The final day of an icon
As the hour for opening drew near, people began lining up.
By Mitch Traphagen
On Friday at the St. Petersburg Pier, the early morning hours were quiet, with a few joggers, some people fishing, including one with a small, dead shark, and the cleaning crew carefully washing the windows as though it were simply another day at work. But it wasn’t just another day. It was the last day.
Less than 15 hours later, the Pier would close forever. But in the early hours, the pelicans far outnumbered humans. It was peaceful, quiet and beautiful.
The temperature on the bay side felt several degrees cooler than on the land, just a few hundred yards away.
As the hour for opening drew near, people began lining up. Not big mobs, just a healthy number of people, most carrying cameras. The Pier Bait House had closed on the Sunday before and the sign for pelican food that, apparently, pelicans knew all too well, was gone. The pelicans generally stuck to the pilings. At the ticket office for the Pier Dolphin Cruises, a man removed a sign announcing times and rates, while signs stating “Stop the Lens” adorned the windows that would be forever closed.
Soon, people were riding the glass elevator to the fifth deck of the inverted pyramid, both the elevator and the deck offered some of the best free views in Florida. The 25 cent viewing binoculars were already gone. People lingered for what would be a last look.
More people arrived and Pier workers continued to clean windows and wipe down tables, although there were few customers in the food court. Some of the counters had already closed. At Morrow’s a few people gathered, appearing as though it would open but there were only a few pretzels in the display case topped by a handwritten sign that said, “Cash Only.” Before long, no one was at Morrows. It simply seemed to fade away.
The Pier Logo Store began doing a brisk business offering souvenir Pier items, including t-shirts with an aerial photograph. At other shops, people flitted in and out, cameras in hand, searching for last moments to capture forever.
The news media was out in force with photographers and reporters capturing words and moments. Television cameras from local news stations roamed in search of people and their opinions about everything from the closing of the Pier to “The Lens,” as the expected new pier has been called.
Despite the best efforts of the Pier workers, on the last day the iconic 40-year-old inverted pyramid somehow seemed tired, as though the strife and fighting over the issue had taken a toll.
At 11 p.m., the last drinks had been served in the restaurants, the toasts had been made, and the glass elevator made its last scenic trip to the ground level carrying visitors. And then the Pier closed for the last time.
After two weeks, the approach to the Pier is expected to temporarily reopen, although the inverted pyramid will remain off-limits to everyone but the pelicans. Demolition of the entire pier is expected to take place in September.