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Club makes history, again

In 1947, the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club saw its membership peak at 8,331 players.

The club, which two decades earlier helped pioneer the popular sport with annual membership dues of 25 cents, was booming.

Times change.

The club's downtown land, its original 1927 clubhouse and a second building constructed in 1929 were designated historical landmarks Thursday, at a time when club memberships have dipped to just over 100.

"The Shuffleboard Club is one of our most sacred historic sites beyond a doubt," Mayor David Fischer advised the City Council on Thursday.

With some attention and promotion, the club could even make a comeback, members of the Shuffleboard Club's board told council members. "I can't say enough about the sport," said Carole Anderson, a club vice president, who joined in 1946 when she was 12 years old.

The council agreed to give the facilities at 559 Mirror Lake Drive the historical distinction _ one that helps protect the buildings from future development, but does not prevent change altogether.

The council declined to give the designation to four other club-related buildings on the land, agreeing with city staff members who said the buildings held less architectural significance. They were built in the 1930s and 1940s.

Other historical landmarks in St. Petersburg include the downtown open air post office; St. Petersburg High School; the downtown YMCA; St. Petersburg Women's Club; City Hall; and St. Petersburg Lawn Bowling Club.

When the Shuffleboard Club was created 70 years ago, it was the first of its kind. No other city had a club strictly for the game of shuffleboard, and few cities had on-land shuffleboard courts. First known as "shovel-board" with origins in the 14th century, the game most often was played aboard ships in the early 1900s.

A city planning report described the club's facilities as a significant reminder of the city's cultural heritage. "It is a valuable reminder of St. Petersburg's popularity as a wintering destination."

Over the years, the club's value has been captured in post cards, photographs and even poetry:

"Yes, it's better far to shuffle in the sunshine at St. Pete, than to cough and sneeze and snuffle where the blizzards block the streets," M. E. Miner, a club member from Glencoe, Ill., wrote in one of several poems published about the club in 1974.

In other business, the City Council approved grants for 16 groups and their neighborhood projects, which range from putting up street signs in Kenwood to installing sprinklers in Harbordale. The grant program is part of the mayor's plan to improve neighborhoods by sprucing up parks and streets, improving buildings and reducing crime.

The council unanimously approved about $81,000 for the projects, which were selected from 29 grant applications. An additional $118,852 will be distributed this summer after more groups apply.

The neighborhood groups also must contribute to their projects, said Neighborhood Partnership director Mike Dove. That match can be money, but more often, he said, it will come in the form of labor. "It's not just the dollars expended, it's time."