Months of renovations at St. Petersburg High School are wrapping up, with the aim to preserve the building’s history as new additions are made.
The building at 2501 Fifth Ave. N is nearly a century old, said principal Darlene Lebo. While the school has existed in several different forms since the late 1800s, the current building, billed as the nation’s first “million-dollar high school,” opened in 1926.
Since the school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Pinellas County school district brought in restoration specialists to help with the renovation process. Most of the work was done over the summer. The price tag: $44 million.
Even small characteristics were spruced up, from light fixtures and repainted ceilings to the hand-painted details on the terra cotta on the front of the building.
“The colors had faded so poorly, and a lot of the marble and stuff was chipping and falling apart,” Lebo said. “But it’s definitely so beautiful now.”
There’s a new cafeteria with new art and home economics classrooms upstairs, next to an updated courtyard.
The archive room, which was the school’s original library, now contains artifacts from the school’s history over the years.
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“When all is said and done, this will become kind of like a museum,” Lebo said.
There are old yearbooks that date back to the 1920s, historic issues of the student newspaper, paintings of administration members, a collection of class rings and even an old Mr. Green Devil mascot head.
“The story that I have heard is that they were playing a football game and somebody said, ‘Look at those little devils run,’” Lebo said. “And that’s where the name came from.”