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By: Sally Yoder
As mainlanders found passage by the big ‘ol steamer boats, small skiffs and party boats, to the islands quiet beaches, early pioneers opened rough “hotels” to accommodate their needs. Eight Street (not Ave. back then) quickly became the “main” gathering and eating place, small rooming houses and fishing docks soon became the norm. George Lizotte opened his “Bonhomie” in 1910, which was French for “good fellowship” and there was plenty of that! He rebuilt and renamed it “Hotel Lizotte”. A fire in 1918 destroyed that and damaged other nearby structures, but other hotels - The Mason House”, The Holloway”, and the large Plaza at 26th Street continued to lure visitors eager to bath in the Gulf waters and partake of fresh seafood.
Local rooming houses did well despite rains which b mosquitoes but the roomers stayed getting 3 meals a da homemade cakes and clean linen for as little as $2.00 a traveled back and forth over the bay in small (mostly fi or twice a week for supplies. When Capt. Ken Marry, S his little general store on what is now known as Merry a landlady a trip over the sometimes rough waters to ke stocked!
The Plaza Hotel (it’s name was changed in 1913 to the Pass-a-Grille Beach Hotel note: the other hotel with that name was built in the early 1920's between 9 & 10th Ave.) had large rambling porches all facing the beach and the Gulf. The “elite” patrons from Tampa and St. Petersburg can be seen in old photos rocking in wooden chairs on these porches. Spending time on the beach was a treat for so many (just as it is today) and along with the “day visitors”, Pass-aGrille really was an early version of our modern resorts.
The upper beaches experienced a share of mainlanders too, with many small hotels or lodges, but storms were an enemy of these frailly built structures and many were lost in a short period of time. A 1921 storm did extensive damage to the Plaza which was never rebuilt. However, a historic note here: the two story building used by the hotel employees still stands on the north- west end of 26th Ave. Named the “Butler House”, it has national historic landmark recognition and has been a “condo” unit for many years. But the beaches had been discovered for sure and would continue on a slow but steady development course never losing the resort image that began in the early 1900's.
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