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Crumbling kiosks may be getting overhaul

The brick and mortar structures marked the entryway to Richardson Place, a subdivision platted in the early 1900s.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 18, 2002


They have survived hurricanes, road construction and Hyde Park's renaissance.

Two brick kiosks at the corner of Richardson Place and Rome Avenue stand among the area's oldest structures, predating the balustrade of Bayshore Boulevard and many neighborhood bungalows.

Lately, the kiosks are showing signs of age.

"They are sort of like leaning Towers of Pisa," said Michael Bille, who lives a few doors away on Richardson.

Bille is on a mission to return the kiosks to their original glory. As with any historic structure in Hyde Park, he must go through a complicated review process involving several city departments.

Bille moved to Richardson nine years ago. He loved the restored, old homes and the scenic neighborhood within walking distance of Bayshore and Old Hyde Park Village.

He passed the kiosks every day but never thought much about them until a year ago when they started to noticeably lean. Eventually, he feared, they would fall down.

"They need to be straightened and preserved," said Bille, who lives in a bungalow built about the same time as the kiosks. "They're part of history."

It turns out the brick and concrete towers served as the entryway to Richardson Place, a subdivision platted in the early 1900s. William and Jennie Richardson bought the land from the Hills Family (the namesake for nearby Hills Avenue) about 1918.

Previously, Richardson Place was called Dubois Street.

More than 80 years later, the nearly 10-foot-tall brick entry markers remain. One still has "Richardson Place" faintly etched on the top.

Decades of sun and rain have darkened the grout and pitted the concrete. Weeds sprout from the center, a haphazard resting spot for stray beer bottles.

Bille, 52, wants to clean the bricks and mortar, adjust the footing and, if possible, add lighting.

First, he must find out who's responsible for the maintenance and liability.

Julie Harris, Tampa's neighborhood liaison, said the city needs to research the background before any work can be done. The kiosks likely fall under the city transportation department, given their location in the public right of way.

The project may be eligible for a city grant similar to the one Parkland Estates used to restore the gateway along Swann Avenue, Harris said. The grant would require matching money from the neighborhood.

Bille estimates the cost at a few thousand dollars. A member of the Historic Hyde Park Neighbors Association, he plans to ask for the group's support.

Getting the official go-ahead could take a while. The project must go through the city's Architectural Review Commission, which often takes months.

Bille hopes the project draws broad support. It coincides with the construction of the Kate Jackson Community Center and other improvements along Rome.

"It fits into the whole puzzle," he said.

Warren Weathers, chief deputy property appraiser who studied the old maps for Bille, said the project would add to the neighborhood's historic feel. As a child who grew up in the area, he remembers playing on the kiosks back in the 1960s.

"I think it's a great idea," he said. "They need a little help."

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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