Pass-A-Grille, St. Peach Beach’s southernmost community, has a rich history: a Native American fishing ground, a pirate excursion destination, a vacation stop for famous writers and notorious mobsters, and a campground where fishermen grilled their catch on the beach. Now, the laid-back beach town is in danger of losing the history that makes the area so unique.
Pass-A-Grille was incorporated by the city of St. Pete Beach in 1957 and currently covers just under two square miles. A diverse mix of historical architectural structures made from a variety of materials ranging from brick, wood and stucco, landed Pass-A-Grille on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
City officials estimate the area loses approximately ten historic structures each year, which is why the city of St. Pete Beach commissioned a survey to see how many historic buildings have survived and to identify any new buildings that meet the criteria for historic designation.
“Typically, the two main reasons so many structures are lost each year is, one, the cost to insure a building because it does not meet FEMA regulations,” said St. Pete Beach urban planner Chelsey Welden. “The second reason is because of the desire to maximize the space and build something larger.”
The last survey, conducted in 2003, identified about 500 buildings built between 1900 and the 1950s. It is uncertain how many of those buildings remain today. The city organized a series of meetings and workshops for community input regarding what residents want to preserve, and to identify design elements new structures must have to be approved going forward. During these meetings, residents were passionate about requiring that new building designs maintain Pass-A-Grille’s eclectic beach atmosphere.
TRC Environmental Corporation is conducting the current survey. The company has done similar projects throughout Florida, including Key West and Pensacola.
A final report will be presented at a public Historic Preservation Board and a city commission meeting in March. Welden says the project will be completed April 30, and the results will be available on the city of St. Pete Beach website.