Different cultures live in harmony
Lakewood Estates is "like the neighborhood you grew up in the '50s and '60s,'' one denizen says.
By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001
[Times photo: Daniel Wallace]
Lakewood resident Joe Whitelock chips out of the sand trap on the eighth hole. In 1991 the golf club, which recently changed its name to the St. Petersburg Country Club, admitted its first black member. Lakewood Estates was an all-white community until 1970 and has grown into a diverse neighborhood.
When Tim Pappas and his wife, Sonia, were house hunting a few years ago, they scoured the Tampa Bay area for a home they liked that was more than whispering distance from neighbors.
They eventually found their dream home in Lakewood Estates, a neighborhood with meandering streets, majestic trees and an 18-hole golf course.
"We live right next to the golf course. We have about a 1-acre lot. It's a ranch house, about 1,800 square feet. It's the most beautiful house we have lived in," said Pappas, who is in the middle of remodeling the home he and his wife purchased 21/2 years ago.
"We were over at Seminole. We were over in New Port Richey. Brandon. We kept coming back to Lakewood. We got a lot more house and yard for our money. The property values have gone up considerably in the last 21/2 years. I feel we just got in at the right time," said Pappas, who owns Working Cow Ice Cream in Largo.
Developed in the early 1920s, Lakewood Estates is a mix of sprawling Mediterranean-style homes, ranches and modest properties. For many years, as in the majority of St. Petersburg, Lakewood had only white residents. The first black person moved into the community in 1970. The following year, crosses were burned on the lawn of a black family and in front of the home occupied by a white man married to a black woman. That same year, the Lakewood Property Owners Association, now the Lakewood Civic Association, confronted insinuations that the area was not a good place to buy property because of its black residents.
In the years since, Lakewood Estates has been praised for its multicultural, harmonious community. In 1983, though, the St. Petersburg Times published an editorial condemning the segregation policies of the privately owned Lakewood Country Club.
"Lakewood residents can be proud that they live in one of the most successfully integrated neighborhoods in the city," the Times wrote. "There is, however, one blot on the community. The black residents still cannot play golf at the Lakewood Country Club."
It was not until 1991 that the club, which recently has undergone a $2.5-million facelift and changed its name to the St. Petersburg Country Club, admitted its first black member.
Lakewood Estates, which lies within the area from 54th Avenue S, east to Dr. M.L. King Jr. (Ninth) Street S, west to 31st Street S and north to Lake Maggiore, usually is referred to simply as Lakewood.
Nearby Lakewood Terrace, separated from Lakewood Estates by the tiny Lake Maggiore Park community, feels underappreciated.
"Once in a while, we really have to voice that downtown," said Ann Drakeford, head of the Lakewood Terrace Neighborhood Association.
"We feel we are overlooked and we are doing so much. We have owners that have been in this neighborhood for 60 years. Same house. We really don't want to move. We can't afford Lakewood Estates. We really have to fight for what we get, even for the neighborhood ID signs."
The larger Lakewood Estates' civic association is feisty, too. A few years ago, the association launched a successful volley against Wal-Mart, which had targeted the neighborhood for one of its superstores. The group has considered turning its neighborhood into a gated community. In recent years it persuaded the city to install a series of stop signs to thwart speeders and in January rejected a Walgreens pharmacy proposed for the area.
Libby Steele, vice president of the association, has lived in Lakewood Estates since 1962.
"I couldn't go anyplace else and be as happy as where I am," said Steele, a retired nurse and treasurer of the Council of Neighborhood Associations.
"I listen to all the problems the other neighborhoods have and I come away every time and say, gee, I am glad I live in Lakewood. It's unique. The ambience. You feel that you are far away from the city, but geographically, you're not. We have Boyd Hill Nature Park as well as the library here. I enjoy living here and I am so proud of my neighborhood."
"The serenity is great," he said. "The neighborhood is great. The people are great. It's like the neighborhood you grew up in the '50s and '60s."
Communities of St. Petersburg