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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our seventh calendar year
    PCR #351  (Vol. 7, No. 50)  This edition is for the week of December 11--17, 2006.

The Fabulous Architecture of the Tampa Bay Region, Part Two  by Will Moriaty
"Eragon"  by Mike Smith
"Charlotte's Web"  by Mike Smith
First Screening: Creature Productions' "Dark Dimensions"  by Nolan B. Canova
The Tampa Film Review for December  by Nolan B. Canova and Chris Woods
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! Part 3  by Drew Reiber
DVD Grindhouse: Horror Classics - 50 Movie Pack DVD Collection (Part 1)....Peter Boyle is Gone  by Andy Lalino
The Globes....Texas Boud....Passing On....Next Year....My Favorite Films, Part 50: "1941"  by Mike Smith
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The Fabulous Architecture of the Tampa Bay Region
Part Two

Expedition II begins!
On the morning of Saturday September 30, 2006, my friend Susan Hughes and I jumped into the Nightstalker with T-tops off and proceeded westward from Plant City on Interstate 4 to our destinations in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Several weeks prior to our sojourn, I had come across an incredible example of extant Googie architecture (for definitions of architectural styles, please see last week’s edition in PCR #350: http://www.crazedfanboy.com/index.php) still existing in Tampa, namely the Econo Lodge on South Dale Mabry Highway at Jetton Street. In addition I wanted to show Susan where I lived in the Beach Park area of Tampa in order to give her an understanding of my interest in and love of Mediterranean Revival architecture. Afterward we would cross Gandy Bridge, go down St. Petersburg’s 4th Street Corridor, review the architecture of St. Petersburg’s downtown, head out 5th Avenue North to attend a Memorial Concert for Beaux-Arts Gallery owner Thomas Bruce Reese, and finish the sojourn in South Pasadena and Gulfport.

First Stop-A Sixties Motel of Incredible Architecture
Econo Lodge: The Econo Lodge, 1020 South Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa was the first subject of our review. One of the few remaining functional examples of Googie architecture in the Bay area, the Econo Lodge building was breathtaking in its size, design and construction. Obviously a product of the late 50’s to mid 60’s, signs of the wear and tear attesting to its age was apparent upon close inspection.

I could easily picture the vacationing Nuclear Family of the 60’s or early 70’s flying into the old Tampa International Airport terminal and deplaning on an Eastern Lockheed Electra or Delta DC-8 before taking a room here, followed by a day on the Pinellas Beaches with stops at the Tides and the Aquatarium, undoubtedly bringing back Florida paraphernalia from mom and pop shell shops that once populated the resort communities to the west.

After an in-depth review filled with many “oohs and ahs”, Susan lamented that this grand example of architecture would probably meet the wrecker’s ball in the near future. I lamented in response about the subsequent bulldozing of other notably unique Tampa hotels such as the original Tahitian Inn on Dale Mabry Highway with its Polynesian and Tiki elements, as well as the former International Inn at the corner of Westshore Boulevard and Kennedy Avenue and the Causeway Inn out on Rocky Point near Courtney Campbell Causeway that to me looked more like 1960’s Miami than 1960’s Miami!

After parting this great building, Susan and I jumped back into the Nightstalker and proceeded to a nearby Starbucks on Dale Mabry for a breather and to talk via cell phone to our dear friend Lisa Clardy (of F-Bod Studios of Orlando: http://www.f-bod.com/) who we would be visiting a few days later.

The majestic Googie architecture that is Tampa's Econo Lodge on South Dale Mabry Highway.
Noted for its blues and unique building is Dave's Aqua Lounge on Gandy Boulevard North in St. Petersburg.
Downtown St. Petersburg is a land of architectural jewels such as the Palladium on 5th Avenue North.
The St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club complex as seen from Mirror Lake Drive.
Susan Hughes peers into one of the ancient buildings of The St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club. She ain't 'fraid ah no ghost!
The exquisite St. Petersburg Coliseum as viewed from across the street of 4th Avenue North at The St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club.
Central Avenue's stately State Theater is a fine example of Beaux Arts architecture.
St. Petersburg first hotel, the Detroit, resided in this very same structure.
St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine Arts.
Built in 1922, the Grayl's Hotel beautifully captures Spanish Mission architecture.
With its best days undoubtedly over, this massive hollow Brutalist hulk known as The Fifth Plaza will undoubtedly be razed sometime in the near future.
Stop Number Two -- A Pink Palace and a Watch Tower in Beach Park
As recounted in last week’s column, I once lived in the guest house of the former Melvin Asp mansion on Beach Way Drive in the Beach Park section of Tampa. This is where I fell in love with Mediterranean Revival architecture and the house and its guest house exists there to this day. We surveyed other original Mediterranean Revival houses in the area, as well as several Ranch style, Tudor and more recently built McMansion houses.

I then drove Susan by the current day home of George Steinbrenner where in 1974 my sister, the late Merry Moor Winnett (http://americanart.si.edu/search/search_artworks1.cfm?StartRow=1&ConID=7066&format=short) had me photograph her posing next to a watchtower at was then called the Guernsey Estate in a print she titled “The Spirit Without” (I will be featuring her works in La Floridiana in the near future).

After these reviews, it was time to leave the mangrove fringed Beach Park neighborhood with its thick canopy of Live Oak and Cabbage Palm and head south down Westshore Boulevard to Gandy where we cross the Gandy Bridge to our next stop.

Stop Number Three -- Dave’s Aqua Lounge and Weedon Island Preserve
Dave’s Aqua Lounge: One of the most unique structures on Gandy Boulevard north in St. Petersburg is undoubtedly Dave’s Aqua Lounge. Located at 10820 Gandy Boulevard North, the building has a slightly Googie look but is composed of rock aggregate used on its facade and arches. After snapping some photos, Susan and I decided to make an impromptu side trip to the Weedon Island Preserve (http://www.weedonislandcenter.org/) where we walked over, near and through the ruins of Tocobaga Indian architecture as well as the concrete footprint left of what was once the terminal of the Grand Central Airport.

It was a gorgeous day to walk the boardwalk amongst the mangroves and survey the Bay area from the observation deck at the south end of the Park. Weathered former telephone poles rose out of the mangrove swamps bespeaking of an area where once there was human activity connected with an airport that served New York City and Atlanta through a carrier known as Pitcairn Airlines, which would become Eastern Air Lines.

In due time the mangroves, palmettos and South Florida Slash Pines would reclaim the empire that the Tocobaga once built here, as well as a commercial airport of over 70 years ago.

Susan and I were both humbled and reminded of our relatively short time on this wondrous planet while taking in the beauty of this wonderful Pinellas County park.

Stop Number Four -- Lunch with a Film Maker and Movie Star
We left Weedon Island Preserve and headed over to 4th Street North to meet film maker and actress Emerald Gowers of Griffowers Productions (see PCR #338: http://www.crazedfanboy.com/npcr06/tfr_sept_pcr338.html) at the Ringside Café for lunch. A building of note itself along the wonderful 4th Street Corridor of St. Petersburg, this old wooden structure on 2742 4th Street North has had some incredible blues music reverberate against its walls over the decades.

During lunch I shared with Susan and “Em” photos that my sister took (one including me when I was age 18 at the Top of the World condominiums in Clearwater) that I would later that day give to Mari Eliza at the Thomas Bruce Reese Memorial Concert (http://www.beauxartsbook.com/) at the King of Peace Metropolitan Church on 5th Avenue North. My sister introduced me to the Beaux Art Gallery in June 1973, and Mr. Reese, its founder, had passed away this year.

After a wonderful time together of discussing film, arts and architecture with Em, Susan and I left the Ringside Café and headed southward into downtown for more photographs and incredible architecture.

Stop Number Five -- The Palladium Theater, downtown St. Petersburg and the 5th Avenue North Corridor
The Palladium Theater: One of the most stately and classic buildings in downtown St. Petersburg is the Palladium Theater (http://www.mypalladium.org/), 253 5th Avenue North is a mid sized 800 seat community performing arts center that was formerly a church.

St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club: Heading further west out 5th Avenue North, Susan and I drove through the beautiful Lake Mirror neighborhood where the historic St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club (http://www.stpete.org/Shuffleboard.htm) is located. Located at 559 Lake Mirror drive, this noteworthy and historic treasure was built between 1923 and 1939, this structure still provides resident and visitor with shuffleboard services each Friday evening. Five separate phases of construction occurred during the first sixteen years of the Club, some of them producing the Mediterranean Style lines framing the facade of the complex’s largest buildings.

St. Petersburg Coliseum: Literally across the street from the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club complex lies the St. Petersburg Coliseum (http://www.stpete.org/coliseum.htm). Located at 535 4th Avenue North, this magnificent Mediterranean Style structure was built in 1924 and has been the venue for countless famous acts and personalities ever since. The Coliseum is still functional and on November 12th of this year hosted the Florida Show (http://www.hulahula.biz/floridamemorabiliashows/pasteventnov122006.html) which yours truly was a featured author at! Once we left the Mirror Lake neighborhood we decided to visit downtown before attending the Thomas Bruce Reese Memorial Concert

But First, a Little Retrograde Motion as We Head East on Central Avenue and on toward the Bay

State Theater: A classic example of Beaux Arts architecture, the State Theater (http://www.stpete.org/StateTheater.htm), 687 Central Avenue, was built in 1924. The Theater is still operable today and brings in many unique and innovative performing artists ((http://www.statetheatreconcerts.com/). After more “oohs and ahs”, Susan and I wandered along the little shops that comprise Central Avenue and lingered at one that specialized in one of our favorite types of Americana - - 50’s through 70’s retro! We then hopped back into the Nightstalker and whisked away eastward to more incredible architecture in downtown St. Petersburg.

Detroit Hotel: The father of St. Petersburg is considered by many to be General John Williams who in 1875 purchased 2,500 acres of land adjacent to Tampa Bay. The first hotel to be built on General Williams land purchase was named the Detroit, located at 205 Central Avenue, in honor of his birthplace, Detroit, Michigan. Thirteen years later railroad builder Peter Demens would name Williams development St. Petersburg after his native Russian city. This structure that forms the very foundation of St. Petersburg’s history still exists.

Museum of Fine Arts: Amongst one of the most imposing and impressive buildings in downtown St. Petersburg is the Museum of Fine Arts (http://www.fine-arts.org/) located at Beach Drive N.E. Although built in 1965, the building is a neoclassical work reminiscent of Greek Revival architecture.

Grayl’s Hotel: Located at 340 Beach Drive N.E., the Grayl’s Hotel (http://www.graylshotel.com/) was built in the Spanish Mission architectural style in 1922. Still a jewel in the City’s downtown, the Grayl’s overlooks Tampa Bay and the nearby Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club, yet another world class structure in St. Petersburg (http://marriott.com/property/propertypage/TPASR). By then it was approaching 4:00 and we wanted to make sure that we did not miss meeting Mari Eliza at the Thomas Bruce Reese Memorial Concert at the King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church, 3150 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg,

Head West Old Man
Susan and I were on the road again, now heading west to the King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church (http://www.kingofpeacemcc.com/) where we met Ms. Eliza. Mari and I shared wonderful memories of the times I visited Thomas Reese’s Beaux Arts Center in Pinellas Park with my sister back in 1973.

While I talked to Mari, Susan roamed the halls of this former movie theater where before it was converted into its present day form, housed promotional fixtures that I picked up from there, first in 1986 when working at Montgomery Ward in Clearwater Mall, then in 1993 when working at Dolin’s Garden Center in St. Petersburg.

All that I remember is that every time I went to that hulk of a former theater it gave me the creeps! I must admit that this visit was different. Somehow the feel was better, undoubtedly the church may have driven out whatever bad mojo I used to feel there in yesteryear.

When I finally found Susan she was in the main auditorium listening to several of the Beaux Arts alumnus performing. We listened to various very good acts for about half an hour, then headed out to the parking lot to capture the last digital image I would take that day of the Brutalist architecture of The Plaza Fifth Avenue building which is undoubtedly now an empty doomed massive shell awaiting the wrecking ball.

I remember when that building was in its prime, and I found out only several months back that a good friend of mine at work, Mr. Normand Lataille’s father had the painting contract for that building for years.

On westward still Susan and I drove to the Eagle Lake neighborhood to survey the wonderful Ranch style houses and thick groves of South Florida Slash Pines behind the St. Petersburg College Gibbs campus. As the daylight was growing shorter we headed to South Pasadena and glimpsed the sun slip down below the mangroves fringing Boca Ceiga Bay from Galatea Garden and Duryea Park (http://ci.south-pasadena.fl.us/recreation/recreation.html).

A Great Dinner, Gulfport and the End of the Road
We next had a delightful dinner at Saffron’s Caribbean Cuisine (http://www.saffronscuisine.com/) in the Jungle Prada area of St. Petersburg. After delectable Jerk Chicken we left for Gulfport in time to grab a bench on the beach near the Gulfport Casino and watch the last light of day melt into a sleepy red glow over St. Pete Beach and the first stars at night shimmer above Boca Ceiga Bay. Susan started to fall asleep as her nocturnal work schedule wreaks havoc on her diurnal clock (or it could be that I just naturally have that effect on everyone).

Wearily she walked back to the Nightstalker and we headed back to Plant City where we started from a half a day earlier. Both of us were dogged tired but the memory of just a portion of St. Petersburg ‘s(and Tampa’s) fabulous architecture we saw that day kept us safely awake for the remainder of our wonderful journey that September 30th day.

Neighborhoods of the 5th Avenue North Corridor in St. Petersburg:
As mentioned in last week’s column, the City of St. Petersburg’s official web site gives an exhaustive listing and description of its neighborhoods. This exquisite and commendable work is an incredible aid in helping the architecture and history lover in all of know what neighborhoods contain what features we are looking for. Based on the City’s neighborhood listings, these are the communities that Susan and I traveled through to find our subject buildings:

Historic Old Northeast: (http://www.stpete.org/nnnor.htm) North side of street from the east side of 4th Street North eastward to Tampa Bay.
North Downtown: (http://www.stpete.org/nnmir.htm) South side of street from 9th Street North eastward to Tampa Bay: the State Theater, the St. Petersburg Coliseum, the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Court, the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, Grayl’s Hotel, Detroit Hotel, the (St. Petersburg) Pier
Historic Kenwood: (http://www.stpete.org/nnhis.htm): From Interstate 275 westward to 34th Street North (U,S, 19)
United Central: (http://www.stpete.org/nnuni.htm): From 34th Street North to 49th Street North

"La Floridiana" is ©2006 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.