Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tampa Bay Paddle Distractions - St. Pete's Most Famous Debate!

How can I admit that I went to St. Petersburg in Tampa Bay, Florida with a camera that I hate and fell in love with the city the first few hours and refused to take any pictures of it out of respect. "I'll be back with a better camera. This is just a scouting mission for places I like enough to visit twice."

After several hours of exploring the city by car, nature called. Where to go? It's not the land of fast food stops that I usually only use for things other than food. "Head to the marina, there must be something there."

A sweet historic looking Byzantine style little octagonal brick building on the water across from the boats in the marina suddenly caught my eye.

"No way, it's a public restroom!" Never mind more immediate needs, out came the camera I hate to snap a shot of it.

"Why am I doing this? I've never taken a photo of a bathroom before!"

People needing to enter the establishment are stopping to let me take a shot unobstructed. Tourists with puzzled expressions are wondering why I'm taking a picture of it. "Why are you taking a picture of a restroom?"

Me: "I'm not sure. Go ahead, don't let me stop you!"

A happy jogger passing by stops, jogs in place and says, "Do you know the story of this bathroom?"

Me: "Ummm, no. There's a story?"

Jogger: "As legend has it, there's a church, St. Mary's, only a few blocks from here on the corner of 4th Street and 5th Avenue. The architect of the church was not paid as promised for his work. Out of spite, he had this public bathroom built to resemble the church and had it constructed before the church was built."

Me: "Great, thanks. A bathroom with a story! Have a good jog!"

Now I've got to find the church without a map and spend time researching the story. Stories are passed on for a reason? I wasn't looking for one.

Sure enough, the church is nearby and easy to find. You'll likely find the bathroom replica first though! And it seems to be more popular!

According to the church website, the church was built in 1929, seats 1,000! Impressive!

Mini St. Mary's on the marina seats many less! And was apparently built in 1927.

The story makes sense. The church was built during the Great Depression. The architect was likely underpaid. The church has its own version of history though. No mention of the public bathroom it resembles!

I'd like to visit the interior (of the church) one day.

And the debate rages on. Is it a true story or not . . . ?

Tour guides and passing joggers (and now me) have kept the story alive.

Kudos to Henry Taylor, architect. What a beautiful and useful design of both buildings and a brillant way to make a point! Out of spite, you made the church more famous with a remarkable replica of it in the form of a restroom in a more noticeable location than the church (on the water at the marina) and helped more people find the church and learn more about it!

What's the moral of the story?

Interesting to ponder! Ha!

(Don't tick off your smart and savy architect!)

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