Monthly Archives: November 2015

Centennial Panelists

Join us at the Mirror Lake Library for the Centennial Panel on Saturday, December 5, at 2:00 p.m.  The five panelists are Mr. Jon Wilson, Ms. Jeannette Wenzel, Ms. Susan Churuti, Ms. Carol Lee Wathen and Ms. Peggy Harris.
Jon Wilson has lived in St. Petersburg since 1956, when his family and he relocated here. He has lived an extremely rich full life, which ultimately led him into journalism and reporting, and he was a reporter and then editor for the St. Petersburg Times. He has kept a keen eye towards events and life in midtown St. Petersburg, and has written several books on the history of this area rich in history of the black experience of the times. He is excited to be on the panel, and has many ruminerations of going to the library throughout his childhood.
Jeannette Wenzel has lived here since she was born, sometime in the early 1930s. She grew up in the home of Pierce V. Gahan, the city’s first, and long-time, recreation director, who is also known as the father of modern shuffleboard. In 1925 Mr. Gahan wrote the rules of play for modern day shuffleboard, and under his guidance St. Petersburg became the shuffleboard capital of America. In her own right to fame, Jeannette is the youngest photographer hired by the Times, becoming a photographer in 1957 at the age of 26. She remembers coming to the library before she could even read, and has a picture to prove it.
Susan Churuti has lived here since she was born, sometime in the early 1940s, during the time when St. Petersburg was home to hundreds of thousands of soldiers training for battle during World War Two. Her father was a local doctor who began buying up properties located along Beach Drive until the properties he amassed were developed into the modern downtown St. Petersburg we all know and recognize. In her own right, Susan has been a very active member of the community, and was one of the longest holders of the office of Pinellas County Attorney.
Peggy Harris has lived here since birth, sometime in the 1930s. Peggy and her sister Sharon (who is a Friend) were regularly brought to the library by their mother, who believed literacy was part of living a full life. Peggy grew up in the family whose father was a long time editor of the St. Petersburg Times.
Carol Lee Wathen has lived here since birth, sometime in the 1920s. She was a very active member of her class at St. Petersburg High School, serving as class Senate President, and voted Miss Knows Everyone. She seems to know everyone who was someone back in the day.

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Centennial Panel – Saturday, December 5, 2015


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by | November 26, 2015 · 11:57 pm

100th Anniversary Celebration

Help us celebrate 100 Years of Library Service
Tuesday, December 1, 2015 ~ 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
100th Anniversary of the Grand Opening Dedication of St. Petersburg’s Mirror Lake Community Library
280 Fifth Street North  ~  St. Petersburg, Florida

hosted by the St. Petersburg Library System and the City of St. Petersburg


Interest in providing reading material for the citizens of St. Petersburg began in 1899, when a group of volunteers opened a reading room on Central Avenue. A campaign to secure a Carnegie library grant began in 1908, but those leading the effort were unable to secure a sufficient donation until St. Petersburg Times owner W. L. Straub met personally with Carnegie officers late in 1913 and convinced them to offer a grant of $17,500.

The construction tract was awarded to W. C. Henry, and the cornerstone was laid on Dec. 19, 1914. The library opened on December 1, 1915 with 2,600 volumes. By 1947 the library’s collection had grown to 45,000 volumes, and the library was expanded with a new wing in 1951.

New libraries were added around the city in the years that followed, and the library at Mirror Lake was added to the National Registry of Historic Places on June 13, 1986. It had fallen into disrepair by this time, and the city began work to restore and expand the library. The restored library opened in May of 1997.

The Mirror Lake Community Library’s original building was designed by Henry Whitfield in the Beaux Arts architectural style, and the additions in 1951 and 1997 were designed in the same style.  Of 14 total Carnegie libraries built in Florida from 1901 to 1917, Mirror Lake is one of only two still operating as a library.

Information provided by Linda C. Kinsey, APR, Information Specialist, Marketing, City of St. Petersburg 

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An Evening With Bruce Stephenson

Join us for the next event in our Centennial Year author series, An Evening With…Bruce Stephenson, PhD, Professor of Environmental Studies at Rollins College. The event is held on the second floor of the Mirror Lake Library, 280 5th Street N, St. Petersburg. Seating will be available at 5 p.m., with the talk starting at 5:30 p.m.

Bruce Stephenson has worked as a public planner, consultant, and professor. His research and teaching focus on the intersection of regional planning, environmental protection, and urbanism. He has written three books, over forty editorials, and published articles in a range of professional journals.

Stephenson will be discussing his new book, “John Nolen, Landscape Architect and City Planner,” which informed his consultancy for the Winter Park SunRail Station and the Genius Preserve and earned the 1000 Friends of Florida Community Betterment Award.

book cover

Stephenson is best known locally for his book “Visions of Eden: Environmentalism, Urban Planning, and City Building in St. Petersburg, Florida, 1900-1995.” Since the turn of the century, the opportunity to design a city nestled in a subtropical garden has attracted the nation’s preeminent planners to St. Petersburg. The most ambitious plan was developed in 1923 by John Nolen, who believed that an interconnected system of preserves and parks would enhance the city’s development and attract tourists for generations. His initiative failed miserably at the polls, however, because it threatened the conflicting notion of paradise held by hundreds of investors, who were profiting from the greatest real estate boom in the nation’s history and feared that planning would curtail speculation. As Stephenson points out, a half century would pass until a series of ecological disasters in the 1970s finally compelled city officials to adopt an environmentally sound development plan that reflected Nolen’s original vision. Stephenson carefully explores St. Petersburg’s slow awakening to ecological responsibility – to the importance of designing a community that meets both human needs and economic demands. As the debate over the “New Urbanism” moves forward, this book will serve as a useful guide for those who will plan, build, and inhabit the cities of the twenty-first century.

visions of eden

Stephenson is a scholar for the Florida Humanities Council, contributing to its “Imagining a New Florida” documentary series. He is also the Principal Investigator for an EPA Sustainability Curriculum Grant, Sustainable Enterprise: Activating SunRail in Winter Park, Florida. The research team of Rollins instructors and students completed is informing projects to improve bicycle and pedestrian mobility in Orlando and Winter Park.

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■ An Evening With Bruce Stephenson is Monday, November 16. He will be talking about his new book, a biography of John Nolan, landscape architect and city planner. Seating is available at 5 p.m., and the lecture starts at 5:30 p.m. The event is run by the Friends with community partner Keep St. Pete Lit.

■ The St. Petersburg Library System is holding a party to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Grand Opening Dedication of St. Petersburg’s Mirror Lake Community Library. It will be held Tuesday, December 1, 2015, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

■ The Friends will present a “Pioneer” Panel on Saturday, December 5, from 2 to 4 p.m. The panel will be composed of long-time residents of St. Petersburg who will share their memories of the Mirror Lake Library. A short reception will follow.

■ As part of First Night on December 31, the St. Petersburg Library System will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the historic Mirror Lake Community Library and 100 years of service to the residents and visitors of St. Petersburg. In carnival-style fun, the library will feature games, crafts, giveaways, exhibits, presentations, performers and more, from 4 to 9 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., the Friends will help everyone make a candlelit boat and light up Mirror Lake with 500 boats.

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Bruce Stephenson – Monday, November 16, 2105

postcard front

postcard back

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