About This Project
Gas plant area - 1926 Credit Newspaper.com
Every American city has a beginning, a present, and a future. Among its histories are events that inadvertently design its destiny. Depending on who is telling the story, the reality may seem different because perspective often crafts our realities. I have lived in St. Petersburg, Florida my entire life. When I decided to do my Masters of Liberal Arts project on displaced churches in the Gas Plant District, I had an image of how the story would unfold. As I began to do research and talk to people that are also from St. Petersburg, stories began to evolve and the project I thought I would have, shifted.
The Gas Plant District as it was recently rebranded was once the gas plant area, a section of town known for its large gas towers. Stories about its origins and history have helped shape the identity of the black community as a whole. However, it wasn’t just the Gas Plant area, which was previously known as The Coopers Quarters. It was also communities like Pepper Town, Methodist Town, and The Deuces. Listening to history and putting together the pieces was like a cultural work of art. Each story is intricately woven into another. Once completed, there are both perfect and flawed patterns, when bound together, form a unique, rich, unfinished tapestry.
The focus of the project was to tie together the relationship between the black community, black churches, and the legacy of land grabs that have placed black residents into a perpetual fight to survive and to exist. The original questions I wanted to answer at the close of my research were:
The South with all of its potentialities for progress and achievement can never reach the pinnacle of its possibilities so long as there is a conscious and determined effort made by it to keep the Negro in the gutter. For if he is kept there the white man of the south will be forced to stay down with him to hold him there, a procedure which logically becomes a hindrance to both white and black.
Rev. R. A. Cromwell, Pastor
First Baptist Institutional Church
September 28, 1933