Sunken Gardens (Florida)
||This article relies entirely upon a single source, the National Register Information System (NRIS) database or one of its mirrors. Articles based solely on the NRIS may contain errors. (November 2013)|
The Sunken Gardens are 4 acres (1.6 hectares) of well-established botanical gardens located at 1825 4th Street North, in the center of St. Petersburg, Florida, USA. The Gardens were a commercial tourist attraction for many years, but are now operated by the city and maintained with the help of volunteers. Sunken Gardens are open to the public every day of the week; admission is charged.
Sunken Gardens retains their historical interest as an important example of a 1930s Florida roadside commercial attraction, and is probably the oldest commercial tourist attraction on Florida's west coast. The Gardens are open to the public for educational programs, tours, and special events, particularly weddings which have taken place for decades on the Wedding Lawn, and in the banquet facilities in the Garden Room overlooking the unique garden setting.
Flora and fauna
The Gardens currently contain over 500 species of tropical and subtropical plants amidst pools and cascading waterfalls, lushly planted in a collection of more than 50,000 tropical plants and flowers. They include a Japanese garden, cactus garden, and butterfly garden, and Chilean flamingos. Plants include bougainvilleas, royal palms, water lilies, shrimp planta, and fruit trees. The garden atmosphere is peaceful and many of the plants are quite large (compared to typical specimens) due to their long history of protection and cultivation.
The Gardens began in 1903, when plumber and avid gardener George Turner Sr. purchased the site, including a shallow lake 10 feet (3.0 m) below sea level, which he drained to form his private "sunken" garden. Turner started planting papayas and citrus fruits along with other exotic plants on the rich soil surrounding his home. By the 1920s, Turner had opened a nursery and began selling fruits, vegetables, roses and other plants, and visitors were paying a nickel each to stroll through the gardens. In the fall of 1935, he fenced his garden and started charging an admission fee of 25 cents. The Gardens eventually became widely popular, and from the 1950s through the 1970s were ranked among Florida’s top ten commercial attractions.
Historic building status
Sanitary Public Market
|Location||St. Petersburg, Florida|
|Architectural style||Mission/Spanish Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||02000680|
|Added to NRHP||June 27, 2002|
The Gardens include a large building originally known as the Sanitary Public Market, first constructed in 1926-27, and designed by architect Albert Lee Hawes. It was a Mediterranean Revival style arcade with twin Moorish towers, cast stone trim, and a tile roof. In 1940, it was converted for use as the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, and restyled in Art Moderne. The Turner family purchased the building in 1967 to create the World’s Largest Gift Shop and the King of Kings Wax Museum, adding faux lava portions at that time. In 1999, it was purchased by the City of St. Petersburg, along with the adjoining gardens, using a voter-approved tax. The Gardens were designated as a local historic landmark and treated to several years' efforts of restoration. On June 27, 2002, the former Sanitary Public Market building was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.