Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Scott Taylor Hartzell

Scott Taylor Hartzell had an insatiable thirst for knowledge

Scott Taylor Hartzell wrote several books about St. Petersburg history and a column for the Times.

Scott Taylor Hartzell wrote several books about St. Petersburg history and a column for the Times.

ST. PETERSBURG — Scott Taylor Hartzell's friends never got much personal information out of him. Before they could try, he would pepper them.

How are the kids? The wife? What are you reading? What did you think of this movie?

"He was always asking questions, like a little pingpong ball," said Ray Arsenault, co-director of the Florida studies program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. "He was very curious about things. He really had all the skills of a good reporter."

Mr. Hartzell moved to St. Petersburg from New Castle, Pa., more than 20 years ago. He majored in journalism and wrote for the Crow's Nest student newspaper at USF St. Petersburg.

On campus, he always popped into instructors' offices, ready with conversation. He was small and recognizable, about 4-foot-6 with a weathered face that made it hard to guess his age.

Mr. Hartzell wrote stories with great care and never made less than an A.

"He had really intense journalistic curiosity about the way things developed and how things were," said his friend and former journalism professor Bob Dardenne. "He was pretty tireless in poring over documents."

St. Petersburg fascinated him.

"I've always very much admired history, even as a child," he told the St. Petersburg Times in 2006. "When I moved down to St. Pete, I was just fascinated with the amount of interesting people, the wonderful architecture — especially during the 1920s, when we had that big economic boom — and the many, many colorful people."

More than 10 years ago, he began writing a historical column for the Times. He profiled a plumber who developed Sunken Gardens. A city councilwoman who invited constituents to her living room. A fish salesman who became mayor.

"He was able to find stories about St. Pete history that weren't just the commonplace stories that people always trot out," said Jon Wilson, a retired Times writer. "I thought he was a real good sleuth."

Eventually, Mr. Hartzell wrote several books, including Remembering St. Petersburg, Florida: Sunshine City Stories. He spoke at venues including the St. Petersburg Museum of History. He wasn't polished, but he was engaging, and people liked him.

"He really brought humanity to much of what he did," said Sudsy Tschiderer, special events coordinator at USF St. Petersburg. "He really liked interaction with people, because he really liked to learn."

His friends knew he had a disability, though they weren't sure exactly what. He dealt with several health problems recently and walked with a cane, they said.

Mr. Hartzell died on Aug. 20. He was 56.

His ashes will be placed beneath a tree at the St. Petersburg Museum of History.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8857.


Scott Taylor Hartzell

Born: Oct. 2, 1951.

Died: Aug. 20, 2008.

Scott Taylor Hartzell had an insatiable thirst for knowledge 09/04/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 10, 2008 9:20am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. The homer that almost was hurts Rays in Tuesday's loss



  2. Neil deGrasse Tyson, John Cleese, Ana Gasteyer, more coming to the Straz Center in Tampa


    Get ready to mix some science, comedy and music in with your diet of Broadway musicals in Tampa.

  3. Review: Sedaris' diaries reveal, but not too much, in 'Theft by Finding'


    Ever wonder why David Sedaris' life is so much funnier than yours?

  4. Forecast: Gusty winds for Tampa Bay ahead of potentially severe storms this afternoon


    After weeks of exceptional drought, Tampa Bay residents should brace for clusters of downpours Wednesday afternoon and early Thursday morning.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  5. Florida education news: Achievement gap, testing, bilingual teachers and more


    ACHIEVEMENT GAP: The Pinellas County School Board approves a plan to improve the education of black students in the district.