History of the Heritage Hotel Presented by: Brandy Stark, SPIRITS & SWFPI
Origin: 1920s <ul><li>St Petersburg's Heritage Inn sprung from humble roots during the boom years of the 1920s. </li></ul><ul><li>Early records show that Mrs. Elda (also spelled Ella) Davis was probably the owner and operator of the boardinghouse that would eventually become part of the Heritage Inn. * </li></ul><ul><li>Located at 244 Third Avenue North, this property was also known as the Weston. </li></ul><ul><li>It was sold by 1927 to Mrs. Mary Ervin. Her home appears to have been incorporated later into the Heritage Inn property on the right-hand side of the current structure. </li></ul><ul><li>* Often confused as originally owned by Dr Marry Davis, a female physician who lived in St Petersburg in the early 1900s, research does not support this as fact. * </li></ul>
Origins: 1920s <ul><li>According to early city records, the property was then owned by J. Walter Lanier and a Lucius Patton before being purchased by Mrs. Helen Klasing. </li></ul><ul><li>Situated at 234 Third Avenue North, this property was bought by Charles Helt and later became the main part of the current hotel. </li></ul><ul><li>Originally the size of the hotel was a mere 18 rooms. </li></ul><ul><li>Purchased by Charles and his wife Elizabeth in 1928, as a seasonal resort for the winter months, the hotel began its transformation into the Hotel Martha Washington. </li></ul>
1930s: Renovations <ul><li>After two renovations to the hotel, a third, more extensive one was done in 1939 at a cost of $100,000. </li></ul><ul><li>The entire plan and supervision of the hotel enlargement was under the personal direction of Howard Helt, who, before being associated with his father Charles in the hotel business, had been a construction engineer. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>During this renovation, a new 38 room wing was added, bringing the number of rooms to 103. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(The current hotel has 71 rooms. A number of rooms were lost when a banquet/convention area was constructed in the 1980s). </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Each room had a private bath. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>All of these rooms had an outside exposure either on the street or overlooking one of 4 inner courts, beautifully landscaped for the enjoyment of the guests. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The main portion of the hotel was 3 stories high with a two story wing on each side. </li></ul></ul>
1940s: And then came the war… <ul><ul><li>WWII crippled the tourist industry in St Petersburg. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Its many hotels, occupied only seasonally, as well as apartments and boardinghouses, were commandeered as barracks for the troops. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>St Pete became a major training center for the Army Air Corps. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Trainees began arriving in June of 1942, and by mid-summer, there were over 10,000 trainees housed in St Petersburg, housed in all hotels (except for the Suawanee) which were leased by the military. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An aside: One of the smaller hotels, Conner's Hotel, was probably one of those also commandeered by the military. Located next to the Hotel Martha Washington, it was owned and operated by William Conner whose daughter Margaret, married Howard Helt, the son of Charles and Elizabeth (owners of the Martha Washington). As late as at least the 1960s, the Conner Hotel maintained its own identity. Over the years, however, the two hotels would be joined structurally. Today what was once the Conner Hotel is now Hammerheads restaurant. (Formerly Heritage Grille and then Julian’s). </li></ul></ul>
Fast Forward…1970s/1980s <ul><ul><li>The Hotel Martha Washington fell on hard times in the1970s and was left vacant for a long period of time. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>According to the locals, the building could well have been occupied by the homeless of the area. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Columnist Mark Albright in an article for the St Petersburg Times/Evening Independent (Money Section entitled 'Around Town: Martha Washington Hotel's Identity Undergoes Change dated October 17, 1986), a group of investors purchased the property from Ogden Helt (grandson of Charles) in 1986. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The building was completely renovated and reopened as the Heritage Hotel in 1987. </li></ul></ul>
1990s - Today: Changing Hands <ul><li>Soon the Heritage was again in financial trouble and became a victim of foreclosure in May 1990. </li></ul><ul><li>Three years later, in July 1993, the hotel became part of a major hotel chain and was renamed the Heritage Holiday Inn. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1999 major expansion was planned for the Heritage. According to an article appearing in the St Petersburg Times Heritage Holiday Inn Expansion Back on Track (July 25, 1999): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ The original plans have been expanded. The building will be five stories instead of four, and the Denny's will be big enough to seat approximately 75 diners. Eighty new rooms will increase the hotel's capacity to 151.’ (Sharon Bond) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Once again restoration plans did not materialize. The hotel remained unchanged. </li></ul><ul><li>The hotel became privately owned and was renamed the Heritage Hotel. </li></ul>
OKAY…. If you don’t want to know….now’s the time to go!
Reported Haunts: 3 rd Floor <ul><li>According to author Tim Reeser, in The Ghosts of Downtown St. Petersburg , during renovations in 1986, a night watchman was hired by the Tourtelot Management Co. to look after the property. This watchman was a practicing Wiccan and felt there was something strange about the property and invited his high priestess to the hotel. Together they went through the hotel carrying a bell, book, and candle trying to identify the source radiating the unhealthy feelings the watchman was experiencing. </li></ul><ul><li>One area of concern was the cellar storage area. The high priestess claims to have experienced a feeling of pain and terror in this area. When vacant, this area was known to be used by the homeless. Speculation: It may hold the trapped spirit of one of these homeless people. </li></ul>
Reported Haunts: 3 rd Floor <ul><li>Reeser, con’d: </li></ul><ul><li>Third floor hallway (oldest part of the hotel). Two forces; one good and the other evil. After the hotel reopened in 1987 there was one third floor room that was almost never rented out due to the frequency of things being broken in the room. Reports include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Heat or a/c not working </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Faucet in the bathtub not running </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lights continually blink and then go out altogether </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Priestess claimed that the good spirit was breaking items to keep guests from staying there (to protect them from the evil spirit). </li></ul>
Reported Haunting: Sarah <ul><li>One ghost seen here is that of a young girl described as being between the ages of eight and twelve. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>According to a visiting psychic, this girl’s name was Sarah Ratcliff who often visited the hotel with her mother during the winter season for health reasons. The psychic believed Sarah succumbed to polio in the 1940’s (but not at the hotel; Sarah is drawn to the hotel from fond memories) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>She is often seen between the months of December and April which would have been when her family visited Florida while she was alive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>According to employees, the spirit of the young girl has been seen frequently up until recently. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>SPIRITS & SWFPI both have EVPs with a little girl’s voice; employees report hearing a girl crying, though this is the area of Conference Room C. Is this the same girl? </li></ul></ul>
Reported Haunting: Old Woman <ul><ul><li>There are also reports of an old woman in a wheelchair along with her ghostly attendant. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The psychic described this woman as being well-loved and admired for her kindness. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>She is further described as having a wicked sense of humor. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The psychic, as reported through others, believed her name would have been Mary or Marry and that she did die within the hotel. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Initial reports had her as looking from the window and crying (SPIRITS). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>It is known that Mrs. Helt died in her living quarters in the hotel in 1968, and some of the SPIRITS wonder if the 2 nd floor ghost is Mrs. Helt (whose husband is also reputed to haunt the hotel). </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>SPIRITS investigation in August 2007: lavender aroma in area of window that traveled with them to room 211 </li></ul></ul></ul>
Reported Haunting: Old Man & Young Man <ul><li>More recently employees report seeing an elderly man sitting on a couch in the lobby with his back to the front desk. Slowly he simply vanishes. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Helts’ son, Howard, also lived in the hotel and died there on October 7, 1968. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>SPIRITS sensitive, who had never been to the property, identified an old man between the ages of 78 and 82 sitting on the couch watching. Identified his name as “Charles” – Charles Helt? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>There have also been sightings of a younger man in his 30s who has been seen both in the lobby as well as in the kitchen that connects the hotel to the restaurant. </li></ul><ul><li>Hotel staff (night desk clerk) reports that he saw the young man standing as a solid apparition who slowly faded away. </li></ul>
Reported Haunting: Others In the year long investigation that the SPIRITS has initiated, there have also been two other presences detected: A woman by the china cabinet, dressed in 1930s dress --She is an unknown, possible residue entity An “angry man” sensed in the bar are of the attached restaurant (one person had the sense that she was going to be pushed) and on the second floor (he was resentful of the media intrusion). --There have been other reports of a “sense of unease” in some hotel rooms, particularly from women guests. Formerly: There was a bar that was stored in the hotel lobby (removed 2 weeks ago from lobby). It was allegedly bought from the estate of Jefferson Davis. Once housed in Julian’s, a bar tender, alone in the bar at night, reported seeing a man’s refection in the mirror behind him. He turned to look and he was completely alone. The bar tender was so terrified he quit that night and never returned. (Verified on an another investigation where homeowner was a cook for Julian’s and knew the bar tender).
Reported Haunting: Other The restaurant: Julian’s: Haunted Bar (see prior slide) SPIRITS, August 2007: With witnesses and one reporter, lights came on and off of their own accord 3 times. When asked “Are you doing this?” Lights came on and off one more time. Everyone together in one room, light switch plainly in view. Wiring checked that week, all sound. During renovations: Reports of bar stools being thrown down, tools going missing, and a knife moving in the kitchen (among others).
Haunting Reports: Misc. The SPIRITS has a team member who works for the hotel. She has helped to keep a running log of reports at the hotel. A second SPIRITS member works for a ghost tour company and brings clients through the hotel on a regular basis. She also gets reports of activity. To see a running log of these reports, please visit the SPIRITS webpage at www.spiritsofstpetersburg.com es: With specific SPIRITS pages focused on the Heritage Hotel: http://centralflghosts.homestead.com/Aug1.html http://centralflghosts.homestead.com/Heritage2.html http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=21232878 http://www.sptimes.com/2007/09/02/Neighborhoodtimes/Girls_of_ghost_huntin.shtml
Works Cited Research acquired @ St. Petersburg Museum of History, Friday, March 28, 2008 by Denise Tuson & Tracy Niesent/SWFPI Research of St. Petersburg public records, census records, obituaries by Mary Noell of S.P.I.R.I.T.S. of St. Petersburg. SPIRITS of St. Petersburg website: www.spiritsofstpetersburg.com Tales of a Haunted Peninsula, The Martha Washington Hotel (pg. 80) The Ghosts of Downtown St. Petersburg (pg. 81) St. Petersburg Old Hotels, St. Petersburg Historical Society (pg. 21, dated March 30, 1993) St. Petersburg Times/Evening Independent, Money Section- Around Town, Martha Washington Hotel’s identity undergoes change by Mark Albright, dated October 17, 1986. St Petersburg Times (1986) Furniture Restoring as an Art by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds (page D-1) St Petersburg Times , Heritage Holiday Inn Expansion Back on Track (July 25, 1999) by by Sharon Bond