St. Petersburg is a city in Pinellas County, Florida, United States. It is known as a vacation destination for both American and foreign tourists. As of the 2010 census, the population was 244,769, making St. Petersburg the fourth most populous city in the state of Florida and the largest city in Florida that is not a county seat. Although the city of Clearwater is the county seat of Pinellas County, all county services are available through county offices in St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg is the second largest city in the Tampa Bay Area, which is composed of roughly 2.8 million residents, making it the second largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in the state.
The city is often referred to by locals as St. Pete. Neighboring St. Pete Beach formally shortened its name in 1994 after a vote by its residents.
The city is located on a peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It is connected to mainland Florida to the north; with the city of Tampa to the east by causeways and bridges across Tampa Bay; and to Bradenton in the south by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (Interstate 275), which traverses the mouth of the bay. It is also served by Interstates 175 and 375, which branch off I-275 into the southern and northern areas of downtown respectively. The Gandy Bridge, conceived by George Gandy and opened in 1924, was the first causeway to be built across Tampa Bay, connecting St. Petersburg and Tampa cities without a circuitous trip around the bay through Oldsmar.
With a purported average of some 360 days of sunshine each year, it is nicknamed "The Sunshine City". For that reason, the city has long been a popular retirement destination, especially for those in the United States from colder Northern climates. This reputation earned the city the derisive nickname of "God's waiting room". In recent years, though, the population has shifted in a more youthful direction. American Style magazine ranked St. Petersburg its top mid-size city in 2011, citing its "vibrant" arts scene.
The city was co-founded by John C. Williams, formerly of Detroit, who purchased the land in 1876, and by Peter Demens, who was instrumental in bringing the terminus of a railroad there in 1888. St. Petersburg was incorporated on February 29, 1892, when it had a population of only some 300 people.
It was named after Saint Petersburg, Russia, where Peter Demens had spent half of his youth. A local legend says that John C. Williams and Peter Demens flipped a coin to see who would have the honor of naming the city. Peter Demens won and named the city after his home, while John C. Williams named the first hotel after his birthplace, Detroit (a hotel built by Demens). The Detroit Hotel still exists downtown, but has been turned into a condominium. The oldest running hotels are the historic Pier Hotel, built in 1921, formally Hotel Cordova and The Heritage Hotel, built in 1926.
Philadelphia publisher F. A. Davis turned on St. Petersburg's first electrical service in 1897 and its first trolley service in 1904. The city's first major industry was born in 1899 when Henry W. Hibbs, 1862–1942, a native of Newport, North Carolina, established his wholesale fish business at the end of the railroad pier, which extended out to the shipping channel. Within a year, Hibbs Fish Company was shipping more than of fish each day.
In 1914, airplane service across Tampa Bay from St. Petersburg to Tampa and back was initiated, generally considered the first commercial airline. The company name was the St. Petersburg–Tampa Airboat Line, and the pilot was Tony Jannus, flying a Benoist XIV flying boat. The Tony Jannus Award is presented annually for outstanding achievement in the airline industry. Jannus Landing, a local music/entertainment venue on Central Avenue in downtown, is also named after him.
The city population continued to multiply during the 20th century, booming in the 1940s and 1950s with the advent of air conditioning and through the 1970s as the town became a popular retirement destination for Americans from midwestern cities, reaching 238,647 in the 1980 census. By that time, however, the population had levelled off, and has grown by only 10,000 since then; this is primarily a result of the city being largely "built out".