When you live in Florida, the jokes about retirees and shuffleboard are unceasing. When you live in St. Petersburg, home of the world’s oldest and largest shuffleboard club, you have a different perspective.
St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club at Mirror Lake was founded in 1924. In the 1950s it reached its peak membership of 8,000! During the decades following, the number slowly declined until by the earliest days of the 21st century, membership had dipped into the double digits. Just a few weeks ago the Club signed up its 1,000th member, a clear sign that the love of shuffleboard is still growing among a new generation of enthusiasts.
To mark the occasion of the Club’s 1,000 Member Celebration, I curated a small exhibition of photos taken at the Club through the years.
Despite being nearly 100 years old, the Club itself has a relatively small photographic archive—probably because the majority of photos of people socializing and playing at the Club are in family photo albums. The photo on the left is from a private collection. We scanned the photo and have the digital copy (and now this enlarged print) in the Club’s archives while the original remains with its owner.
The photo on the right is a reproduction of an autochrome, one of the earliest color printing methods. Microscopic dyed potato starch grains coated the photographic plate and acted as a filter. Since this photo is enlarged, you can see the grains from the autochrome process. Autochromes required a lot of light because of all the filtering, so shots like this, of people in motion, are rarities.
Below the two enlarged prints is a group member portrait from 1935.
This is one of the earliest photos in the Club’s collection, but the date is uncertain. The building in the upper left is the original Clubhouse before the addition of the solarium. The building on the right is the cue house, also in a state between additions. The cue house had already been extended, but does not yet have its two story addition. Our best guess, with current information, is 1929.
And below, another group member portrait from 1936.
This photo is after the awards ceremony for the 1953 Festival of States Shuffleboard Tournament. The grandstand in the background has an open back which is different than you see it now. It also had the balcony wings to accommodate even more spectators.
Below, another panoramic member group portrait, this one from 1929.
One of the trophy plaques from the photo, Singles Champions, and the Festival of States Leaderboard will be on display during select hours. The Festival of States Leaderboard was stolen several years ago and recovered from a kind antiques dealer who took a loss to return it to the Club.
Finally, a sweet portrait of shuffleboard luminary Mae Hall.
The exhibition is a temporary one, up through the duration of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation annual conference May 18-20, but we hope to install some of these photos in the clubhouse more permanently in the future after some building updates.
St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club
559 Mirror Lake Drive
St. Petersburg, FL 33703
Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 6-9 pm
Friday 7-11 pm