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Old Northeast to chronicle charms in book

Local historian Robin Gonzalez possesses the very first menu of the very first dinner ever served at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort — on New Year's Eve of 1925.

Those first guests had a fairly mundane dinner: Olives, salted nuts, gumbo passe and "stringless beans" were among the selections.

The artifact is the only one remaining, Gonzalez says, and you'll never guess where she found it.

"I bought it on eBay," she said, adding that it cost less than $100. "You'd be surprised that you can find local history in some of the most unexpected places, even on auction Web sites."

The former middle school social studies teacher has conducted historical research in the Tampa Bay area for 23 years. Now she's compiling the history of St. Petersburg's Old Northeast neighborhood for a children's book scheduled for a December release. She was hired by the Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association to produce the 80-page color picture book.

"We are going to be giving copies of the books to the public elementary schools in the area," said Robin Reed, a neighborhood association volunteer coordinating the effort. "Everybody really loves the history of this neighborhood, and it's the children who are going to have to preserve it in the future."

Neither Reed nor Gonzalez would disclose the historian's fee.

In researching the Old Northeast, Gonzalez uncovered a number of artifacts thought to have been lost, including large hotel room keys from the Vinoy that date back to the 1920s, original postcards and commemorative china from several area landmarks. Gonzalez found almost all of them on eBay.

"It's so amazing how such a small area in the city offers so many fascinating historical sites," she said.

The book will include scavenger hunts at area landmarks and quotes that date back to the founding of St. Petersburg.

The book is going to be unveiled at the Vinoy during the first week of December. It will be available for purchase at the Vinoy, the Sunken Gardens Shop and Interior Motives art gallery for $14.95, Reed said.

>>fast facts

About the neighborhood

The Old Northeast is bordered by Fifth Avenue N to the south, 30th Avenue N to the north, Fourth Street N to the west and Tampa Bay to the east. According to the Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association, the area contains roughly 3,000 buildings and has a population of about 9,000.

Old Northeast to chronicle charms in book 10/25/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 26, 2008 1:20pm]
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