Why do they call it that? St. Petersburg's Million Dollar Pier

6:23 AM, Apr 11, 2013   |    comments
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When the St. Pete Pier closes forever next month, it will have been open for 40 years. That's a long time, with a lot of memories.

But what came before it on that same spot was even more iconic and even more beloved -- another pier that also stood for 40 years.

Why do they call it the Million Dollar Pier?

After having piers for almost 40 years in early St. Petersburg, city leaders wanted one that offered more than just wooden planks and fishing poles.

They wanted a pier with pizzazz! With flair! With a roof! A roof would be nice.

"That was the first pier building," said historian Will Michaels, author of the book The Making of St. Petersburg. "The piers that were there before that were just the bridges going out and maybe a platform at the end."

Michaels says in the 1920's, the city took out a loan for a million bucks. Today, that would be around $50 million!

They built a palace of a pier that became famous nationwide. "A tremendous destination for tourists," Michaels said.

"This is the place that tourists would come. You had Spa Beach nearby, of course, which gave you a little beach flavor here. But most of the activity was on the pier itself."

It had an observation deck. It had a trolley stop. It had a casino!

Hold on -- don't get too excited. Back then, "casino" was a term used for a gathering place, and not necessarily a gambling place.

"That Mediterranean Revival architectural style was cutting-edge for its day," Michaels said.

Because of its construction cost, it soon picked up the name Million Dollar Pier.

But check the actual total and I'm sure you'll agree they should have gone with the almost-as-catchy name $998,279.18 Pier.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

Thanks to Liz in St. Petersburg for suggesting this topic for our series.

The Million Dollar Pier lasted until 1967. The current Inverted Pyramid design replaced it in the 1970's.

Some parts of the current pier still stand on the original pilings from the 1920's. That's one of the reasons the current pier is scheduled to close for good on May 31st.

Construction of the new Lens Pier will start soon after that.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Thursday on 10 News at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy Award-winning series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Follow 10 News reporter Grayson Kamm on Twitter at @graysonkamm as he travels Tampa Bay telling your stories.








Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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