A Hidden Treasure on the Beach
Photo of Museum is circa 1940
Settled on the grounds of the first church of the local barrier islands, is the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum. Built in 1917 of rusticated block the Pass-a-Grille Community Church was a staple of the growing island town throughout the years. But in 1959 it’s membership outgrew the small building and a new church was built on 16th Avenue in the Pass-a-Grille area of St. Pete Beach.
Bound for the wrecking ball, the property was saved by Joan Haley, a social editor, preservationist and socialite from Washington, D.C. moving here in 1952. She loved the island and became involved immediately in the community. Her sense of preservation, love of antiques and the area, prompted her to sell her Bayfront property, purchase the old church and make it her very special home. Upon her death in 1989 she left the church property to Pinellas County to be used as an island Museum.
After updating, cleaning and refurbishing the new Museum opened to the public in March, 1993. A non-profit support organization was formed, volunteers were recruited, artifacts gathered and with hard work the Museum has grown, expanded to become a real island treasure. It is totally manned by volunteers. It's Mission statement is "To collect, preserve and exhibit the history of the barrier islands."
Inside there is a time-line display from 1500 to present, artifacts from the Sunshine School, Gulf Beaches School, island churches, Haley’s personal memorabilia, hundreds of then and now photographs, post-cards, a WW II exhibit, a special Don CeSar Hotel display and always a special exhibit that changes yearly.
Photo is back wall and album shelf 2015.
New items are added regularly throughout the Museum as donations continue to come in, adding to the collection. There are over 35 albums of different pioneer families, clubs and island events over the past 100 years.
The Friends support group has fund-raisers, there is gift shop inside with lots of historic books, brochures, jewelry and small gift items.
Looking for a fun and informative afternoon activity, stop out at the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum. There is no admission fee, it is handicap accessible and there is lots and lots to see inside and outside in the large, shady yard. Learn about local island heritage, meet dedicated volunteers (better yet, ask about joining them) and help with the Museum mission of “collecting, preserving and exhibiting the history of the barrier islands”.
Group tours available all year. Call 727-552-1610 for more information.
The Gulf Beaches Historical Museum is owned by Pinellas County and is a satellite of Heritage Village. The Museum is the only County Museum totally managed by volunteers.