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9th Avenue S Heritage Trail

The 9th Avenue Heritage Trail focuses on the educational and religious institutions of the neighborhood that centered along 9th Avenue S. With nine historic African-American churches along the trail, 9th Avenue S. served as the religious center of the community. In addition to these churches, stops include the recently restored Jordan Elementary School, the oldest remaining historic African-American school in the city. Other sites along the trail include civic clubs such as the Fannye Ayer Ponder Council House and the Pallbearer’s Hall, as well as Happy Workers’ Day Nursery. This trail is approximately 1.25 miles long with ten trail stops.

#1 - End of an Era

As the heart and soul of St. Petersburg's African- American community during the segregation era, 22nd Street S. became the nerve center of the city's civil rights movement. During this era, even a simple activity like swimming carried restrictions for African Americans, who could only swim at the South Mole and in the Jennie Hall Pool after it was constructed in 1954. Local attorneys represented black police officers, school children, and sanitation strikers in their quest for equal treatment.

#2 - Jordan Park Housing Complex

Funded by the U.S. Housing Authority and named after Elder Jordan, Sr., the Jordan Park Housing Complex incorporated 446 apartments when it opened in 1941. The project was a success with full occupancy. It provided improved housing to hundreds, but the all-black complex also reinforced segregation and the “separate but equal” construction of facilities.

#3 - Pioneer Schools

Davis Academy, opened in 1914, was the first formal educational institution for African Americans in St. Petersburg. With the growth of the 22nd Street S. area, Jordan Academy was built in 1925 and named after Elder Jordan, Sr., who served as a trustee for African-American schools. Opened in 1927, Gibbs High School was the first public secondary school for African Americans in the city. Teachers served as role models and mentors to generations of students.

#4 - Civic Associations

In addition to the well-known fraternal societies, such as the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge formed in 1893, clubs organized by occupation, churches, and recreational interests enriched men's lives. The NAACP, formed in 1933, and the Ambassador Club advocated for civil rights. Veterans organizations, such as the Sons of Colored Veterans and the Colored Veterans of the World War, represented the many men and women who courageously served in the armed forces.

#5 - Women United

In 1938, Fannye Ayer Ponder, teacher and wife of local physician Dr. James Ponder, founded the City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs “to unite the efforts of all the colored women’s clubs, promote better educational advantages, to promote social and civic improvements, [and to] establish recreation for young people....” Their Melrose Clubhouse served as a meeting place for community organizations and as a local YMCA. Nearby, the local Lauffer Branch YWCA opened in 1950.

#6 -  Avenue of Faith

The neighborhood is partly defined by the many churches situated along 9th Avenue S. These churches have been housed in imposing buildings, modest structures, and tiny storefronts. Every one of the seven major black denominations played a role in the moral and social development of the neighborhood. In 1939, approximately 19 of the 123 churches in St. Petersburg operated in the growing 22nd Street S. neighborhood. Some of the original buildings remain, while others have been lost, many due to the construction of I-275.

#7 - Happy Workers - Trinity

Trinity Presbyterian Church thrived after Rev. O.M. and Willie Lee McAdams came to St. Petersburg in 1929. Founded by Mrs. McAdams, Happy Workers Day Nursery opened in 1929 with five children whose parents paid 25 cents a week for their care. When Mrs. McAdams died in 1956, the school accommodated more than 200 preschoolers. In 1948, the church built a new sanctuary, which became part of the school when the congregation relocated in 1967. As a teacher and civil rights leader, Rev. McAdams served the congregation from 1929 to 1965.

#8 - Housing

During the early 1900s, the South St. Petersburg area was far in the country, part of a sprawling tract that the City recently had annexed. It was a place of palmetto and pine, farms and citrus groves. As a result, early housing in this area was decidedly vernacular, meaning folk building without the benefit of formal plans. Many of the house types, such as the shotgun and the single and double pen, are types that derived from the west coast of Africa. They utilized a form that fostered togetherness, cultural traditions, and community.

#9 - Campbell Park & Schools

In 1926, white businessman Thomas Campbell began leasing land to the City as a park for African Americans. Purchased by the City in 1943, Campbell Park was the scene of all major African-American community celebrations, parades, and sporting events, including "Negro League" games. Across 16th Street, Immaculate Conception, founded in a dairy barn in 1946, was the area's first and only "Negro" Catholic School. Sixteenth Street School opened in 1952 as an elementary and middle school.

#10 - Empowered Negro Women

African-American women formed and joined a number of social, professional, recreational, religious, and civic organizations in the community. Women's clubs also sought to provide programs of culture, education, and entertainment to a population denied access to such activities in a segregated society. Two women, Fannye Ayer Ponder and Olive B. McLin, played an important role through their advocacy for women and the organization of the St. Petersburg Metropolitan Council of Negro Women.

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