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Gallery will house island's history

A collection of old postcards and photographs form a gallery that traces the beginnings of Davis Islands.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 23, 2002


One photo shows Davis Boulevard under construction, with men shoveling dirt and a billboard proclaiming, "The Finest Street in America."

Another shows developer D.P. Davis himself, standing on a pile of lumber, squinting into the distance.

Could he see the future of Davis Islands?

If so, then he might have seen the fledgling gallery where his photo now hangs.

For six months, Vincent Palori and David Scher have been collecting reproductions of old postcards and photos to hang upstairs in Davis Islands Plaza, the restored building they own. Since Davis Islands does not have a history museum, they decided to start the next best thing: a historical gallery.

Now they're asking other residents to search closets and attics for images that might complement the collection.

"We're in love with Davis Islands," said Palori, a third-generation islander. "We wanted a place to view our history."

But this isn't for them; this is for everybody. The building is open to the public during normal business hours, usually 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

So far, the upstairs hallways are graced with framed reproductions of more than 40 black-and-white photos and full-color postcards.

Former resident Becky Clarke loaned the postcards, which were scanned into a computer and enlarged. The photos were found at the Tampa Bay History Center and the John F. Germany Public Library.

Each one is a blast from the past.

Several show the islands as they rose from the bay, pipelines piling sand where water used to be.

In one, couples play tennis at night. Orbs glow from overhead wires. The women wear long dresses.

Scher pointed to another showing a fleet of buses, with "D.P. Davis Properties" written on their sides.

"This is how they brought the tourists in during the boom," he said.

Palori said he plans to mine collections at the University of South Florida for more photos. In the meantime, he and Scher want help.

"We've still got a lot of wall space," Scher said.

Palori said they'd be grateful to borrow artwork, but they're willing to reproduce and maybe even buy good images.

"We just want everyone to see it," he said.

Palori can be reached at 253-5353.

-- Writer Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or matus@sptimes.com.

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