How Air Conditioning Saved St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, Florida is known for many things – from it’s controversial Pier to the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. What residents and visitors always remember, however, are the hot, muggy spring, summer and fall days. Air conditioning is practically a requirement.

St. Petersburg, Florida: A Look Back

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What does air conditioning have to do with St. Petersburg? When John Williams (thats General John Williams to you) bought 2,500 acres of land in 1875, chances are he realized right away that he wasn’t in Detroit anymore. The climate was hotter, more humid and those bugs – not exactly like the ones in Michigan.

Another wealthy aristocrat, Peter Demens, decided he wanted to buy the Orange Belt Railway – (which he eventually sold to Henry Plant in 1895). 1888, the first train arrived to the Tampa Bay area with Peter on board. The humidity must have made him feel at home, so he named the place St. Petersburg, after his native Russian city (which is built on a swamp). He didn’t have air conditioning either.

The Winter Destination

Throughout the city’s life, people have moved to St. Petersburg to get away from the cold and enjoy the warm winters. With direct rail service from the Northeast, St. Petersburg was a natural destination. And thanks to the railroad, a pier was built stretching into Tampa Bay. This pier was replaced many times, with a new one on the way.

By the 1920’s, passengers were filling the trains, oranges were being shipped out, and St. Petersburg was growing. 1924 saw the opening of the Gandy Bridge – with stretched across Tampa Bay, joining St.Petersburg and Tampa.

Some even came to build winter hideouts, including Al Capone – who would have had central AC if he could.

Slow Summers

Summers, however, saw a decline in visitors – probably because of the lack of air conditioning. Although the first room air conditioner was made in 1931, the cost – between $10,000 to $50,000 – was too expensive for most. And if more than a few people used them, the power grid would shut-down – it wasn’t until the 1940’s that power plants were designed to handle peak times. By the 1960’s, 10 percent of homes had ac units and 90 percent remained hot.

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Source: US Census Bureau State and County Quick Facts

Retirement Destination

Throughout the 1950’s to the late 1970’s, St. Petersburg saw a population boom – as she became one of the most popular retirement destinations in the country. By 1980, the population exceeded 236,647 – and remains close to that today. Although some would say marketing, word-of-mouth and affordability were the reasons for this boom, the real hero is in home AC.

Today, St. Petersburg residents – from Maximo Park to the Northeast, can enjoy the cool comfort of this sub-tropical paradise, thanks to this modern device. Now AC is affordable to almost everyone and considered a requirement by most.

Keep Your AC Healthy

How’s your unit running? Are you getting ice-cold air – or does your home feel like a steam bath?

If you live in St. Pete, contact us today for your system check!