History of Tierra Verde
Tierra Verde was once 15 islands covered with mangroves, pines and bush. These islands ranged in size from only a few acres to the largest, Cabbage Key, having over 289 acres (1.17 km2). For centuries, Native Americans used the islands for ceremonial and burial grounds. A marker remains on the east side of Pinellas Bayway, just north of East Shore Drive, where Native American relics were found in a typical shell mound, excavated when the road was built to Fort De Soto Park. The islands were sacred ground to Native nations as far back as 500 years ago, archaeologists suggest, and deadly conflicts occurred when outsiders trespassed.
Then the Spanish explorers came. One explorer, Juan Ponce de León, came to the area in 1513, and again in 1521, when he received the wound that he later died from after returning to Cuba. Later, Hernando de Soto, Narvaez and Juan Ortiz explored, and then pirates and buccaneers sailed the area, including José Gaspar, Juan Gomez and Jean Lafitte. A treasure was reputed to have once been buried here.
In 1848 Robert E. Lee, then a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. army, recommended that Mullet Key be used for coastal defense in Florida. During the Spanish–American War of 1898, Fort De Soto was built on Mullet Key. Remains of the fort still stand, along with fortifications on Egmont Key. In 1948 the federal government sold Mullet Key to Pinellas County for park and recreation facilities, now Fort De Soto Park.
Early settlers to the Tierra Verde included Baltimore sea captain William Bunce and Silas Dent, who with his brother had a dairy farm. Dent lived on Cabbage Key until he died there in 1952. The Roberts family was among the early settlers of Pass-a-Grille and Tierra Verde. George “Florida” Roberts was a fishing guide for figures such as land developer Walter Fuller, Cecil B. Detre, and John Wanamaker. The thousands of tarpon caught by Roberts and his clients can be found as far away as Alexandria, Egypt, in the home of Sir Harry Rofe.
Although two homes were built on Monte Cristo, in Tierra Verde, in 1923, and one in 1946, things were quiet until the mid-1950s when a Dr. Bradley “Doc” Waldron went to Tallahassee and persuaded the State of Florida to sell him Pine Key, Cabbage Key, Pardee Key and the surrounding bay bottom. This was about the same time construction of the old Skyway Bridge began. Waldron formed a partnership with two builders from Detroit, Hyman and Irving Green, who became majority owners of a group of 36 corporations. They named their island investment “Green Land”.
Waldron-Green Associates applied for a dredge-and-fill permit in 1957. Their intent: to pump some 9,000,000 cubic yards (6,900,000 m3) of sand and shells from the bottom of the bay and thus enlarge and raise the ground level of the three keys Doc Waldron had purchased from the State and join them to create one large island intersected with canals between the sections.
Meanwhile, others sought county and state permission to dredge and pump the bay bottom and build up Bird Key, today’s Bayway Isles and Isla Del Sol. Miami developer Leonard Ratner purchased land which became the site of Eckerd College. Hamilton Disston, the largest landowner in the United States, began and lost his Disston City development, later renamed Gulfport.
At first, the only way to get here was by boat. A ferry ran from Pass-a-Grille to a dock at the end of Madonna Boulevard. Then the state developed its plans for the Bayway and financed it through a $16.8 million bond issue. The Greens persuaded the Department of Transportation to add a Fort De Soto leg and contributed the land on which it was to be built, thus assuring themselves of land access to their proposed Tierra Verde.
The State’s final road and bridge plans were approved in early 1960, and the developer’s dredging permit was granted in December of that year. The dredging would create about 5,000 acres (20 km2) of buildable land in Tierra Verde. Waldron-Green and their various partners and corporations then sold the islands, with the dredge-and-fill permits, to Louis Berlanti, a contractor from New York City, and his son, Fred.
In 1960 Louis and Fred Berlanti arrived on the scene. By June of that year Louis was named president of the Tierra Verde Community Association, Inc.; Doc Waldron and H. D. Sluyter, of Dallas, Texas, were each appointed vice president. There was considerable speculation at the time as to exactly whose money it was that Berlanti represented. He was generally considered to be a “nominee” for Clint Murchison, Sr., the Texas oil tycoon, since both Murchison and Sluyter had been elected directors of the Association. One or more union pension funds were thought, by some, to be the real source of the new money.
On June 30, 1961, the Tierra Verde Community Association Articles of Incorporation were filed with the State of Florida, and the original Declaration of Restrictions and Covenants were recorded in public records in August that same year.
By December 1962, there was a road and a bridge to Tierra Verde. In January 1963, Guy Lombardo‘s Port O’ Call Resort had its grand opening, where Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Liberace, Mel Tormé, and many other musical and theatrical stars would later perform. The popular TV show Route 66 was filmed there. The place was hopping with celebrities. Lombardo promoted the resort all across the country when the band did a 10-week national bus tour to more than 20 cities. Every show included several minutes to promote Tierra Verde and “his and the Murchisons’ Port O’ Call Resort.” All across the country, their bus had a Tierra Verde banner hung on its sides.
Six months later, on August 16, 1963, Louis and Fred Berlanti died. The private airplane he was flying with his son was sabotaged and exploded over Lake Okeechobee, Florida, killing them both. Fragments of their bodies and their exploded airplane were found floating in Lake Okeechobee.
Berlanti had suffered sizable real estate losses from Castro government property confiscations and had pledged half a million dollars to unseat the Castro regime. He and his son were members of the “United Organizations for the Liberation of Cuba”. The St. Petersburg Times also alluded to “covert” local activities.
With the death of the Berlantis, Tierra Verde was in the hands of the Murchisons for more than 14 years. Guy Lombardo and his band returned to Tierra Verde for only one more season, and was quoted as saying he had tried to strike a “new deal” with the Murchisons but had not succeeded. He never returned.
Guy Lombardo died in 1977, the same year that real estate developer Frank E. Mackle III was elected president of a new venture called the Tierra Verde Company, a joint venture between Madonna Corporation (a Murchison interest), and Delverde (Deltona) Corporation. Because of lack of local interest, the Tierra Verde Company worked with a network of international brokers and sold many lots to overseas investors. But growth on Tierra Verde was still slow. However, in 1984 Pinellas Bayway got an exit ramp off Interstate 275, and Tierra Verde property sales increased greatly because of the easier access. In January 1985 Deltona turned the Tierra Verde community over to the homeowners.
More History of Terra Verde
Tierra Verde may have been named perhaps as much for the brothers Green as for its green land. Tierra Verde is a 667-acre (2.70 km2) unincorporated portion of Pinellas County. Both St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach have bid for annexation, but Tierra Verde voted to stay independent. The 15 original islands are now the present six areas of Tierra Verde: Monte Cristo, Entrada, Pinellas Bayway, Sands Point, East Shore (Bayview) and West Shore (Oceanview).
In 1980 Tierra Verde real estate was valued at $15 million. By 1991 values had soared to $304 million. In November 1996 the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s Office evaluated Tierra Verde property at $349 million, 1999 values were listed at $478 million and in 2003 values are listed at $632 million. There are now approximately 2,000 single-family and multi-family structures on Tierra Verde, as well as a number of commercial enterprises. An estimated 2,500 families are expected when Tierra Verde is built to completion.
Demographics of Tierra Verde
As of the census of 2000, Tierra Verde, there were 3,574 people, 1,661 households, and 1,132 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 938.7/km² (2,430.1/mi²). There were 1,975 housing units at an average density of 518.7/km² (1,342.9/mi²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 95.89% White, 1.79% African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.98% Asian, 0.14% Pacific Islander, 0.48% from other races, and 0.53% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.41% of the population.
In Tierra Verde there were 1,661 households out of which 17.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.7% were married couples living together, 3.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.8% were non-families. 23.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average Tierra Verde household size was 2.15 and the average family size was 2.53.
In the CDP the population of Tierra Verde was spread out with 13.8% under the age of 18, 3.7% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 41.8% from 45 to 64, and 14.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 48 years. For every 100 females there were 101.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 103.2 males.
The median income for a Tierra Verde household in the CDP was $86,617, and the median income for a family was $96,155. Males had a median income of $63,750 versus $41,250 for females. The per capita income for the Tierra Verde CDP was $48,259. About 1.9% of families and 3.9% of the population in Tierra Verde were below the poverty line, including 2.6% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.
The fort houses 2 of the original canons that defended the coast as well as a few of the surrounding support structures. One of the old rooms serve as mini museum with photographs from the time the fort was in use. The fort and the visitors center will probably take not more than an hour
The beach at Fort De Soto Park has been enjoyed for years and it is a favorite because of the park setting. There is a large shady picnic area, plenty of free parking, pavilions for family/group gatherings and beautiful white sand, sea oats and birds. There are areas with calm waves for the little ones in addition to areas with larger waves for the bigger kids.
This is a very peaceful beach off the beaten path unlike city beaches where the traffic and noise are always interrupting what should be a peaceful scene. Bring something for the grill and make a full day of it.
The RV Park at DeSoto doesn’t seem like a typical RV park – It is lush with verdant tropical growth and the foliage is so thick, you would swear that you were in a jungle. The parking spots back onto the water, and there is a small island about 75 or 100 yards off shore. While cooking on the BBQ, your better half can sit with their feet in the water and watch the dolphins frolicking. If a thunderstorm approaches, you can see it approaching across the bay.
Bicycling around the park is a delightful way to take in the scenery and visit the fort.
The architecture combined with the history makes this a fascinating place.
Restaurants in Tierra Verde
Billy’s Stone Crab & Steakhouse
Specializing in crab, fresh fish, prime rib.
Inside or outside dining, 5-11PM , Musical entertainment.
One Collany Road, Downtown Tierra Verde
Black Forest Cottage
Traditional German Food, Crepes & Bakery
1120 Pinellas Bayway South, Suite 113/114,
Downtown Tierra Verde, FL 33715
Wednesday – Sunday 9AM – 10PM 727-867-5800
Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner – International Beer & Wine
Good Times Continental Restaurant
(No Credit Cards)
Specializing in Czech-Austrian-German-French cuisine
seafood, steaks, hearty soups.
Tues-Sat. 5-9 PM Reservations requested.
1130 Pinellas Bayway, Tierra Verde, FL 33715
Island Grille and Raw Bar
1110 Pinellas Bayway South, Suite 206,
Downtown Tierra Verde, FL 33715
Happy Hour Daily 4-6PM
M-W 4-10PM, Thurs Noon-10PM, Fri Noon-11PM, Sat 8AM-11PM, Sun 8AM-9PM
1120 Pinellas Bayway South, Downtown Tierra Verde
Pizza New York Style. Mon-Thurs 11AM – 10PM
Fri & Sat 11AM – 11PM Sun 3PM – 10PM
Dine-In, Carry-Out, Free Delivery
PHILA *** DELI
1120 Pinellas Bayway South,
Downtown Tierra Verde
Breakfast & Lunch. Wed – Mon 6AM – 2PM
Dine In – Takeout
Tony & Nello’s
Specializing in southern Italian cuisine.
Mon-Sat 11AM – 10PM, Sun 12PM-9PM
1136 Pinellas Bayway South, Tierra Verde, FL 33715
Smuggler’s Cove Bar
Friendly neighborhood tavern.
Downtown Tierra Verde
Mon-Sat 9AM – 2AM , Sun 1PM – 2AM
Tokyo Bay Japanese Restaurant
Sushi bar, dinners, carry out.
Isla Del Sol Shoppers Village
Tues – Sun 5PM – 10PM
Wong Lee Chinese Cuisine
Take-out, delivery and catering.
Open daily 4-9:30PM
Downtown Tierra Verde
Things To Do In Tierra Verde
Dolphin Landings 4737 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, FL Phone: 727-367-4488
Shell Key Preserve Located south of St. Pete Beach, FL Phone: 727-943-4000
The Arts Center 719 Central Avenue, St. Pete Beach, FL Phone: 727-822-7872
Salvador Dali Museum 1000 3rd Street South, St. Pete Beach, FL Phone: 727-823-3767
Boyd Hill Nature Trail 1101 Country Club Way South, St. Petersburg, FL Phone: 727-893-7326
Derby Lane 10490 Gandy Blvd., St. Petersburg, FL Phone: 727-576-1361
Florida Holocaust Museum 55 5th Street South, St. Petersburg, FL Phone: 727-820-0100
Sunken Gardens 1825 4th Street North, St. Petersburg, FL Phone: 727-551-3100
Tropicana Field One Tropicana Drive, St. Petersburg, FL Phone: 727-825-3120;
Bayview Plaza Waterfront Resort 4321 Gulf Blvd. St. Pete Beach, FL 33706
Phone: (727) 367-2791
Caprice Vacation Condos 6950 Beach Plaza St. St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 Phone: (727) 360-6199
Carlton House Motel and Suites 633 71st Avenue St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 Phone: (727) 367-4128
Dolphin Beach Resort 4900 Gulf Boulevard St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 Phone: (727) 360-7011
Grand Plaza Hotel 5250 Gulf Blvd. St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 Phone: (877) 298-2062
Gulfside Resort 565 70th Avenue St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 Phone: (727) 360-7640
Hideaway Sands 3804 Gulf Blvd St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 Phone: (727) 367-2781
Long Key Beach Resort 3828 Gulf Blvd. St. Pete Beach, FL33706
Phone: (727) 360-1748
Mariner Beach Club 4220 Gulf Blvd. St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 Phone: (727) 367-3721
Palm Crest 3848 Gulf Blvd. St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 Phone: (727) 360-9327
Plaza Beach Hotel – Beachfront Resort 4506 Gulf Boulevard St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 Phone: (727) 367-2791
Resort Rentals 8010 Blind Pass Rd St. Pete Beach, FL33706
Sirata Beach Resort 5300 Gulf Blvd. St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 Phone: (877) 298-2062
Suncoast Vacation Condos P.O. Box 67127 St. Pete Beach, FL 33706
Phone: (727) 360-2750
Sundial Inn 7201 Sunset Way St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 Phone: (727) 360-0120
Sunrise Resort 5445 Gulf Boulevard St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 Phone: (727) 363-7421
TRS Vacation Rentals 16401 Gulf Blvd. Redington Beach, FL 33708
Phone: (727) 393-3425
Hospitals/Medical centers near St. Pete Beach:
- PALMS OF PASADENA HOSPITAL Acute Care Hospitals, Proprietary, provides emergency services, about 3 miles away; SAINT PETERSBURG, FL
- ST PETERSBURG GENERAL HOSPITAL Acute Care Hospitals, Proprietary, provides emergency services, about 6 miles away; SAINT PETERSBURG, FL
- EDWARD WHITE HOSPITAL Acute Care Hospitals, Proprietary, provides emergency services, about 6 miles away; SAINT PETERSBURG, FL