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22nd St N Heritage Trail

The first trail focuses on the commercial corridor of 22nd Street S. and includes local businesses, such as Harden’s Grocery and the Sno-Peak Drive In, as well as local entertainment facilities like the Royal Theater and the Manhattan Casino, which brought in nationally accredited jazz and Gospel musicians including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, James Brown, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald to name just a few. The 22nd Street S. rail also features Mercy Hospital, one of the first African-American hospitals in the area, and a number of medical offices built and occupied by doctors who played a significant role in breaking the color barrier and promoting the Civil Rights movement in St. Petersburg. The 22nd Street Trail is approximately 1.25 miles and includes ten trail stops.

#1 - The Beginning

John and Anna Donaldson were the first African-American settlers on the Pinellas peninsula when they arrived in 1868. Relegated to separation by a series of racial segregation laws known as Jim Crow Laws, African Americans created their own community along a dirt trail known as 22nd Street S. Jim Crow was a way of life in which blacks were relegated to the status of second-class citizens. They could not shop, find entertainment, receive professional services, or even attend most churches. The exclusion fostered need and energized the rise of streets such as 22nd Street S., which became the commercial, professional, and entertainment thoroughfare for black St. Petersburg.

#2 - In the Name of "Progress"

Because black residents were required to stay in their own neighborhoods, they created their own businesses to serve their needs. These businesses provided opportunities for self-employment not available a generation earlier and allowed for success even without an education or advanced training. By 1977, many of these businesses closed or relocated, and the buildings were demolished for interstate construction.

#3 - Manhattan Casino Hall

Originally known as the Jordan Dance Hall, this building was constructed in 1925 by Elder Jordan Sr., one of the first African-American businessmen, and his sons. The building, a stop on the infamous Chitlin' Circuit, was the focal point of culture and entertainment in the community for more than 40 years and was instrumental in the development of blues, gospel, jazz, and big band music in the south during the period of segregation.

#4 - At the Crossroads

Local African-Americanowned businesses were the cornerstone around which the neighborhood thrived. Places like Harden's Grocery, Henderson's Sundries, Sylver's Shoe Service, Moure's Barber Shop Delux, and South Side Cab provided everyday goods and services as well as places to relax. Undertakers were also leaders in the community, providing ambulance services as well as last rites and burials.

#5 - Building 22nd Street S.

African-American contractors constructed the buildings along 22nd Street S., financed by African-American developers. First settled in the 1920s, some of the original buildings remain interspersed with buildings representing the era immediately before and after World War II. The buildings along 22nd are typical of 20th century commercial construction, with designs indicative of the African-American main street featuring large storefront windows opening to stores, restaurants, or bars on the first floor and living space above.

#6 - Royal Theater

Opened in 1948, the Royal Theater was one of two theaters that African Americans could attend and was also considered a leading venue for weekly community talent shows. Its Quonset-hut design was a popular method of construction after World War II because the buildings were light, portable, and relatively cheap to build.

#7 - Faces and Stories

People made 22nd Street S. a neighborhood. Elijah "I got 'em" Moore sold peanuts and produce from a cart while in top hat and tails. Henry "Rag Man" Bonner bought old rags for the St. Petersburg Times to turn into newspapers. Political activist Norman Jones, Sr. and photographer Joseph Albury documented the neighborhood. A little known facet to the street's history involves the presence of a number of Jewish merchants who were also a target of discrimination.

#8 - A Community of Caring

During the segregation era, many hospitals did not treat black people, either because of Jim Crow laws or the prejudiced attitude of the hospitals' administrators. Replacing a smaller hospital that had been in operation in the Gas Plant neighborhood as early as 1913, the opening of Mercy Hospital in 1923 formalized the 22nd Street S. community’s tradition of caring for its own. Doctors, nurses, midwives, and the Negro Health Clinic collectively cared for the community.

#9 - Blazing the Way

Dr. Ralph Wimbish worked to desegregate bathing sites, lodging, lunch counters, restrooms, and drinking fountain facilities for all races. He founded the Ambassador Club, which provided a voice for professional African-American men to advocate for civil rights. His wife, C. Bette Wimbish, fought to desegregate schools and was the first woman of color elected to St. Petersburg's City Council. The couple built his office and the Wimbish Building, which housed Doctors' Pharmacy, the first black owned and operated pharmacy in the neighborhood.

#10 - Crossing the Line

In 1931, the City Charter established separate residential districts for white and black residents. City Council passed laws separating the use of businesses and facilities according to race. This effectively banned African Americans from downtown except when working. In the 1950s, boundary lines were drawn and redrawn several times, which limited where African Americans could live. In 1954, Dr. Swain built a state-of-the-art dental clinic on 22nd Street S. just south of the color boundary of 15th Avenue S.

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