yachtsman, presented a plan to turn virtually the entire downtown waterfront into parkland. Lewis’ plan became a major issue in the 1906 city elections, and public waterfront supporters eventually won a majority of seats on the city council. In February 1906 a waterfront owner planned to build a number of rental cottages on the waterfront. Concerned that this would unleash a spate of low-end rental units, the city responded by passing an ordinance ordering that no buildings other than boathouses or bathing pavilions were to be built unless approved by the city. In April the Board of Trade, under the leadership of C. Perry Snell who developed residential neighborhoods in Northeast St. Petersburg and later Snell Isle, began to buy up waterfront property and  hold it in trust until the city could afford to turn the property into parkland.

The struggle continued. In 1908 a new city council was elected opposed to the waterfront park. At that point waterfront park boosters formed the St. Petersburg Waterfront Company for the purpose of taking over the waterfront lots previously purchased, acquiring the remaining property, creating a yacht basin, providing for commercial shipping to the south, and beautifying the park. Creation of this company suddenly sparked the city council to action. The council and a group of public ownership advocates secured money to buy the waterfront lots previously purchased by the Board of Trade, with the first deed dated January 8, 1909. All the remaining waterfront property, except that held by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the electric light company, was obtained by the Board of Trade in December 1909. Final arrangement were made on Christmas Eve and resulted in what Straub’s Times called “the best Christmas present that St. Petersburg ever had.” Five months later, the dredge Blanche, named in honor of Blanche Straub, William Straub’s daughter, began work on the waterfront improvements. Waterfront Park finally became an official park in December 1910. In 1911 seawalls were added. By 1916 St. Petersburg had one of the largest public waterfronts in the nation. And by 1925, the total public cost of purchasing and improving the waterfront came to almost $2 million ($28 million in today’s dollars).
By the end of 1909 the city had purchased all of the original waterfront property except that held by the ACL Railroad and the Electric Light & Power Company. In 1911 the ACL leased their property to the city. The site of the Electric Light Company, at the foot of Central Ave., was acquired about 1914. This site was later leased by the city to the St. Petersburg Yacht Club for a dollar a year. The final piece of waterfront property at the foot of the Electric Pier was acquired by the city in 1919.

William L, Straub deserves to be remembered as “Father of St. Petersburg’s Waterfront Parks.” His championship of preserving the downtown waterfront for parkland was a bold action.  Prime waterfront property was removed from the immediate tax rolls. But in the long run this resulted in a better quality of life for our people, including a strong city economy based on tourism and residential development. And business also was boosted as major commercial enterprises such as the Soreno and Vinoy Hotels vied for attractive locations around the waterfront parkland.

William Straub left his stamp on our city in more ways than just the Waterfront Parks. He campaigned for better roads and sidewalks, for better public schools, for a more humane penal system, for a city-manager style government, for the creation of the first public Parks Board. He was instrumental in bringing about the creation of Pinellas County, breaking it off from Hillsborough County (1912). And it was not just what he did for our city but how he did it. He pushed for positive change, but brought it about in a way that allowed for reasonable compromise and mutual respect. In 1902 he probably saved the lives of the officers of a failed bank when they were the target of angry depositors. He helped to mediate a dispute over the incorporation of our city in 1903. He obtained the support of Clearwater for creation of Pinellas County by not insisting the county seat be located in St. Petersburg, even though our city was much larger.  It the words of his great-grandson Frank Straub Starkey, “he was and continues to be a model of civic responsibility for us all.” As historian Walter P. Fuller put it, “Straub was the greatest influence for the development of the community ever to appear on the scene.”

Will Michaels, PhD, is the author of The Making of St. Petersburg and the Hidden History of St. Petersburg. Both books are available at Haslam’s and other area book stores, and on-line at Amazon.
Waterfront Parks Foundation Mission:
To support preservation and enhancement of the historic downtown waterfront parks
for the enjoyment of residents and visitors of St. Petersburg.
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