Q:  There has been a profusion of activity at the USFSP Historic Houses recently. What is happening?

The bustle harkens a new chapter in the colorful evolution of USF St. Petersburg’s cherished Williams (WMS) and Snell (SNL) Houses. Faculty from the Department of History & Politics have moved into the buildings, joining others who have been located there for decades.

But first, a bit of context. In the mid-1990s, USFSP become the conservators of the two community landmarks. The C. Perry Snell House, formerly located at 106 2nd Avenue N., was moved to campus overnight on August 17, 1993, by A.B. Thomas Housemovers. Over 150 people convened to watch the house transport.

Snell was a leading area developer who honeymooned in St. Petersburg with wife Lillian in 1899. They decided to move here shortly thereafter. The Snells built their Dutch-Colonial home in 1904; it featured electricity and a basement – highly unusual in Florida.

Bay Plaza Cos. donated the Snell House and provided some fees to move it to campus. Bay Plaza had been using the home as offices while working on projects in downtown St. Petersburg. Additionally, “Florida Power Corp, GTE, Paragon Cable, and the City of St. Petersburg waived their fees for house moving,” according to Bayboro Briefing newsletter (Summer 1993). The community initiative to preserve the Snell House featured an all-star volunteer design team including architect Randy Wedding, landscape architect Phil Graham, Mary Wyatt Allen, president of the St. Petersburg Historical & Flight One Museum, and Linda Forché, interior designer and USF St. Petersburg alumna.

snell house

Built in 1890-91, the John C. and Sarah Williams House was considered one of the finest homes in Florida. John was co-founder of St. Petersburg (along with Peter Demens) and the Williams family were wealthy, prominent citizens. In 1906, the mansion was sold and eventually anchored the Manhattan Hotel when the long west wing added.

In 1975, the John C. Williams Mansion was placed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Manhattan Hotel closed in 1993. Two years later, Louise Flint Slansky donated the Williams House to the University. Her family had owned and operated the Manhattan Hotel since 1946. The Williams House shuttled to campus overnight on March 29, 1997, courtesy of A.B. Thomas Housemovers.

williams house

Historic house move

During this period, USFSP also received two significant grants from the Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation to assist with restoring the celebrated houses.

Renovation work by general contractor Barry Flaherty commenced in January 1997, primarily on the Snell House. Several University Relations staff enthusiastically moved into SNL mid-year: Lisa Wharton (Alumni Affairs), Marti Garratt, and Sudsy Tschiderer. History professor and former director of the Honors Program, Dr. Ray Arsenault joined the group a few years later, occupying the SNL 2nd floor.

USFSP and the American Society of Interior Designers partnered in 1998 to display the two Historic Houses in a three-month Showhouse.

Then, faculty moved into the Williams House while Dr. Thomas Smith and Dr. Chris Meindl came to SNL.

Student meetings, alumni events, academic gatherings, receptions, and dinners occurred in both houses and in the adjacent Courtyard.

In 2004, University Advancement returned to occupy the Williams House until 2017 when the department relocated to the new Lynn Pippenger Hall.

Now, August 2018 – the latest flurry results from the new upgrades to WMS and the move of the History and Politics faculty into our Historic Houses.

The new residents (alphabetically) in WMS are: Dr. Sheramy Bundrick (Art History); Dr. Erica Heinsen-Roach (History), Dr. Joshua Hostetter (Politics); Dr. Arturo Jimenez-Bacardi (Politics), Dr. Larissa Kopytoff (History), Dr. Hugh LaFollette (Philosophy), Dr. L. Felipe Mantilla (Politics), and Dr. Adrian O’Connor (History).

Joining Dr. Ray Arsenault (History), Dr. Thomas Smith (Politics), and Dr. Chris Meindl (Florida Studies) in the Snell House are:  Dr. Richard Mbatu (Geography) and Dr. Erin Mauldin (History). History & Politics Chair Dr. Michael Francis also resides in SNL. Dr. Francis was the mastermind and facilitator for The Move.

Honors Program graduate assistant Amy Anderson (Florida Studies) and Sudsy Tschiderer (Advancement) are also part of the SNL/WMS community.

dr smith

Alumni – you are always welcome to stop by the Historic Houses and say hello to some of your favorite professors . . . or to meet some of our newest faculty.