These vintage photos show how much St. Pete’s piers have changed over the last century
The new St. Pier officially opens today, and to celebrate we thought we'd revisit the city's long, storied history with piers.
The first piers debuted around 1854. But the first major pier wasn't built until the creation of the official Railroad Pier in 1889, which was before St. Petersburg was even considered a city. That pier extended roughly a half-mile into the water, and was used by the Orange Belt Railway, which carried people and goods from St. Pete to Longwood.
Just a few blocks from this location was the Brantley Pier, which was built in 1896 and was the first pier to extend out from 2nd Avenue NE. It also featured a 34-room bathing pavilion. In 1904, the Brantley Pier was torn down to make way for the 3,000-foot Electric Pier, which featured lights and a street car line. It was owned by the St. Petersburg Electric Light & Power Company and the St. Petersburg & Gulf Electric Railway. Right next to the Electric Pier, was the home of the Municipal Recreation Pier from 1913 to 1921. Over on 3rd Avenue S. was the Fountain of Youth Pier, which was existed from 1901-1921 before it was destroyed by a hurricane. The Fountain of Youth Pier was considered the city's first "tourist trap."
Unfortunately, a hurricane in 1921 wiped out just about every pier in St. Pete, which paved the way for the Million Dollar Pier and Casino. This pier featured an open-air ballroom, a solarium, Spa Beach and bait houses.
Though a major tourist attraction, the Million Dollar pier eventually needed a facelift, and was torn down in 1967. The empty lot at the end of the pier was used as a small park with benches, and in 1973 was the site of the famous Inverted Pyramid Pier. A famous landmark among locals, the Pyramid was filled with many beloved shops and restaurants, but it was also a logistical nightmare, considering the constant maintenance issues and lawsuits that followed over the years.
The Pyramid was closed in 1986 for $12 million worth of renovations, and reopened in 1988 with a new glass elevator, an aquarium, and a banquet hall. However, the problems continued, and the pier was eventually closed in 2013 after maintenance continued to plague the attraction.
Now, seven years later, the new $92 million St. Pete Pier makes its big debut, complete with a splash pad, a fishing deck, a local market vendor area, several restaurants, a 3,000-square-foot interactive classroom and a $1.5 million sculpture from Tampa Bay artist Janet Echelman called “Bending Arc.”
These vintage photos from the State of Florida archives show just how far St. Pete's piers have come in the last century.