A must-see, must-taste, must-experience edible, historical, food extravaganza, all Florida, all the time. A product of The FOOD Museum. For the Archives, please click the file folder icon at right.
St Petersburg Food History: Early Settlers theDonaldson Farm Family
Third Street Bridge (called “Thrill” Bridge because trolley passengers were “thrilled” when the railcars reached the other side without getting stuck crossing over the steep ridged top) has a series of white panels, identical on both sides, set into the bridge walls and viewable from the sidewalk, depict historic scenes from this part of St Petersburg.
One panel shows John Donaldson bringing a wagon-load of his farm produce to market. Former slaves, Donaldson and his wife Anna Germain were the first African-American couple to settle in the lower peninsula after the Civil War. The Donaldson family raised garden vegetables, sugar cane, sweet potatoes. They kept cattle and hogs and tended a productive orange grove.
St Petersburg Food Heritage: Miranda Farm Site
St Petersburg’s first permanent settlement grew up along the shores of the sheltered Big Bayou arm of Tampa Bay around Abel Miranda’s farm. He arrived in 1857 having bought out Paul’s homesteading building supplies and orange saplings. etc.
During the Civil War, Miranda supported the Confederate cause by disrupting Egmont Key-based Northern forces as they went about foraging for food for their base. At the time the Union Navy maintained a successful blockade at the entrance to Tampa Bay.
At the southern end of Driftwood Road a sign recalls the former Miranda farm. If not at this precise spot, it was not far away.
“In this vicinity stood the home of Abel Miranda, Seminole War veteran who moved to Pinellas County in the late 1850’s. In February 1862, the Union blockading squadron off Egmont Key sailed into Big Bayou and attacked the home. It was burned, the animals killed, and the gardens destroyed. The Miranda family fled during the action and no one was injured. This was the only armed conflict in Pinellas County during the War Between the States.”
Abel Miranda’s brothers-in-law, John and William Bethel, moved to Big Bayou in 1859 and eventually took over Miranda’s former homestead site. They made a living catching and selling mullet.
When Miranda and his family returned after the war, they purchased more land to raise crops and went into the cattle business. Their herd grew to over a thousand.
St Petersburg Food History: Paul’s Landing (now Vinoy Hotel area)
What became St Petersburg was once simply known as Paul’s Landing. Carpenter William Paul was a sailor on a US Navy survey ship commanded by Lt. C. H. Berryman. After measuring several locations around Tampa Bay, the survey team concluded that the place where the Vinoy Hotel is now was the best location for railroad tracks to get close to a deep water harbor. Berryman and his crew spent so much time there between April and August of 1854 that Paul built shore cabins and a pier. He also constructed a smokehouse that turned the razorback hogs they caught in the woods into bacon and hams.
Hogs continued to be an important St. Petersburg area farm product. In fact, the first air cargo on the world’s first regularly scheduled air route was 22 pounds of St. Petersburg ham and 18 pounds of bacon flown to Tampa by Tony Jannus in 1914 from near the original Paul’s Landing.
William Paul returned later that fall and would have been St. Petersburg’s first permanent resident except that his wife became ill. He sold his shorefront buildings, homesteading supplies and fifty seedling orange trees to Abel Miranda.
Miranda moved everything to Big Bayou, just south of downtown, established a fish camp and planted the orange trees.
“Paul’s Landing” went on to be a popular fishing and picnic spot for many years.
Dr. Phillips High School
Florida Citrus Pioneer: Dr Phillips, Florida
His orange groves are gone, but his name and good works are all over this independent community near Orlando.
Florida Citrus Pioneer: Dr. Phillip Phillips
One of the main reason’s for “The Doc’s” success was that he brought a spirit of innovation to his citrus facilities, and he was willing to try things that had not been done before. Dr. Phillips was the first to sell oranges by the pound, which he promoted in the late 1920s by using scales in demonstrations around the state to show that ten pounds of oranges produced two quarts of juice. From 1929 to 1931, Phillips directed a project designed to improve the taste of orange juice in a can. A “flash” pasteurization process was developed which greatly enhance the taste of single-strength orange juice, and he undertook a massive marketing campaign to promote the new juice. He placed the tagline “Drink Dr. Phillip’s orange juice because the Doc says it’s good for you” on the labels of all of his juice products, leading the American Medical Association to conduct a study which led to their official endorsement being placed in the labels as well. The success of his orange juice helped to pave the way for the success of concentrate in the 1950s by increasing consumer awareness and confidence in orange juice products.
Florida Citrus Pioneer: Dr. Phillip Phillips
Dr. Phillip Phillips is a legendary figure in Central Florida, On January 17, 1874, Phillip Phillips was born to French supply merchant Henri Phillipe and his wife, Isabelle, in Memphis, Tennessee. Earning a medical degree from Columbia University, Phillips migrated to Florida in 1894. By 1920, he had acquired massive amounts of land near his original Sand Lake property. At their peak, his groves stretched over 18 square miles of Orange County. Over the years, Dr. Phillips installed numerous facilities on his property, giving rise to what was essentially a small village called “Dr. Phillips.” These facilities included housing units that had been built for Bahamanian workers that Phillips had recruited to work in his groves. Although most citrus workers were seasonal, working for roughly half of the year, Phillips ensured that the employees he brought in would have work year-round. A post office and even an air strip also became part of the Dr. Phillips village. This property was merely the centerpiece of an empire which encompassed 5,000 acres of land in nine different counties, as well as two large packinghouses. This assembly made Phillips the largest citrus grower in the world, growing and selling over 100 million oranges a year.
St Petersburg Food History: Pinellas Point Temple Mound & Juan Ortiz rescue story
The first real settlers in this area were Native Americans who fished, hunted, grew crops and built the mound here. Legend has it was here that Juan Ortiz, a captured Spaniard, was nearly “barbequed” to death by a local chief as revenge for the brutal treatment of his people by the Spanish explorer Narvaez Panfilio in the previous year. Ortiz was supposedly rescued from the “barbacoa,” a rack used for smoking and drying meat and hides, by the chief’s daughter who later helped him escape to a friendlier tribe across the bay. Ten years later, Ortiz joined up with the De Soto expedition and worked as a translator. His tale was included in various reports that eventually made their way to England.
It’s possible that John Smith got the idea from the Ortiz story to fabricate his own “rescue” tale involving another Indian princess, Pocohantas, eighty years later.
Of the more than a thousand archaeological sites in the Tampa Bay area, this is one of the best preserved. Visiting the site set in the midst of a prosperous suburban neighborhood has been made easier in recent years as you can now walk to the top via a wooden boardwalk and stairs. Signs along the way explain the history and natural features of the site.
Mound photo via stpeterealestateblog.com
Florida Food History: Sheila’s 16th ct. Spanish Kitchen classes
Sheila Benjamin has a well deserved reputation for having the best outfitted 16th century Spanish kitchen anywhere in Florida. Her kitchenware, seen on this page, would be the envy of most Spanish expeditions including well supplied Hernando De Soto’s in 1539.
Andalucian cooking takes its inspiration from a crucible of cultures that together forged its culinary heritage. Eight hundred years of Moorish rule of southern Spain left a culinary legacy in Andalusia of refined, almost oriental flavors, with opulent use of spices and herbs; oranges and other fruits in savory dishes including almonds and cinnamon with meat.
Sheila and Elizabeth offer 16th Century cooking classes, where they share recipes and stories.
St Petersburg Food Heritage: Maximo Park
The park is named for Spanish/Cuban Antonio Maximo Hernandez, who operated a fish processing business on the shore for the Cuban markets in the first half of the 19th century. Before that it was another indian village occupied as early as 800 AD. A 1,200 foot long shell mound now runs from the woods to the picnic area along the shore crest. A trail with informative signs shares the area with frisbee golfers.
Painting by Hermann Trappman, a Gulfport artist, specializes in researching and painting Florida’s history. Many of his works give us vivid portraits of Native American foodways. http://floridafrontier.com/Hermann_Trappman.html