LETTERS  PCR #362      (February 26--March 4, 2007)

  • Will Moriaty on Castel Banuit
  • Reader inquiry on Melvin B. Asp (and Will Moriaty's response)

    Letters to the EditorWe welcome your feedback.


    I read with great interest Andy Lalino's article in PCR #361 about the Castel Bantuit, a proposed year-around haunted house, dinner theater and gift shop with magic shows and Halloween related items in Largo, Florida.

    The City of Largo is delaying the proposed attraction because the City's code enforcement chief believes that a beautifully gothic wall mural on the premise constitutes a "sign violation."

    This interpretation is hogwash. The mural appears to be just that, a mural reinforcing the intent the business, not an actual sign.

    I believe that this propsed business has the potential to be a tourist attraction and deserves our support.

    Please read about it in the St. Petersburg Times and then write to the City of Largo aqt the following: Commission@largo.com and Citymanager@largo.com

    Please identify the name of the Mayor, City Commissioners and City Manager in the heading of your letter as I did in mine attached.

    Your help is needed and I thank Andy Lalino for bringing this to our attention.

    William Moriaty
    Plant City, FL

    To: The Honorable Mayor Pat Gerard
    Commissioner Mary Gray Black
    Commissioner Andrew Guyette
    Commissioner Rodney J. Woods
    Commissioner Gigi Arntzen
    Commissioner Harriet Crozier
    Commissioner Gary Gentry
    City Manager Steven B. Stanton

    I read about the Castel Bantuit matter in several publications.

    Although I concur with private entities abiding with and conforming to the laws of the land, I truly find the City's interpretation of labeling the proposed business's wall mural as a sign is outside of the scope of what constitutes advertising versus ornamentation.

    I would request that the City consider the many wall murals scattered throughout (particularly along the Pinellas beaches) and ask themselves if these constitute a sign or simply reinforce the intent of the business. I find such murals enjoyable works of art versus a sign violation eye-sore, and the Castel Bantuit's wall mural is no exception.

    I believe that this business could be a boon to the Largo area, one that I would patronize and recommend to friends. It's refreshing to see an attraction of this type in Florida after a many decades absense (i.e. the London Wax Museum, Aquatarium and other local attractions that at one time defined Florida's uniqueness as a tourist mecca).

    I think you for you time and consideration on this matter and hope that you will reconsider your stand on the Castel Banuit's beautiful wall mural artwork.

    William Moriaty
    La Floridiana (www.crazedfanboy.com)


    I am doing some research on Melvin B. Asp. I started with a picture of a plane he built in his spare time while at France Field in the in the 1920s. My grandfather had a picture of a plane he built while they were both stationed at France Field. I have found another picture of an airplane Melvin Asp had built and became interested in him. I put his name in "google" and found he was at MacDill in the 1940s and I also found your site "La Floridiana" and read about your connection to him. I am putting together a History of the 6th Air Mobility Wing that is a descendant of the 6th Composite Group that was in Panama and is now based at MacDill AFB. I am putting this together for a display at the upcoming AIRFEST at MacDill this coming March 21 and April 1st. If you have any information, pictures or anything that might shed light on this interesting person, please get in touch with me.

    Denny [no last name]


    Hello Denny:

    Thanks for reading our on-line publication and my column La Floridiana.

    I knew of Melvin B. Asp through my mother and through Helen Asp, who was Melvin's widow.

    As I can recollect, Melvin B. Asp was either an adopted son of or very closely related in some manner to John and Mabel Ringling. I know that he was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Air Force and possibly the commanding officer of MacDill Army Air Field (others credit him as being the Commander of Drew Army Air Field in Tampa). He commanded the USAAF's Twenty-Ninth Bombardment Group Heavy which was formed into the Forty-Fourth Bombardment Group Heavy by Brigidier General Tinker in 1941. He was involved in a crash of some type (I believe an air crash or a World War Two incident) that effectively ended his military career and left him disabled.

    I lived in the Asp guest house in the summer of 1975. The Asp house is a Meditteranean Rivival house on Beachway Drive in the Culbreath Bayou section of Tampa (the Asp's sold the Culbreath's the land for that development) that was occupied by the Asp's from the time it was built until the time that Helen died, in, I believe, 1984 or 1985. Both the house and guest house still exist.

    The most fascinating story I remember Helen recounting (Melvin had long since passed away by the time I met Helen in 1971. She had known my mother, however, for close to twenty or thirty years by then) was that of her and Melvin being whisked away on a gondola from the dock at the Ringling Estate's Ca d'Zan to their home on Beachway Drive in Tampa! And that was done on a routine basis!

    How romantic and how different a life we led in this area all those years ago!

    Also, please link to these references:

    William Moriaty
    La Floridiana

    To send an email to Letters to the Editor write to: Crazedfanboy1@aol.com.  Any emails sent to this address will be assumed intended for publication unless you specifically instruct me not to. I can and do respond privately, if that is your preference. Frequently, it's both ways.---Nolan

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