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Peek inside the renovated St. Petersburg High School

Restoration specialists helped to spruce up the historic building, which is nearly a century old.
The front of the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School.
The front of the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Oct. 18
Updated Oct. 19

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.

The auditorium of the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School.
The auditorium of the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]
Skylights refurbished with copper that was discovered painted over at the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School.
Skylights refurbished with copper that was discovered painted over at the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]

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.”

The front entrance of the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School.
The front entrance of the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]

There’s a new cafeteria with new art and home economics classrooms upstairs, next to an updated courtyard.

The newest addition to the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School.
The newest addition to the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]
Most of the chandeliers are original, and refurbished, at the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School.
Most of the chandeliers are original, and refurbished, at the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]

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.

St. Petersburg High School principal Darlene Lebo looks at paintings of past principals in the archive room of the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School.
St. Petersburg High School principal Darlene Lebo looks at paintings of past principals in the archive room of the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]
A senior class picture from 1925 at the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School.
A senior class picture from 1925 at the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]

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.”

A pennant in the archive room at the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School.
A pennant in the archive room at the newly renovated St. Petersburg High School. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]