Urban Myth: Classy Haunted Downtown Potty

With certainty you have at some point stumbled upon, or in fact thanked someone above that you found the classiest public restroom in all of Florida right smack-dab in the middle of lovely downtown St Pete. If you are a visitor unfamiliar with the Comfort Station, it is found a the foot of the St. Pete Pier and is impossible to miss.

Designed by architect Henry Taylor, who conspicuously also designed the Vinoy, The Jungle Hotel (now Admiral Farragut Academy) and other noteworthy buildings, this little display of architectural devotion was a precursor to a building offering similar relief to the masses, but perhaps on a more spiritual level – St. Mary’s Church on 4th Street South.

Taylor had been commissioned to design the 8-sided St. Mary’s Church in a Byzantine style, but the 8-sided building design was one of difficulty to execute. So in a brilliant proof of concept design, “Little St. Mary’s” opened in mid 1927, the church being completed in 1929. A prominent national magazine at the time known as The American City featured the new comfort station, praising it and praising the city for building a public restroom of such beauty.

Sinful Revenge? No Way.

The little pit stop not without some controversy. An urban legend (which is 100% false, but its a good story) says that the church was actually built first but Henry Taylor wasn’t paid for his work. The tale continues to say that he decided to show the parish how he felt and subsequently designed the Comfort Station in the same Byzantine style of the church as revenge. But this is just a fun story, no matter what grandpappy said. Henry Taylor was an upstanding citizen and devout man himself who also debunked any truth to the story in a Tampa Bay Times interview some years later. Along with this, building records show clearly that Comfort Station Number One came first!

But Wait… It Is Haunted, Right?

There are some that also say the building is haunted. These unsubstantiated rumors are great for downtown ghost tour stories, but it’s somewhat unlikely that a “Partying Potty-er from the Past” decided to make Comfort Station #1 their eternal resting spot. That said, people over time have reported meeting the ghost of Agnes, who appears in the women’s side next to the sink and chats with patrons from time to time, dressed in clothing from the 1930s. So be careful ladies when you stop in to check and see that the ghostly reflection in the mirror is only your own!

I really like Little St Mary’s, mainly because there is virtually no change in appearance (or function!) since it was built in 1927. Simple and of virtually all masonry construction, this little structure so prominently positioned may be one of the best preserved, still open to the public, and thank-heaven-sent buildings in the city!

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