Decades on the deuces

Here is a list of significant dates in 22nd Street S history, placed in the context of the national civil rights movement and race relations in St. Petersburg.

1888–89: African-American workers who helped build the Orange Belt Railway begin to move here, settling in an area labeled Peppertown. It is just east of what became Ninth Street S, along what became Third and Fourth avenues.

1890–1900: Another African-American community begins to form along Ninth Street S, south of First Avenue S.

1894: The Bethel AME Church is founded at 912 Third Ave. N. An African-American community known as Methodist Town grows around it.

1910: St. Petersburg's population is 4,127, including 1,098 African-American residents, or about 27 percent, according to the federal census.

1913: The Democratic Party conducts a "whites-only" primary in a city election. Another "unofficial" one would be held in 1921, and a 1930s city charter had provision for a white primary.

1914: At Ninth Street S and Second Avenue, townspeople and nightriders from the countryside lynch John Evans, an African-American suspected of murdering white photographer Ed Sherman. The murdered white man's lawyer told his hometown Camden, N.J., newspaper that city leaders met in secret to plan the lynching.

  • Excited about growth possibilities, city fathers annex a long, narrow strip from 16th Street to Boca Ciega Bay, between Fifth Avenue N and Seventh Avenue S. It includes part of what would become the core of the 22nd Street S strip.

1920: St. Petersburg's population is 14,237, including 2,444 African-Americans (about 17 percent), according to the federal census.

  • Adding weight to segregation policies, St. Petersburg police say they will arrest white men found at night in black areas of town, whatever their age or social standing.

1923: Mercy Hospital opens with 21 beds at 1344 22nd St. S to serve African-Americans. At 515 22nd St. S, Mayor Frank Fortune Pulver opens Chatauqua Laundry, forerunner of the Soft Water Laundry that will become a landmark business in the neighborhood.

1925: Elder Jordan Sr. builds what will become the Manhattan Casino on 22nd Street S. About this time he also begins building housing in areas often called "courts" just east of the Manhattan, and other housing in the 22nd Street area.

  • Another huge city annexation, this one during the height of the real estate boom, balloons the south city limits to Pinellas Point, taking in 22nd Street south of Seventh Avenue S.

1926: Jordan Elementary School, named for Elder Jordan Sr., opens on Ninth Avenue S just west of 22nd Street.

1927: Gibbs High School opens near Ninth Avenue S and Fargo Street, about a half-mile west of Jordan Elementary. According to community lore, black students walked from Davis Academy at 944 Third Ave. S to stake claim to the new school, built for but never used by white elementary students. The school was named for Jonathan C. Gibbs, an African-American who served as Florida's secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction during the Reconstruction era. The high school was in the middle of an undeveloped, wooded area jokingly referred to as "Bear County."

1930: St. Petersburg's population is 40,425, including 7,416 African-Americans (about 18 percent), according to the federal census.

1931: A new city charter includes a clause banning white people from living or having a business in black neighborhoods, while forbidding black people from doing the same in white neighborhoods. It proved impractical to enforce.

1934: Fletcher Henderson becomes one of the first to bring a big band to play 22nd Street -- but he doesn't play the Manhattan Casino this time. According to a newspaper story, promoter George Grogan booked Henderson's orchestra into a dance hall at 562 22nd St. S, about a block north of the Casino.

1936: The City Council approves a resolution to make all African-Americans live west of 17th Street and south of Sixth Avenue S. The southern boundary generally is considered to be 15th Avenue S. Like the charter provision five years earlier that required business and residential segregation, the resolution couldn't be enforced to the letter.

1937: In full regalia, the Ku Klux Klan marches in July through black neighborhoods, including 22nd Street, to keep black voters away from a referendum.

  • In October, an African-American man shoots two white police officers in Campbell Park. Officer James Thornton dies on the scene and Officer William Newberry dies a day later. Police canvass black neighborhoods, and white mobs terrorize black residents. Police catch J.O. "Honeybaby" Moses and shoot him dead. Whites try to steal the body; some accounts say it was dragged down the street.

1939: Construction begins on Jordan Park, the city's first housing project, a block west of 22nd Street just south of Ninth Avenue S. The first resident arrives on April 10, 1940.

1940: St. Petersburg's population is 60,812, including 11,982 African-Americans (about 20 percent), according to the federal census.

1941: The second phase of Jordan Park is completed.

1944: U.S. Supreme Court rules that whites-only primary elections are unconstitutional.

1946: Reflecting the opening of Jordan Park and the end of World War II, a record-high 58 businesses are open on 22nd Street, including two drugstores and several grocery stores and restaurants.

1948: Royal Theater opens at 1011 22nd St. S; Mercy Hospital is enlarged to 50 beds.

1950: St. Petersburg's population is 96,738, including 13,977 African-Americans (about 14 percent), according to the federal census.

1952: Sixteenth Street School opens at 701 16th St. S to serve African-Americans in grades kindergarten through eighth. It later is known as Sixteenth Street Junior High.

1954: U.S. Supreme Court strikes down school desegregation as unconstitutional. In St. Petersburg, Dr. Robert Swain Jr. breaks the 15th Avenue S "red line," which defined where African-Americans could live and open businesses. Swain, an oral surgeon, crossed the line by opening an office at 1501 22nd St. S. At first the city refuses to issue building permits but relents when Swain threatens to sue.

1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus. Her act launches a black passenger bus boycott and leads to a Supreme Court ruling that laws requiring segregation on buses are unconstitutional. In St. Petersburg, six African-Americans sue to end segregation at St. Petersburg's downtown swimming spots. In 1957, the Supreme Court rules in favor of Fred Alsup, Ralph Wimbish, Willet Williams, Naomi Williams, Chester James Jr. and Harold Davis. Alsup and Wimbish are physicians who have offices on 22nd Street; Harold Davis is a barber whose shop is there.

1956: Dr. Swain opens some apartments next to his office at 1501 22nd St. S. They are built to accommodate black Major League Baseball players, barred by segregation policies from staying in white-operated hotels during spring training.

1957: Congress passes Voting Rights Act.

1958: Despite the Supreme Court's decision the year before, the city refuses to integrate the downtown pool and beach, choosing to close them instead. The issue gradually dissolves as hoteliers and others dependent on the tourist industry worry that the closure will cost them money.

1958–1966: 22nd Street hits its heyday, peaking in 1960, when there are 111 businesses open. The list includes doctors, lawyers, restaurants, bookkeeping and accounting services, groceries, pharmacies, pool halls and taverns, variety stores, service stations, shoe and clothing stores, a photo studio, furniture stores and a post office substation.

1960: St. Petersburg's population is 181,298, including 24,080 African-Americans (about 13 percent), according to the federal census. Lunch counter sit-ins at such Central Avenue stores as Woolworth's, Liggett's Rexall, McCrory's and Kress lead to desegregation of most public dining places by 1961. Webb's City and Maas Brothers are among downtown department stores picketed.

  • Dr. Alsup pushes the "red line" on 22nd Street farther south, building an office and apartments at 1700.

1961: Freedom Riders begin traveling throughout the South, challenging segregated interstate bus service. In St. Petersburg, the Citizens Cooperative Committee, consisting of several African-American civil rights leaders, including Dr. Alsup, Dr. Wimbish and his wife, C. Bette Wimbish, and the Rev. Enoch Davis, took in the Freedom Riders during their visit here.

  • At Mound Park Hospital (now Bayfront Medical Center) Dr. Alsup admits the first black patient, though the hospital still is largely segregated.

1963: An estimated quarter-million civil rights supporters stage a march on Washington, D.C.; in St. Petersburg, three new one-floor wings are added to Mercy Hospital, bringing bed capacity to 78.

1964: Congress enacts a sweeping Civil Rights Act banning segregation in hotels and restaurants and discrimination in employment; meanwhile, "Freedom Summer" sees massive African-American voter registration efforts in Mississippi while extremists fight back with bombings and the murder of three rights workers. In St. Petersburg, more African-American patients are being admitted to Mound Park, where admission has become a matter of physician-patient choice.

1966: Mercy Hospital and the Royal Theater close on 22nd Street.

1967: NAACP opens an office at 1125 22nd St. S.

1968: The city's sanitation workers strike from May through August for better pay, working conditions and benefits. The strike leads to unrest and in August, four nights of rioting occur. Several businesses are burned, including some white-owned stores on 22nd Street.

  • Black and white leaders form the Community Alliance, a biracial organization to discuss sensitive issues.
  • The Manhattan Casino closes, although businesses below the second-floor ballroom remain open.

1969: C. Bette Wimbish is the first African-American elected to the City Council.

1970: St. Petersburg's population is 216,232, including 31,911 African-Americans (about 15 percent), according to the federal census.

1971: Court-ordered busing desegregates Pinellas schools countywide.

1975: Jordan Elementary School closes.

1978–81: Families and businesses are relocated and Interstate 275 is built through the 22nd Street neighborhood, changing the street's dynamic.

1980: St. Petersburg's population is 238,647, including 40,903 African-Americans (about 17 percent), according to the federal census.

1989: The old Soft Water Laundry, now called Prather's Linen & Uniform Service, is closed. Under various owners, the business operated in the neighborhood and employed many residents for 66 years.

1990: St. Petersburg's population is 238,629, including 46,726 African-Americans (about 20 percent), according to the federal census.

1993: The city earmarks $272,000 in federal grant money to encourage 22nd Street redevelopment from Fifth to 22nd avenues S.

1994: The City Council designates the Manhattan Casino and Mercy Hospital sites as historic. It also approves a revitalization plan for the street, noting that vacant lots make up 25 percent of the street's land use.

1996: Two nights of racial disturbances occur in St. Petersburg, one in October and another in November, after police fatally shoot TyRon Lewis, an African-American man. A liquor store at the intersection of 22nd Street and 18th Avenue S is burned down.

1997: City buys the old Mercy Hospital site. The City Council also declares Dr. Robert Swain's dental office and adjacent apartments on 22nd Street and 15th Avenue S to be historic sites.

1998: City officials say they plan to develop an industrial park on 19 acres bordered by 22nd Street, Fifth Avenue S and Interstate 275.

1999: Demolition begins at Jordan Park and many residents move elsewhere so work can start on Hope VI, the new public housing project being built on the same site.

2000: St. Petersburg's population is 248,232, including 55,502 African-Americans (about 22 percent), according to the federal census. Federal officials approve final plans for Hope VI.

2001: Twenty-second Street wins Florida Main Street designation, a program to help revive aging business districts.

2002: The city buys the Manhattan Casino. An architect is hired to do a restoration plan. The last residents are scheduled to leave a 22nd Street neighborhood where work is starting on an industrial park's first stage.