Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

History, with its naked truths, arrives at St. Petersburg High

ST. PETERSBURG

In the lobby of the Renaissance Vinoy Resort on Friday, hotel guests checked in, checked out and, above all, checked their smartphones. They chatted through oversized sunglasses about overpacked suitcases ("How should I know what I'm going to want to wear?") and sipped fruit-infused water. In other words, it was difficult to imagine any of the hotel's guests taking their clothes off in public.

And yet.

In the back of the Tea Garden, just beyond the fountain where folding chairs were set out for a wedding rehearsal, sat a small pink shed with white trim and a storied history of disrobed guests.

Called a solarium, it was popular in the 1920s and '30s when doctors believed the Florida sunshine could cure anything: rickets, arthritis, the sniffles. They asked patients to practice "heliotherapy," which felt more appropriate on a doctor's note than "nude sunbathing."

Now, the roof that formerly lifted off was painted shut. The only sunlight snuck in through holes in the rotted wood. It was just after 1:30 p.m. on Friday when a one-man crew arrived to haul the hut off to St. Petersburg High. Students in the school's construction technologies program have promised to replace the wood and paint before giving the solarium to the Museum of History.

To clarify, there will be no nude sunbathing at St. Petersburg High School, although history teacher Rui Farias said his students' eyes did light up at the prospect. "No, that is why we're locking it up inside," he said. The solarium is to be stored in the school's maintenance building.

Farias is on the board of the Museum of History, and he did not have an easy time finding a crew with experience uprooting and transporting a 1920s tanning bed. He settled on Rob Bennett, owner of Florida Shed Movers in Trinity. "Relocating? Take your shed with you," Bennett's business card reads.

Bennett agreed to take a shot at it. So on Friday afternoon, with a sunburn on his face, a sweat stain on his stomach, and probably the first audience he's had in a long time, he got on the ground with a power drill and began separating the solarium from the Vinoy.

Bennett screwed the solarium onto wooden blocks, then attached those blocks to wheels. He hooked it onto a small black motor, then started to lead the structure out of the Tea Garden.

All was almost lost when the solarium tipped around a corner, mangling a bed of irises. But with the help of hotel staff and a jack, Bennett was able to wheel the solarium the 200 feet across the lawn to his truck at the front of the Vinoy.

As he pulled the white Silverado out of the parking lot for a straight shot across 5th Avenue North, the solarium creaked. A few of the hotel's guests looked up. They took their fingers off their phones just long enough to jerk their thumbs toward the little pink shed and wonder what in the world it could be.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Contact Lisa Gartner at lgartner@tampabay.com. You can also follow her on Twitter (@lisagartner).

History, with its naked truths, arrives at St. Petersburg High 04/19/13 [Last modified: Saturday, April 20, 2013 12:01am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. What do kids need to stay away from deadly auto theft epidemic?

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — More than a dozen black teenagers told U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist on Wednesday that children need stronger mentors and youth programs to steer clear of the auto theft epidemic plaguing Pinellas County.

    Congressman Charlie Crist (center) listens as Shenyah Ruth (right), a junior at Northeast High School, talks during Wednesday's youth roundtable meeting with community leaders and kids. They met to discuss the ongoing car theft epidemic among Pinellas youth and how law enforcement, elected officials, and community organizations can work together to put an end to this dangerous trend. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  3. Manahattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  4. Bucs talk social issues, protests at team meeting

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Each time Dirk Koetter walks through the door of his office at One Buc Place, he passes by the only jersey framed on his wall.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) wears custom cleats to represent Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) as part of the NFL???‚??„?s "My Cause, My Cleats Campaign" before the start of a football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016.
  5. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA

    Airlines

    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]