Flori de Leon is beautiful, historical building in the Mediterranean style.
There is so much to love here at St Pete’s Flori De Leon. The building itself is a gem, a vintage 1927 tower that once boasted residents such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Today this Mediterranean Revival wonder is home to an active 55+ community. Views from the terrace include both Tampa Bay and the St. Pete skyline.
The Vanderbilts may have chosen to live at the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but, during spring training, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig chose to live right here at the Flori de Leon Apartments in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida.
The Flori, a 55 plus building, sprung up from an empty plot of land to grace the skyline of downtown St. Pete back in 1926. At that time, standing seven stories, she was built only a few months after the Vinoy Hotel, which is located just a couple of blocks away. She holds the distinction of being the first co-operative on the West Coast of Florida and, even after all these years, she still remains a co-operative today.
The Flori has seen a lot in her day. She saw the Depression hit the St. Pete area pretty hard. She witnessed the military take over the Vinoy during WWII and she watched it close down when it couldn’t overcome its many problems. She also watched it get resurrected in 1990 into the posh resort it is today. If she could talk, she would probably tell you that she saw Calvin Coolidge drive by on his way to the Vinoy, the very first President of the United States ever to stay there. Also, on any number of occasions, she graciously observed Babe Ruth leave the comfort of her arms to trot on over to the Vinoy for a few cocktails.
An authentic “run” on a bank in St. Petersburg in 1931 took place right under her watchful eye. It was the Central National Bank and there was panic in the streets. By 1933, the Flori had endured any number of floods and hurricanes, all since the wild land boom of 1924 and 1925. During that time, and during the next few years, thousands of bankruptcies and receiverships happened in Florida. Through it all, the Flori stood tall and managed to survive, while many other establishments fell victim to ill-fated timing.
Thanks to one post-war construction boom after another, she may no longer be one of the biggest buildings around, but she is still considered one of the crown jewels in all of St. Petersburg. On the Historic Register, the Flori de Leon is Mediterranean Revival in style and boasts seventy-six apartments, to include two inside penthouses and two external ones. In addition to the penthouses on the top floor, there are two large lounge areas, each one with an adjoining outside roof deck. The lounges and the roof decks, with spectacular views of both Tampa Bay and the city of St. Petersburg, are considered common areas and are available to all Flori residents, day or night.
Constructed before the advent of air-conditioning, the Flori, with its newly refurbished exterior, was built in the shape of the letter “H” for ventilation purposes. The ground floor of the Flori is just as impressive as the top floor. There are two lovely courtyards, a larger one in front and a smaller one in back, both surrounded by new and lush landscaping. A water fountain and concrete curved benches by the main entry invite one and all to come appreciate this wonderful old building and its storied history.
The amenities at the Flori De Leon include recreation rooms, a fitness center and an in-house laundry facility. Plus, the downtown waterfront location is a short walk from shopping at Baywalk and some of the best dining in town. Units range from efficiencies to 2/2 penthouses.
In addition to the main elevator, which was replaced a number of years ago; the Flori still maintains its two small but original side elevators with their fancy gilded gates. One is on the East side and the other is on the West side. When riding these side elevators, one can imagine what it must have been like to live here in the 20’s and 30’s.
As a point of interest, Lou Gehrig was as quiet as his friend, the Babe, was boisterous. Mr. Gehrig paid to have the East elevator installed because he wanted it extended to reach his outside penthouse on the 7th floor. The other small elevator only goes to the 6th floor. Because of Mr. Gehrig’s desire for privacy, all subsequent owners of his penthouse, Apartment 701, were and still are responsible for paying the property taxes on that elevator.
The land the Flori de Leon sits on today was purchased from a Mr. Warren Webster, who just happened to serve as the Flori’s first President. Back in 1926, the Board of Directors was made up of 15 members. Today the board is more streamlined, only having 7 members.
Anyone buying an apartment at the Flori can access a treasure trove of historical documents, which are carefully maintained in our “Heritage Room,” under the watchful eye of our Heritage Committee. Upon her grand opening, the Flori was so well known in the area that several souvenir postcards were produced with photos and information about this unique community. Occasionally, these postcards can be found for sale on eBay.
There is nothing quite like watching the sun come up or the sun set from the Flori roof decks. Everyone invites their neighbors to join them because, well, the more the merrier. In furtherance of that camaraderie, leaving an apartment door somewhat ajar has always been a sign that the resident in that apartment is accepting visitors; this tradition goes way back to the early days.
The Flori, affectionately referred to as, “The Old Girl,” by many of her admirers, has a way of grabbing hold of your heart with her many charms. We have a number of second-generation residents, who, rather than selling the apartments they inherited, chose to live in them instead. They have helped to carry on the traditions established over the years, such as the Green Tea, the Ice Cream Social, the Omelet Breakfast, the Pizza Party and, the most important one of all, our yearly Anniversary Party, given by the Board of Directors.
In addition to good company and fabulous scenery, anyone who lives at the Flori gets to enjoy worry-free days and nights. Our coat of arms, which can be found in several places throughout the building, is a pair of Rampant Lions, one of the 9 Heraldic Lions. The lion is considered the fiercest of all hunters and was adopted by many early civilizations to serve as their guardian. The Rampant Lion is considered the most powerful of all lions. Some of us at the Flori feel safer knowing that we are being protected by the best in the business, and have been since 1926.