The Holiday Motel - Landmarking a Historic Resource
Consideration for Reusing and Renovating our City's Past
The Holiday Motel on 4th St. N. at 24th Ave. is special! It is an excellent, early example of visually distinctive roadside architecture, built at a time when the family road trip was an intrinsic part of the Florida Dream and choosing a temporary home was part of the adventure! The motel, previously known as the Wilmarth Apartments, dates to the mid-1930s and has been identified by the City as eligible for the local and national registers.
Currently, there is a proposal to demolish the iconic motel and replace it with a strip commercial center, much like the others now popping up along 4th Street. Because its parking lot would be built on residentially zoned property, the development needs "special exception" approval.
In an effort to encourage reuse of the iconic motel buildings, PTB has filed a landmark application. The City's Preservation Commission will conduct a public hearing on April 9, starting at 2 pm to decide whether to recommend to City Council to designate the buildings as local landmarks.
The Holiday Motel has long been identified as a potential historic place. The motel was first evaluated in 1995 as part of the St. Petersburg Historical Resource Survey project, at which point it was considered to be individually eligible for both local and National Register designation, as well as potentially contributing to a National Register district for its unique representation of the early roadside motel. In 2006, the property was included in a list of St. Petersburg’s Certified List of Potentially Eligible Properties.
Significance of the Holiday Motel
The Holiday Motel comprises three nearly identical court-style motel buildings, a single family residential building which historically housed the manager and three car-port structures.The motel buildings were constructed in phases between 1936 and 1940. The managers’ cottage dates to the early 1920s.
The motel buildings were constructed by Mr. & Mrs. L.E. Wilmarth, who operated the business until 1953 as the Wilmarth Apartments. The motel they built is representative of a period dubbed the “Mom-and-Pop enterprise” era of motels. During the 1930s & '40s, there was an increasing demand for roadside lodging as automobile tourism grew. It was often individual or family-run businesses that met this need by constructing modest cabin-style motels along major corridors.
When the Holiday Motel was built, 4th St. served as the primary route for tourists coming to St. Petersburg from the north. The choice of the name “Wilmarth Apartments” (rather than Motel) suggests that many early patrons were seasonal residents.The name choice also followed the national trend. As the number of roadside accommodations grew, visual imagery became an increasingly important factor in enticing guests to stay the night.The early tourist cottages and sites often took on the look of tiny villages of miniature cottages replete with landscaping of trellises, floral plantings and lawn furniture.The
free standing units more convincingly represented the concept of home, if only for a single night and the construction of the garage structures emphasized the importance of automobile culture.
The motel buildings’ small setback from 4th St., with covered parking at the rear of the parcel, is somewhat unique for motels, which tended to feature parking at their façades or surround courtyards. This is possibly a reflection of the motel’s proximity to St. Petersburg’s already well-established central business district as 4th St. transitioned to a more heavily-trafficked long-distance corridor during the mid-twentieth century. By the mid-1950s a large number of motels would line 4th St. joining the Holiday Motel in vying for tourists’ business.
Benefits of Local Landmark Designation
You Can Help!
Landmark designation will be decided by the Community Planning and Preservation Commission on April 9 in a public hearing at City Hall starting at 2 pm. YOUR VOICE MATTERS!! Send your comments to the city urging them to say YES to landmark designation for the Holiday Motel and YES to keeping St. Pete special! Write your own personal comments and send to the Commission c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or click on the link below for an easy to use message link to the City. Thanks for doing your part! Ask your family and friends to do so too!
Keep St. Pete Special.
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