Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Pinellas

Renovations continue at Tarpon Springs Cultural Center

Through Penny for Pinellas funding, the city is spending about $550,000 on the former City Hall.
Scaffolding surrounds the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center where renovations continue at 101 S Pinellas Ave in downtown Tarpon Springs. Originally constructed in 1915 and named Tarpon Springs City Hall, the building was the center of politics and government for Tarpon Springs from 1915 to 1987 and is a noteworthy representative of the Neoclassical style, designed by noted architect Ernest Daniel Ivey.
Scaffolding surrounds the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center where renovations continue at 101 S Pinellas Ave in downtown Tarpon Springs. Originally constructed in 1915 and named Tarpon Springs City Hall, the building was the center of politics and government for Tarpon Springs from 1915 to 1987 and is a noteworthy representative of the Neoclassical style, designed by noted architect Ernest Daniel Ivey. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes ]
Published Jan. 23, 2020

TARPON SPRINGS — If buildings could talk, this one would tell stories, lots of stories, about late night blazes and the volunteers who fought them, about cops and robbers and about all the people, from farmers to sponge divers to politicians, who walked through the front door.

The Tarpon Springs Cultural Center, at 101 Pinellas St, known to old-timers as “Old City Hall,’’ is undergoing a facelift. The two-story, Neoclassical Revival-style building, designed by Atlanta architect Ernest D. Ivey, was built in 1915 as the first civic building for Tarpon Springs.

Along with serving as city hall, it once housed the police department on the north side and the fire department on the south side. However, for the last three decades it has been used as a venue for arts and cultural programs.

“When the Cultural Center was built in 1915, there was a lot of industry here. It was a boom time for Tarpon Springs,’’ said Tarpon Springs historian Phyllis Kolianos. “They needed a place for their (civic) business.’’

Renovations to rotting eaves continues at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center. The project evolved from window restorations as new issues were revealed by workers, who discovered dry rot, brick and mortar damage and necessary plaster and roof repairs, including restoration needs for the building's Corinthian columns.
Renovations to rotting eaves continues at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center. The project evolved from window restorations as new issues were revealed by workers, who discovered dry rot, brick and mortar damage and necessary plaster and roof repairs, including restoration needs for the building's Corinthian columns. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes ]

Through Penny for Pinellas funding, the city is spending about $550,000 on the project, which started in 2018. Work includes repairing dozens of original windows, replacing damaged wood and renovating the original four-faced Seth Thomas clock. Clock work includes restoring the dome, the louvers as well as the wood trim.

Except for rare breakdowns, including one in 2000 when repairs were required after a lightning strike, the clock has served as a reliable community timepiece for decades. With the refurbishment, that will continue, said Nick Makris of the city’s project administration department. “All the internal guts are good, and it should be chiming every half hour and on the hour.’’

A marker placed in 1990 remains on the front of the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center, acknowledging that the two-story Neoclassical Revival style building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
A marker placed in 1990 remains on the front of the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center, acknowledging that the two-story Neoclassical Revival style building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes ]

Ed Hoffman, president of the board for the Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society and founder of Hoffman Architecture on Orange Street, considers the building an invaluable piece of the city and forever linked to his childhood.

“I remember being an 8-year-old Cub Scout in that building. It was a career day and we visited the fire house,’’ he said.

Light falls through a trio of new windows where renovations continue at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center.
Light falls through a trio of new windows where renovations continue at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes ]

For Hoffman, 68, buildings like the Cultural Center are key to telling his hometown’s important story.

“There are lots of memories. I think of times like being in the old movie theater, which was not far from the building, and halfway through you would hear the fire alarms going off,’’ he said. “Men would suddenly get up and leave to go volunteer and fight the fire.’’

The last time the building had major renovations was in 1987, when the city government portion of the property moved out. By then, the fire and police division had already relocated to new headquarters (now on Huey Avenue).

A pair of wooden doors with hardware remain in a middle stage of restoration at the north entrance at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center.
A pair of wooden doors with hardware remain in a middle stage of restoration at the north entrance at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes ]

At that time, the old city meeting area was transformed into an 84-seat performance space, and the walls and wooden floors were refurbished. In 1990, the building was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

During construction, the building has been wrapped in scaffolding with safety signs posted in different spots around it. Although the construction site has not been enjoyable to look at, nearby business owners like Pete Frissini, have maintained their regular operating hours.

Site superintendent and journeyman carpenter Ron Alanis of Land O' Lakes seals spaces between wood trim while restoring the clock tower at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center on Monday. The cupola with a dome and four clock faces is centrally located on the main roof.
Site superintendent and journeyman carpenter Ron Alanis of Land O' Lakes seals spaces between wood trim while restoring the clock tower at the Tarpon Springs Cultural Center on Monday. The cupola with a dome and four clock faces is centrally located on the main roof. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes ]

Frissini owns Sweet Pete’s Barber Shop, a stone’s throw from the Cultural Center at 100 E. Lemon Street. From his shop’s front window, the construction is in clear view.

“It has not hurt my business, but to be honest, I am tired of looking at all the construction. It’s been a long project, over a year,'' Frissini said ”But, it is an important building. I know it means a lot to everyone to have it look good. I just prefer to get the whole thing done.''

The project should be completed in March.