19th-Century Elevator Revealed in Old Florida Hotel

19th-Century Elevator Revealed in Old Florida Hotel

19th-Century Elevator Revealed in Old Florida Hotel

Technically, it’s a hotel renovation, but it’s turned into a treasure hunt. Developers who restored a historic Florida hotel once visited by John F. Kennedy were surprised by a series of impressive discoveries, unearthed as walls have been taken down and wallpaper peeled away.

Developers renovating the historic Detroit Hotel in Florida have been startled by a series of incredible discoveries, unearthed as walls have been taken down and wallpaper peeled away. Pictured left is an elevator dating back more than 100 years found behind sheetrock next to a carved wooden post. On the right, the antique elevator’s hand crank

They find an old hand-cranked elevator, a staircase leading to nowhere, brick fireplaces, an original wooden telephone switchboard, hand-painted wallpaper, hand-carved columns and newspaper clippings with adverts for horse-drawn carriages.

The unbelievable findings took place at the St. Petersburg Detroit Hotel that opened in 1888. It was the first major building in the city – it was constructed around it. It was constructed from wood with a tower standing 70 feet high and one of the distinguishing features.

The elevator’s gears, motor and cables are intact, left. The carriage is set to be transformed into a photo booth in what will be a new restaurant venue

Jack Spinrad, a St. Petersburg resident and author at the Green Bench Monthly community magazine, writes: ‘When it was first completed, the 40-room hotel stood literally in the middle of nowhere, on a dusty street with no other nearby buildings, save for the terminus of the railroad. 

‘It was built in the Queen Anne style of the time and stood three-and-a-half stories high.’ The hotel grew into a popular tourist attraction and the St. Petersburg Museum of History confirmed John F. Kennedy once visited it. 

An archive photo of the Detroit Hotel in St. Petersburg. The venue, which opened in 1888, was the first significant building in the city – the metropolis grew around it

Over the years the venue, located at 217 Central Avenue, expanded with 63 rooms added in the early 1900s.

But brick structures were also added to the west and east wings, obscuring the original wooden structure.

The original telephone switchboard mounted on a wooden wall panel, with room numbers handwritten in pencil by the wires

In 1993 the historic venue closed and almost a decade later it was converted into condominiums with a restaurant space – the section undergoing renovation – occupying the ground floor. 

In 2010 the former Detroit Hotel was designated as a historic local landmark in the St. Petersburg Register of Historic Places – and it is one of the stops on the St. Petersburg ghost tour. 

According to an article printed in the Northeast Journal the building is haunted by a ‘Lady in Red’ who once owned the hotel and was scorned by her sea-captain lover. 

Apparently, his portrait was found hidden in the attic during a previous renovation, confirming the myth that the Lady in Red had the painting sealed behind a wall so she would never see his face again before leaving town.

The article notes: ‘Soon after she left, a mysterious lady dressed in red was often seen on some of the balconies surrounding the courtyard — sometimes her ghostly image appeared in one of the taverns near the hotel. 

‘When anyone approached, the apparition would suddenly vanish into thin air.’ 

The renovations are being led by the Segretis Hospitality Group, which is turning the ground-floor restaurant into two dining concepts – a pizza restaurant and an eatery specializing in American cuisine.

Nova Segretis, the creative director of the hospitality group, told MailOnline Travel that the ‘recently exposed features were masked and hidden in the walls’ and the ‘construction team is exposing more old architectural features as we speak’.

The old elevator, made by Ohio-headquartered Warner Elevator, was discovered behind sheetrock. 

All of the original parts including the cage-like door, hand crank, gears, motor and cables remain intact. 

The original telephone switchboard, meanwhile, has a panel on which room numbers have been written in pencil.

The plan is to display the trove of findings on the walls, with some of the original features exposed – and the elevator will be accessible to guests as a photobooth. 

Segretis added: ‘We hope that it sparks appreciation for the local history within for those who will get to experience its timeless magnificence.’  

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