Notes from the Past

Postal Notes on St. Petersburg, Florida

"After the Civil War folks coming to the peninsula [Pinellas Point] clustered at Big Bayou, also called Pinellas Village (on the southeast side of today's City).  Boasting a half dozen shops and a modest hotel, it established its own post office in 1876 with early settler John Bethell as postmaster.  It closed when St. Petersburg's post office in 1907 became the major center for mail for the peninsula."

The state of Florida was unique in that most federally owned land was given to the state as worthless, mosquito infested, swamp land.  The state soon put it up for sale.  Six railroads and a wealthy Philadelphian, Hamilton Disston, soon owned most of Florida (in fact, an inventory showed the state had sold more land than it owned).

Disston purchased 4,000,000 acres in 1881 and by 1884 he "... had formed the Disston City Land Co. and filed a plat of 'Disston City' spread out on 12,000 acres of the southern end of Point Pinellas ..." -- the ultimate site of St. Petersburg.

"When the mail did arrive [at Disston City], it was addressed to the town of 'Bonifacio.'  Postal officials refused to designate the city as 'Disston City' because of a town north of Tampa with the similar name of 'Diston.'  The moniker 'bonifacio,' the story goes, was the middle name of a Disston aide."

Disston City went into a decline shortly after 1886 when Disston broke off negotiations with the Russian Peter A. Demens, a railroad builder, for providing service to Disston City.  Shortly thereafter a deal was made for an alternate route for the railroad to reach Tampa Bay on land owned by General John C. Williams who was interested in building a city on 1,600 acres he owned after having failed earlier as a farmer on the land.  This was to become the heart of St. Petersburg.  (Incidentally, St. Petersburg is thought to have been named for his home city by the Russian Demens.)

"The beautiful Snell Arcade in the Snell Building at Central and Fourth ... was finished in 1928.  [The Arcade] led to the post office ...  The Snell Arcade is gone.  The mosaic and statuary in the arcade were bought by C. Perry Snell on trips to Europe."

An "Open Air Post Office [was] built in 1917 at Fourth Street and First Avenue North ... [It] changed little over the years. ... The front was left out of the building so box holders could get their mail day or night."

 Posted December 2, 1999

Editor's Note:  These notes are taken from St. Petersburg: Once Upon a Time by Del Marth, copyright 1976 by the City of St. Petersburg, Florida.  

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