In just under a year from start to official dedication, Gulfport’s newest historical public park named Trolley Market Square was officially unveiled on the morning of Saturday, February 23.
Formerly known as Tangerine Greenway, the redesigned park is located adjacent to 49th Street South next to Tangerine Avenue South that forms its north and south borders.
The park’s design symbolizes the city’s early transportation history.
In the early 1900s, Frank Davis arrived in what is now known as Gulfport and convinced the town that they needed a trolley that would run from St. Petersburg to Boca Ciega Bay to facilitate development in the area and serve as a hub transporting people by boat to Pass-a-Grille, said Gulfport Vice Mayor Christine Brown in the opening remarks of her keynote speech. Brown served for about 20 years on the board of the Gulfport Historical Society, the non-profit that curates the collection and runs the city’s historical museum.
The construction of a casino in Gulfport became the terminal end for the one-track electric trolley line system from St. Petersburg, she said.
“Once at the casino, the conductor would get out of the trolley to flip the seat backs to the other direction and head back to St. Petersburg,” said Brown. “I know for a fact there are people in this audience that remember that.”
The last trolley passed through the park on May 7, 1948, she said.
“I have three rail spikes from the original trolley,” Brown said as she held up the collection that she wants the city to add to the park.
“One for the past to represent the spirit and courage of those who came before us,” she said. “One for the present to remind us to live with hearts of gratitude and acceptance. And one for the future to represent the responsibility we have to those who come after us.”
The city’s vision to develop public lands along the trolley route began with the creation of Tomlinson Park and its water feature in the early 2000s, said Brown. On Wednesday, June 6, 2018, ground was broken to create Trolley Market Square.
The park, funded with public grants, features a new street sign based on historical photos, shade sails, a band stage, a multi-use green space and brick pavers including a stylized train track on which a decommissioned motorized trolley car will soon serve as the main set piece.
Local government officials and dignitaries attending the ceremony included current Gulfport City Councilmembers Paul Ray and Michael Fridovich along with former mayor Mike Yakes. The Boca Ciega High School Marching Band played the national anthem.
“Gulfport’s newest historical park is ready to greet people entering the city from 49th Street South,” said Brown.