The original Williams Park Bandstand in St. Petersburg was built about 1894 and was later demolished. In 1980-1981, a replica of the bandstand was built by the local U.S. Navy Seabees Reserve Unit in the Village, and it now serves as a popular site for weddings and other public gatherings.
A Wild City Park:
During the late 1880s, St. Petersburg was a sleepy pine scrub village striving to be cosmopolitan. Northerners relocating to this community, both permanent and seasonal residents, helped transform the aspiring town by bringing culture and new idea. During the early 1890s, the place known as City Park was unappealing with its tall grass, mud puddles and roaming livestock and wild animals. In 1893 a group of women took charge and formed the Park Improvement Association. One of their first projects was the installation of a fence around City Park.
Setting the Stage:
The ambitious women of the Park Improvement Association sold ice cream, lemonade, candy and other treats to raise funds to fence City Park. The new fence, built in 1984, kept out hogs, cows and chickens that still roamed the area. Next, the women raised funds for a bandstand at the north end of the park. Since St. Petersburg had no other performances areas, the new bandstand became the center stage for concerts and community gatherings.
Crows perched on green benches surrounding the bandstand to hear politicians make promises and bands play lively music of the day. Attendance soared at concerts and performances during the winter tourist season with bands such as Roy Smith's Royal Scotch Highlanders. During World War I, community mass meetings rallies crowds to patriotic fervor.
A Pinellas Portrait: John Constantine Williams (1817-1892)
John and Sarah Williams came to the Pinellas Peninsula in 1875. These early settlers gave land for City Park from their homestead. Sara, working with her husband, negotiated with Peter Demens to bring the Orange Belt Railway to St. Petersburg in 1888. Sarah was an active member of many civic organizations. Naming the park and bandstand for them honored their significant contributions to the growth of this city.
Who's in Charge?
The Woman's Town Improvement Association established in 1901, evolved from the Park Improvement Association. They operated the park in an era when laws and customs denied women the right to vote or to hold public office. The cit of St. Petersburg took over care and upkeep of Williams Park in 1910.