Local historian Frank Hurley Jr. with then-St. Pete Beach Mayor Kevan Finch at the time capsule burial ceremony in 1997.
Gulf Beaches Historical Museum archives
In 1997, residents of St. Pete Beach filled a 6-foot-long time capsule with letters, photographs, newspapers, and other ephemera to honor the City of St. Pete Beach’s 65th Anniversary. Altogether, residents placed about 40-50 items into the time capsule. The City then buried the capsule in front of the (then) police headquarters on Boca Ciega Drive before re-locating the capsule to the new City Hall building on Corey Ave. in the early 2000s. Other than that one move, the capsule’s rested underground, unopened, for 25 years.
On July 14, 2022, a small team of people unearthed the capsule at St. Pete Beach City Hall and transported it to Gulf Beaches Historical Museum. Afterward, GBHM celebrated St. Pete Beach history with a ceremonial opening of said time capsule and a party. Did you miss it? No worries: You can still see a portion of the unearthed objects on display at GBHM through the holidays (at least – perhaps longer, staff says)
We took a moment to talk to exhibition curator Joey Vars. Here’s what he had to say about the objects taken from the capsule.
“We were looking forward to reading a letter our old volunteer archival curator had written to us, but unfortunately, a lot of the contents of the time capsule itself did get damaged,” Vars said. “They actually got water damaged at some point, either when the capsule was moved when the new city hall was built, or at some other point in the last handful of decades. The cap of the time capsule itself had been cracked, and then water was allowed to leak in. So that actually did damage most of the photographs and records that were in there.”
The good news is that about 30 items were in good enough condition to display at the museum. Of the items recovered, Vars is most enamored with the old newspapers. (Either that, or he’s just telling this journalist what she wants to hear.)
“You know, I’m a big sucker for newspapers,” Vars said. “So for me it’s kind of neat just to see some of the old St. Pete Times in there, from when it was the St. Pete Times. I grew up around the area, so I remember the St. Pete Times.”
He also mentioned some old directories and tourist guides made before the internet and cell phones became ubiquitous, t-shirts, and some graphics – including a sticker from the Don Cesar.
“Really, we were looking most forward to some of the photographs and written letters that people had put in back then,” says Vars. “I think that would have been the most exciting had they actually survived the years.”
Though technology has changed over the years, everything else about St. Pete Beach has stayed surprisingly similar.
“It was kind of neat just to see how much a lot of it has stayed the same,” Vars told The Gabber. “It’s still really community-centric, it’s still very tourist-centric and beach-centric…So from that perspective, it’s really the same messaging you see nowadays.”
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