Long gone are the original Green Benches of St Petersburg, removed from the city in the late 1960's. But how did we ever get them, why were they green and who had them all removed?
It all started in 1902 with a couple of benches on Central Avenue in front of the Belmont Hotel. A few years later in 1908 local realtor and showman Noel "the Sandman" Mitchell installed 50 bright orange benches around his office on the corner of Central and 4th Street advertising his realty services. Soon other local businesses followed suit with a rainbow of colored benches scattered around downtown.
Future mayor Al Lang declared the multi-colored bright benches an unsightly scourge on the Sunshine City and ran on a campaign in part to clean up the town. The city passed an ordinance after his election in 1914 that all benches had to be green and of a standard size and shape. It is from that point our benches became uniformly green and mostly the same size and style.
The Green Benches were wildly popular for decades. You could find hundreds of them in Williams Park alone. They provided seating for the daily concerts during tourist season. The benches lined not only Central Ave, but along 4th Street and along the Million Dollar Pier.
The benches provided a social gathering spot for the residents and visitors to watch the world go by. And up until the late 1950's the benches remained a fixture of St Pete. Things began to change when the city was labeled a senior citizen retirement community and jokes were made about the people simply sitting on the benches. The city itself also began to view them not as a symbol of leisure, but rather more negatively as "dated".
Efforts in the early 1960's to change things included having the Jaycees update the color of the benches to more bright/pastel colors. The city endorsed this effort but the citizens began noticing many of the benches being removed for painting were not being replaced. By 1967 in what many saw as a misguided effort to update St Pete, the benches were banned and finally removed by 1969.
If you know some local old timers you can probably still find an original Green Bench or two they saved from the dump. The St Pete Museum of History also has a few of them you can check out.
Over the years the Green Benches came to symbolize a part of St Pete that made it a bit unusual. Today, we have a craft brewery, a flower shop, a local newsletter and many other business named after our famous Green Benches.
Rev B has nearly been published multiple times and has received letters of rejection from Highlights, Jet Magazine, Dear Abby and The New Yorker. While accepting full responsibility for all grammatical errors he makes no claims of being an author. Please enjoy the entries found here and use the search function if you're looking for something more specific.