If you drive along the Florida coast, there’s no pier as big as the St. Petersburg Pier. Affectionately referred to as the St. Pete Pier, it stands as a local landmark in Florida, stretching 3,065 feet. It connects downtown St. Petersburg to Tampa Bay and is as big as 8.5 football fields. Here’s a little about the history of Florida’s longest pier and other landmarks in the area.
History Of The St. Petersburg Pier
Originally constructed in 1854, this pier paved the way for the development of the Railroad Pier 35 years later. The Railroad Pier extended the pier from 2,000 feet to 3,000 feet and paved the path for the docking of steamboats and cargo ships. It soon became a tourist attraction. Sections of the pier then became part of the early fishing industry in this region. However, it is only one of a few piers established in the area at the time.
Peter Demens, the man responsible for bringing this extension, sold it to Henry B. Plant. The plant maintained ownership of the pier but turned it into the St. Petersburg Railroad, erecting the Brantly Pier in 1896 as an alternative option. Competition increased between these two piers before William Straub (St. Petersberg Times) started pushing for their use within public parks in the early 1900s.
In 1901 the region welcomed a third pier – the Fountain of Youth Pier. Edwin H. Tomlinson built a well at the entrance that he claimed would provide the same anti-aging effects as the body of water by the same name. After the demolishing of the Brantley Pier in 1904, F.A. Davis built the Electric Pier a year later, reaching 3,000 feet in length and 16 feet in width. A year before the Electric Pier’s demolishment, St. Petersburg built the Municipal Recreation Pier with city funding, standing 10 feet north of it. A hurricane permanently destroyed the Fountain of Youth Pier in 1921, damaging others nearby.
The St. Pete’s Pier Today
Despite many years of updating, tearing down, and rebuilding piers in the area, St. Peterburg Pier remains the longest in Florida at 3,065 feet. It is a recreational pier that now connects the St. Petersburg downtown area with Tampa Bay and other incredible Florida structures surrounding it. If you decide to take the journey to this pier, you have 26 acres of the Pier District to explore, which recently opened in July 2020. With a playground and multiple restaurants, this pier is just as much a part of local commerce as commercial fishing.
St. Pete’s Pier: New Construction
The St. Petersburg City Council decided that it was time to demolish and rebuild the pier under the recommendation of Mayor Bill Foster. The new design for the pier – “The Lens” – was a concept by Michael Maltzan Architecture, chosen by the St. Petersburg Pier International Design Competition Jury in January 2012. It won against 28 other architecture firms, narrowly beating out “The Wave” by Bjarke Ingels Group and The People’s Pier by West 8.
However, that plan never ended up happening. Locals launched a campaign against the destruction of the pier, stating that it was unrealistic to use with low visibility. After consideration of this complaint, residents ultimately halted The Lens from reaching construction in August 2013. Mayor Rick Kriseman urged for a new pier plan to be chosen. This change came with a new set of idea submissions. A public online survey showed that a plan called “Destination St. Pete Pier” got the most interest, followed by plans for a park near the pier. After weighing the benefits of each plan, the mayor remarked that the locals wanted some kind of pier to be built finally.
Demolishing of the original St. Petersburg Pier wasn’t complete until November 2015. With a $76 million budget from Pinellas County, construction on the new Pier Park began in June 2017. Though the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the original opening, the pier and surrounding district opened in the summer of 2020.
Other Notable Piers in Florida
Fort Clinch State Park Fishing Pier – 2,400 Feet
This fishing pier is the only one in Florida that still comes close to the massive size of St. Pete’s Pier. Stretching 2,400 feet, the Fort Clinch State Park Fishing Pier sits along the Amelia River. Dunes, marsh areas, and plains surround the 1,100-acre space.
With a base at the tip of Amelia Island, there’s plenty of space to go fishing along the pier or use the surrounding park for camping, swimming, and hiking. Purple sandpipers and white-tail deer live among the acreage within the nearby wooded area. Look at the water for an equally spectacular view of manatees and dolphins near Fort Cinch.
Riverside Park Fishing Pier – 2,000 Feet
The Riverside Park Fishing Pier stretches 2,000 feet into the Manatee River. The City of Palmetto Parks and Recreation maintains its structure in Manatee County. It is handicap-accessible, and a surface for cleaning fish is nearby, so you bring home fresh seafood with minimal prep.
Navarre Beach Pier – 1,545 Feet
The Navarre Beach Pier provides a lengthy path into the Gulf of Mexico, touching Florida and Mexico’s coastline. It stands 30 feet above sea level, using 150 concrete stacks to measure about 10,000 feet. At the end of the pier, you can stand on their 3,800-square-foot octagon platform. This space uses breakaway wood panels to reduce repair costs after severe storms. The height of the pier is essential to avoiding powerful waves during high tide.
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