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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Susan Bednar

Mid Century Googie Style Architecture in St. Petersburg & Treasure Island

About the “Googie” Style

Within the years of of the mid 1940s to the end of the 1950s, sub-genres of the Mid Century Style emerged, including the Googie (Goo-Gee) Style. Googie architecture is a sub-genre within the Mid-century style that is majorly inspired by the Space Age (think of ‘The Jetsons’). Influenced by TV, pop culture, and “the world of the future," this design style merged American Car Culture of the 1950s with Retro Futurism. It’s features are characterized by bright colors and bold aerodynamic shapes.

The name of the design movement was coined by Douglas Haskell. While driving through West Hollywood, this architecture critic was drawn to a bold red roof atop a coffee shop named “Googies”. This era of curvilinear shapes and futuristic elements was relatively short lived, with many original buildings being torn down. The historical landmarks of Googie Architecture can be found along ‘roadside attraction’ style places, in towns with leftover remnants of the Old Hollywood era. While Googie buildings that exist today can mostly be found in Southern California, Florida has a few of it’s own Googie gems.

Explore Googie Style Landmarks in the Treasure Island | St. Pete Area

“…Treasure Island, where developers and city officials see rundown properties taking up valuable beachside space, googie fans see a playland of authentic mid century architecture.” - Tampa Bay Times

Treasure Island & St. Petersburg are home to a plethora of Googie-style buildings that you can visit today. We've picked some prominent historical buildings to list below, in addition to a curated map to plan your own site-seeing driving tour:

The Thunderbird

Driving along West Gulf Boulevard there are many Space-Age gems: old hotel signs, architectural features, and bold color palettes. Most notably upon first entering the strip is the Thunderbird. This neon-clad beach resort was built in 1957, making an impact on the island with it’s bold, angular sign and modern architectural features.

The Skyline Building

Built in 1961 by Wenceslaus Sarmiento, the Skyline Building was an instant landmark in St. Petersburg. Heavily influenced by the workings of Frank Lloyd Wright, the main features of this curvilinear building is it's upswept rises, solidifying it’s mark in the Googie style. With such striking features it was sure to be the talk of the town… and it was, under a critical eye of the community. Despite being a controversy since it’s construction, this building stands today as a banking building & historical landmark.

Wilson's Sports Lounge

Fans of the 'Magic Mike' movies might recognize this Googie building as 'Club Xquisite', but in actuality this is the location of what used to be Wilson's Sports Lounge. After 50 years of operating in St. Petersburg, this bar has been officially closed for business. You can still drive by and see it... maybe bringing along some Magic Mike merch to pose for photos with.

Pinellas County Utilities Building

This building is an architectural gem on it's own! Azie had noticed it on a drive by in person and located the name by 'walking' through the street view on google maps. Actual information was pretty hard to come by as we no longer believe it to even be inhabited by Pinellas County Utilities. We were able to locate documented images through Road Arch - a fabulous resource if you're looking to explore Midcentury finds all throughout the US.

Sunset Inn & Cottages

A historic landmark near the end of the Treasure Island strip is our very own Sunset Inn & Cottages. Built in the 1940s, this Midcentury Motel features Googie style motifs throughout the property with atomic icons and designs, bold color pallets, and an overall retro aesthetic.

While the main building on property has more classic Midcentury Modern architectural features, the duplex building of Cabana 1 & 2 stands as its own landmark. The Cabanas’ boomerang build & curved, semi-circle awnings are traits of the Googie style. This location is the most dedicated to it's mid-century roots, having been recently redesigned & renovated in a 1950s/Space Age style by new ownership {verdigreen} hotels.

Midcentury - Around Town

Interested in some more MidMod site-seeing? Plan your own site-seeing tour and follow this driving route on google maps! The Tampa Bay Foundation for Architecture & Design curated a list that designates stops at both historic local residences as well as public buildings. Follow your own Mid Mod adventure and download a copy of the digital map here.

We hope you've enjoyed this brief dive into history. Thanks for reading, we hope to see you soon!

The Sunset Team

Partying it up in Key West? Visit our sister property Marrero's Guest Mansion with {verdigreen} hotels.

Stay in touch! Follow us on Instagram and Facebook, and tell us about your stay over at Trip Advisor. Feel the ocean breeze yourself - come visit us at Sunset Inn at Treasure Island, Florida.


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