Photo by Emily Dietrich, 2011

Riverside Motel & St.Mary’s Liquors

Photo by Emily Dietrich, 2011

Somewhere near the Florida/Georgia border is a place that has sat, abandoned and remarkably untouched, for decades. Little information is readily available about the Riverside Motel and St Mary’s Liquors, which also housed a Souvenir Shop. This place has managed to stay mostly safe from the hands of vandals, with only a few signs of any serious or obviously intentional damage; everything else was the product of natural decay. There were several things inside, such as the furniture, decor, and other miscellaneous items that hinted at it being vacated sometime in the 80′s, however, all of the locals could only give the time frame as “a long time – decades.”

Photo by Emily Dietrich, 2011

The two buildings that make up the motel are in an “L” shape, with the office sitting in the middle of the land. The building that is closest to the road shows the most damage, with most of the flooring in at least the first half of the rooms being broken up and sunken into the ground, leaving all of the furniture also half sunken into the Earth below. In both buildings, the beds, chairs, tables, vanities, and even the Bibles are still inside. One room had evidence of a fire, but strangely only the bed itself seems to have gone up and was then put out before the fire could spread any farther. In the middle of the bed, a Bible sits on a pillow, unburned.

Heavy with cobwebs, dust, and insect nests, one of the rooms in the second building even had a full wardrobe still hanging in the closet, with clothing items also strewn about the dresser and the bed. Other evidence of past lives littered other rooms, such as a coffee cup on the footboard of one bed and books, mostly with religious themes, in others. Magazines and newspapers were either completely faded or too water damaged and moldy to make out a date on them.

Photo by Emily Dietrich, 2011

Next door to the Riverside Motel is the old St Mary’s Liquors, which is really two businesses in one. Divided in the middle, one side was the bar and liquor store where they would also play movies, and the other side was a souvenir shop. The building is actually much larger on the inside than it appears to be from the outside, so one can only imagine that they had a lot of stuff to see in there. Now, all that is left is the large, old sign that used to hang on the wall in the liquor store and an ancient typewriter in the souvenir shop side. A few random items, such as a very old tape recorder and a broom propped up against the counter still sit there, waiting for someone who will never come back.

Photo by Emily Dietrich, 2011

Being so close to the border, this place must have been extremely popular on the weekends. The sale of alcohol is largely prohibited in Georgia on Sundays, barring special events or the few places where local government has overruled. People probably crossed the state line into Florida and hung out here all through the weekends so they could drink and socialize, having the convenience of the motel next door to crash at if they were too wasted to drive home.

Now, the particular stretch of highway that Riverside and St Mary’s sits on is very quiet, only used regularly by the locals. Once I-95 was built, many travelers stopped using the smaller highways and opted for the larger, faster, and more convenient interstates, which is what likely lead to the demise of this hidden gem. Now it just sits, as it has for decades, quietly. Perhaps the same location that once pushed it to become abandoned has also saved it from the demolition equipment by keeping it safely off of the beaten path.

Photo by Emily Dietrich, 2011

Photographer: Emily Dietrich
Year Taken: 2011

Photo by Nomeus, 2007 -

S.H. Kress and Co. Building

Photo(Bullet, 2011): The corner of Florida Ave & Polk St.; the Kress building can be seen between the former Woolworth and former J.J. Newberry.

S. H. Kress & Co. was a chain of “five and dime” department stores in various parts of the United States, which began operations in 1896. Five and dime stores were the original dollar stores, selling goods for a nickel or a dime. Samuel H. Kress opened the first Tampa store on Franklin Street in 1900. In 1929, just before the Great Depression, he demolished the structure and built the amazing structure that stands today between a former Woolworth and a former J.J. Newsberry.

Kress envisioned his stores as works of public art that would contribute to the cityscape. Kress’ team of architects designed each store to stand out but to fit in with the surrounding architecture. Each store had unique fine architecture and the building in Tampa was no different, with its bronze marquees, coats of arms and Renaissance Revival terra-cotta facades, including glazed multi-colored trim. A number of former Kress stores are recognized as architectural landmarks and many are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including this building as well as three more in the state of Florida.

Photo(Nomeus, 2007 – The bottom floor has been stripped and is occasionally used for special events.

In 1964 Genesco, Inc. bought Kress and abandoned its center-city stores and moved to shopping malls. The liquidation of Kress began in 1980, with the store in Tampa closing in 1981.

Though, the Kress building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 7, 1983, the building has slowly deteriorated. Plans to renovate the building along with the J.J. Newberry next door have been talked about since it’s closing. The most disastrous, to this author’s opinion, was that of Richard Wellhouse Stein, whose idea was to redo the exterior of the J.J. Newberry to complement the Kress building and to add nine-stories and an atrium to the top of them.

In 2006, at the recommendation of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, the city council landmarked the S.H. Kress building and the facades of the adjacent Woolworth and J.J. Newberry buildings. The Kress building is currently undergoing renovation.

Photo(Nomeus, 2007 – Stairs leading down into the flooded basement

Photographer: Nomeus
Year Taken: 2007

Photographer: Bullet
Year Taken: 2011

Archive Photos

Tampa Bay Magazine – In 1987, plans were talked to combine the former J.J.Newberry and Kress

Ocala Star-Banner – Kress was a target for civil rights protests during the 1960 lunch counter sit-ins

Photo by AKBC, 2009

Old Union Depot Hotel

Photo by Bill Rogers, 2008
Photo(Bill Rogers, 2008): The hotel was for sale for many years, with hopes of a possible restoration of the old building

The Union Hotel and Cafe, better known as the Old Union Depot Hotel, was built in 1912 directly across the street from the Tampa Union Station. The building was what remained of twelve continuous, two-story, brick storefronts around the intersection of Nebraska Avenue and East Zack Street. The design of the building is also unique as it had six sides, an odd but necessary design for the irregular lot it was built on.

The hotel was built to serve as a satellite lodging and commercial venue for the nearby Union Station, but opening in the era of racial segregation, the hotel functioned for “whites only”. Travelers who were black were directed to the Jackson Rooming House, one of the only places in Tampa where black travelers could find lodging.

The Old Union Depot Hotel closed in 1921.

On December 11, 2000, the building was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, with hopes that it’s historical status would help push for preservation and restoration. The aging structure attracted no buyers, though it was used in The Punisher(2004).

After years of neglect, the roof collapsed and was deemed hazardous, forcing the city of Tampa to order it’s demolition which occurred on May 23, 2010.

Punisher 2004
Photo: The building was used for exterior shots for the movie, The Punisher(2004).

Photographer: AKBC
Year Taken: 2009