Virginia Burnside assumed office as St. Petersburg's first female City Council person on July 1, 1920, almost two months before the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote was ratified. Her legacy continued in 2020 as St. Petersburg's city council became, for the first time, a super-majority of female Council members - six members out of eight being women! She was also the first woman commissioner or council person elected south of the Mason Dixon line.
Virginia Burnside's home, built in 1914 at 136 5th Avenue North, was designated by City Council as a local landmark in January 2017 and declared a contributing structure to the Downtown National Register Historic District in 2004. The home is significant not only for its association with Virginia Burnside but also as a noteworthy early example of a Prairie style bungalow. Few buildings of its style and scale are found in St. Petersburg, particularly within the Downtown National Register District.
2004: With the designation of the Downtown St. Petersburg National Register Historic District, the Burnside residence was included as a contributing resource and, as such, became a National Register listed property.
2006: A developer purchases the 100 block of 5th Avenue North with the intent to build a high rise hotel, The development plan called for the demolition of four historic homes, including the Burnside home, which was leased to a locally owned home & garden shop. Tenants from each of the four historic buildings were pushed out in preparation for the development, but with the surrounding neighborhoods overwhelmingly speaking out against the hotel plan, City Council denied its development application. The four historic buildings, including the Burnside, were never occupied nor maintained again as the property mortgage holders entered into protracted litigation.
2016-17: Seeing the home deteriorating from lack of repairs and code enforcement, Preserve the 'Burg submits a landmark application for the Burnside residence. In early 2017, over owner objection, City Council designated the Burnside home as a local landmark.
2017-18: The city condemns the three historic homes surrounding the Burnside residence and the three buildings are demolished. The outcome serves as a casebook example of "demolition by neglect" by owners who had no interest in the structures and by the city that failed to enforce minimum code standards for the properties.
2019: The Burnside residence and the vacant surrounding properties where the historic homes were demolished, are purchased by the present owner/developer, the Denunzio Group, LLC.
2019: PTB reaches out to the DeNunzio Group to begin discussions on reusing the Burnside home, whether that be onsite or, if that is not feasible, at a new offsite location.
The Burnside and surrounding properties were purchased for redevelopment. As the properties have downtown zoning, intense mixed use development is allowed. To date, no redevelopment plans have been submitted to the City. While the Burnside home remains vacant and subject to further deterioration, the current owner/developer has assured PTB that they recognize the building's importance and intend to preserve it. PTB will continue to encourage the owner/developer to finalize plans for doing so.
The 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing and protecting the women's right to vote, was celebrated in 2020. This momentous anniversary offered an opportunity for our community to learn of Virginia Burnside's place in our city's and country's history, to appreciate her landmark home, and for PTB to continue to work with the property owner to ensure the Burnside home continues to be a part of what makes St. Petersburg special.
PTB is raising awareness of Virginia Burnside's influential role in St. Petersburg's development and the architectural significance of her home as one of downtown's last remaining Prairie style buildings. We are also engaged in conversation with the property owner and the city to find the best way to preserve and reuse the home while still allowing for property redevelopment.