St. Petersburg Museum of History

Innovative displays and numerous artifacts keep local history alive and point out the influence this city has had on commercial aviation.

St. Petersburg was founded in the late 19th century. In just a few centuries, much has happened on the Pinellas Peninsula, and this is reflected in the St. Petersburg Museum of History’s collections. The space itself may be small, but there are over 30,000 artifacts to be viewed. This is an ideal place to explore early on during your St. Petersburg vacation to learn about the local background before seeing the sights.

A permanent display explores the roots of St. Petersburg. Through historic photos and artifacts you’ll learn how the area was once inhabited by Native Americans. The city was co-founded by John C. Williams from Detroit and Peter Demens, a Russian. The two men set out to lay the foundations and railway connection of modern-day St. Pete. Keep an eye out for the Tocobaga-crafted canoe, and the replica parlor car from the Orange Belt Railway.

The museum also informs visitors about St. Petersburg’s major achievements in the history of the United States. You’ll learn, for example, how the city was home to one of the world’s first airlines, Benoist Airlines. It was the first aviation company that didn’t have a fleet of Zeppelins, but instead used winged aircraft. Stare up at a full-size working replica of the Benoist Airboat, the museum’s star attraction.

St. Petersburg Museum of History has constantly changing exhibitions, which often focus on St. Petersburg itself, but also touch on Florida and the wider world. Check the museum’s website to find out what’s on during your visit.

Aside from exhibitions, there are a number of events to keep visitors engaged. A regular slot, “Happy Hour with the Historian,” invites people in for wine, food and discussion with a local historian. It’s a great way to learn more and get to know the locals. The admission fee is a suggested donation and there is a cash bar. Check the museum’s website for a schedule of topics and dates.

St. Petersburg Museum of History charges an admission fee. It is closed on Mondays and Sunday mornings. The museum overlooks the marina in a building that was once an aquarium, located just east of Bay Shore Drive on a spit in Tampa Bay. There is free parking behind the museum. The Downtown Looper trolley stops at the museum and other major attractions in central St. Petersburg.

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