Then and Now — 1926 & 2021 — 145 4th Ave NE
Known as the “Blocker Mansion” this residence is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, homes in St. Pete. Construction began in 1901 by Luther Dean of Memphis, as a wedding gift for his daughter, Hattie, and her husband, Albert Blocker. Albert, or Bert as he was called, had telephone #1 in St. Pete at this location. Bert ran a successful livery business here in town and became mayor of St. Pete in 1910.
In 1926 Bert sold the house to the local Shriners who made it their Shrine Club headquarters. The Shriners constructed the addition onto the house in the late 1920’s which would lend it better to their needs. Later the venue became known as the International Club where many different social and fraternal groups in the city held their meetings.
In the 1970’s the residence was sold and became Bayview Place, a senior’s home, which ultimately closed due to failing fire code inspection. In 1987 the facility served as the Bayview School for the Arts and then by 1990 had opened as Mansion by the Sea, a banquet and reception facility.
Albert Truston ‘Bert’ Blocker was born in Cumberland County North Carolina on September 27, 1872. The family moved to Florida a short time after his birth. Bert was educated in the grade schools of Dade City and attended Florida State College, then located at Dade City. After the big freeze of 1895, Bert came to St. Pete looking for a business location. For the first two years he conducted a dairy business and later started a livery and transfer business. In 1913 Bert sold his livery business and from 1913 – 1917 he engaged in the real estate business. In 1914 he was elected county treasurer and in 1916 he was named county assessor. He served as Deputy Sheriff from 1900 – 1912.
Bert took an active part in the city government for many years. He was elected councilman in 1904 and served two years. In 1910 he was elected mayor.
On August 5, 1901, Bert married Hattie Mae Dean, of St. Petersburg. Miss Dean was a native of Memphis Tennessee and was living in Florida at the time of their marriage. As mentioned, the house at 145 4th Ave NE was built for Bert and Hattie as a wedding gift.
Bert was very civically active and was a charter member of the St. Pete Elks Lodge No. 1224, in which he served as Exalted Ruler. He was also a member of the Yacht Club and many other organizations.
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