Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Business

Armed Forces History Museum in Largo to close in January

LARGO — John Piazza Sr. first became interested in collecting military artifacts when he received a gift, a World War I German mortar from a friend's father.

That was more than 60 years ago. Before he died in October, his collection had grown to include items large and small — countless weapons, from bows and arrows to sticky bombs and flamethrowers, a uniform worn by Saddam Hussein, a Russian MiG-21 supersonic fighter jet, an M8 Greyhound and a World War II reconnaissance tank. It had grown so big that in 2008 Piazza established the nonprofit Armed Forces Military Museum, to share his collection with the public.

Since then, tourists, families, veterans and students, about 25,000 people each year, have made their way into the museum, housed in former warehouse space off Ulmerton Road.

But no more.

On Wednesday, officials announced that the museum, renamed in 2012 as the Armed Forces History Museum, will close its doors at the end of January. Assistant executive director Cindy Dion said the museum has operated in the red since it opened, but Piazza had covered the deficit until his death.

Dion said that in the coming weeks the board of directors will explore possibilities of how to continue sharing the museum's contents with the public, while acknowledging that to move it would cost upwards of $7 million.

"We are hoping this is our Hail Mary pass,'' she said. "That somebody out there will stand up and say, 'No way. This can't happen.' ''

Dion acknowledged that the location played a factor in the financial struggles.

"It is very difficult when you are not in the public eye to draw attention,'' she said. "I also think that having a military niche is very narrow. There is (only) a certain amount of people interested in the military. It is not as broad as an aquarium or zoo, embraced by many people.''

Largo Mayor Woody Brown said the closing would be unfortunate.'

"I understand it had a lack of visibility, and the city worked with them to help with signage,'' he said. "Most people that are involved with the museum would love to see it continue, but I'm not sure what organization would be able to take it up (the operation of the museum). I'm planning on meeting with a board member in a week or so to put our heads together to see if there's anything that can be done.''

David Miller, a Vietnam combat veteran and the American Legion's national hospital representative with the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, was surprised to hear the news.

"I am disappointed.'' he said. "It's become a gathering place for veterans, but the greater loss will be for our future generations to understand what veterans do, the education element. The museum has become a major educational center. No place does it better.''

With its paid staff of seven and team of about 30 regular volunteers, the museum will operate under its regular schedule through Jan. 29.

For information, go online to armedforcesmuseum.com.

Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.

     
       
Comments
Developer proposes Sprouts Farmers Market for Land O’Lakes

Developer proposes Sprouts Farmers Market for Land O’Lakes

LAND O’LAKES – A Sarasota developer is proposing to turn a vacant Winn-Dixie store in central Pasco into a Sprouts Farmers Market.Benderson Development filed preliminary plans Monday with Pasco County to redevelop the former Winn-Dixie store at the n...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Clearwater’s Clegg Insurance Group buys Advanced Insurance Brokerage

Clearwater’s Clegg Insurance Group buys Advanced Insurance Brokerage

CLEARWATER - Clegg Insurance Group of Clearwater announced on Wednesday it has bought Brandon-based Advanced Insurance Brokerage.The merger creates a firm with more than 2,000 customers and more than $10 million in annual premiums. Terms were not dis...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

FILIPINO FOOD: WELCOME CHISMISHave you been to the Heights Public Market at the 73,000-square-foot Armature Works yet? It’s the buzzy food market in Tampa Heights with more than a dozen vendors offering up everything from rolled ice cream to Cuban sa...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Citizens considers hiking homeowners insurance rates about 8 percent

Citizens considers hiking homeowners insurance rates about 8 percent

Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s is weighing another round of hefty rate hikes.Staffers with the state-run insurer of last resort have proposed raising the average rates for homeowners by 7.9 percent — just under the legislative cap of 10 percent ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
A tight supply cuts into Tampa Bay homes sales while prices keep rising

A tight supply cuts into Tampa Bay homes sales while prices keep rising

Tampa Bay’s two largest counties showed anemic home sales in May as prices continued to rise due to a tight supply.In Pinellas, sales of single-family home plunged nearly 12 percent from the previous May, the second-worst showing in a year. Prices, t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pinellas County files suit against companies who built Public Safety Complex

Pinellas County files suit against companies who built Public Safety Complex

CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Public Safety Complex was built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, but officials now say the $81 million fortress has water leaks and cracked walls.The county filed a lawsuit this month against Harvard Jolly, the S...
Updated: 3 hours ago
CEOs are calling the separation of children and families at the border ‘inhumane’ and ‘tragic’

CEOs are calling the separation of children and families at the border ‘inhumane’ and ‘tragic’

Democratic and Republican lawmakers have spoken out about the Trump administration’s hard-line "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that has resulted in a sharp rise in children separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border. The president o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Demolition looms for old Bromley office building at Midtown Tampa

Demolition looms for old Bromley office building at Midtown Tampa

TAMPA — Over the past month, demolition crews have gutted the old five-story Bromley office building at the future site of the $500 million Midtown Tampa project.On Sunday, the remaining skeleton of the building is scheduled to come down.The demoliti...
Updated: 4 hours ago
What historically high lumber prices mean for Florida home buyers

What historically high lumber prices mean for Florida home buyers

Blame a lack of rail cars in Canada or not enough semi trucks in the United States. Forest fires didn’t help. Tariffs played a big role, too. Even the buoyant economy takes part of the rap for frothy lumber prices, which hit all-time highs las...
Updated: 7 hours ago
What historically high lumber prices mean for Florida home buyers

What historically high lumber prices mean for Florida home buyers

Blame a lack of rail cars in Canada or not enough semi trucks in the United States. Forest fires didn’t help. Tariffs played a big role, too. Even the buoyant economy takes part of the rap for frothy lumber prices, which hit all-time highs las...
Updated: 7 hours ago