Advocacy Issues

The Issue: The Earl Gresh Wood Parade (The Melting Pot)

Neighborhood: 4th Street Tourist Corridor

City Council Member: Darden Rice darden.rice@stpete.org

Action You Can Take Now: Send a message to City Council by clicking here.

BACKGROUND

Few may realize that the building near the corner of 4th Street and 22nd Avenue North, familiar to many as the Melting Pot Restaurant, was a popular roadside attraction after World War II, through the 1950's. That was a time when visitors still primarily drove to Florida but before traffic flocked to U.S. 19 (34th St.) after the construction of the Skyway Bridge and, in later decades,  I-275. As the primary tourist route into downtown, 4th Street was lined with roadside tourist motels like the recently demolished Holiday Motel and popular attractions like Sunken Gardens and Earl Gresh's Wood Parade.

The "Wood Parade" was located in the building that would become, in the late 1980's, the Melting Pot Restaurant. Earl Gresh built the building in the early 1930's to look like an English cottage. The Earl Gresh Wood Parade Museum Brochure describes it as follows,

"The architecture of Kent, England was chosen for the main building because it offers the best opportunity for displaying the work of wood craftsmen. The building with its mullioned windows is fashioned of hand hewn longleaf yellow pine timbers with flitch tide red cypress siding. The rived shingles of heart cypress are similar to those used on George Washington's home, Mount Vernon. Bricks from historic Fort Dade at the mouth of Tampa Bay were used for the garden wall and the immense chimney. The art of the handcraftsman is manifest in every detail of the exterior and interior of the building."

The Wood Parade would become a home for Earl Gresh's work, which included wooden fishing lures and tackles boxes as well as wooden purses and bracelets. The center of his museum contained the cross-section of a 2,270 year old tidewater red cypress tree stump. The museum featured carvings from all over the world that at first glance would appear to be paintings but were works of art made entirely of wood pieces and without paints or stains to color the wood. People traveled from all over to see his most famous series which contained 16 works illustrating the life of Christ. Gresh said of the series, "I'll be gone, you'll be gone, but they'll still be there". He was right, the series can still be seen at the Memorial Park Mausoleum at 49th Street and 54th Avenue N.

The construction of the Sunshine Skyway bridge moved traffic away from the 4th Street corridor which meant fewer and fewer tourists visiting the roadside attractions along its path. The Wood Parade closed in 1959. It has since been the home of various restaurants, most notably, Rollande et Pierre from 1959-1985 and more recently, the Melting Pot. With the recent closing of the Melting Pot, the building's fate is up in the air. 

To learn more about Earl Gresh and his "Wood Parade" please see this article from St. Pete Catalyst: Vintage St. Pete: Earl Gresh and The Wood Parade.


TIMELINE

1940: The Earl Gresh "Wood Parade" opens. The workshop, gift shop, and museum becomes a major St. Petersburg attraction. 

1959: The Wood Parade is closed due to a lack of tourists visiting after construction of the Sunshine Skyway bridge offered alternate and quicker traffic routes. 

1959: The Rollande et Pierre French restaurant moves into the building until 1985 followed by a few other restaurants for short periods of time.

1988: The Melting Pot restaurant moves into the building.

2020: The Melting Pot announces it is closing, and the building is listed for sale.

THE THREAT

Because the Melting Pot has closed permanently and the property has been put up for sale, the historic building's future is uncertain. Demolition is a possibility as property along busy 4th Street has increased in value.

THE OPPORTUNITY

A preservation-minded buyer could purchase the property, apply for local historic landmark designation, and take advantage of tax incentives on renovation and restoration of the building while still potentially redeveloping the parking lot portions of the site. The charm of this building has attracted visitors for more than 80 years and is sure to continue to do so if renovated and reused. 

WHAT PRESERVE THE ‘BURG IS DOING

Preserve the 'Burg encourages the City to evaluate the property and the role it has played in contributing to St. Petersburg's unique sense of place. The City should be actively engaged in discussing options for recognizing the property's historic significance, including potential landmark designation, as well as considering other options to encourage the building's reuse. The city's Community Planning and Preservation Commission is the place that discussion should commence. Preserve the 'Burg will remind the City that the onus for protecting the city's historic resources falls to them.  Additionally, Preserve the 'Burg is:

  • Increasing public awareness of the importance of the 4th Street tourist corridor and its remaining historic resources to St. Petersburg's sense of place with public and private social media campaigns, online accessible information, and public programming.
  • Advocating for the city to include polices in STPETE2050 to protect the 4th Street tourist corridor's historic resources.
  • Offering tours & programs about the historic 4th Street tourist corridor
  • Encourage consideration by city council of historic designation within the 4th Street tourist corridor.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
  • Send a message to your City Council member, or ALL the members, telling them that you want to see the Wood Parade / Melting Pot preserved, and attention given to the dwindling historic resources along the 4th Street Tourist Corridor. You can do that by clicking here.

  • Keep up to date on the issue by following Preserve the ‘Burg’s social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), and reading our weekly E-news.  Sign up for E-news here


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Contact:
Preserve the 'Burg
P.O. Box 838
St. Petersburg, FL 33731
(727) 824-7802
info@preservetheburg.org
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