HISTORY OF MOBEL AMERICANA
By Russ Steele, with help from the History of Mobel Americana
1961-1984 by Harrison Bullard, from Dick Linville and other current residents.
A retirement community for persons 55 years of age and older in northeast St. Petersburg, Mobel Americana has a history dating back to 1961 when the first mobile or manufactured homes were erected on the site at 7201 First Street NE. Today some 750 lots are occupied or available, with some one fourth of them located on canals or small lakes that lead to Riviera Bay and then to Tampa Bay in the northeast section of the city. The original homes were placed at an angle on the lots to avoid the 'bowling alley' look of many mobile home parks.
The resident owned community is well located. Seventy two blocks north of downtown St. Petersburg, it is 12 miles from Tampa International Airport or the Clearwater-St. Petersburg airport, 15 or 20 miles to the gulf beaches, 25 miles to Busch Gardens, and 85 miles to Disney World. Most areas of the park are relatively quiet, as it is located four or eight blocks from busy Fourth and Ninth streets. Regular homes, apartments, and the Mangrove Bay Golf Course are on the perimeter of Mobel Americana.
The park has a 24-hour guarded entrance. Located nearby is a clubhouse used daily by 27 activity groups and a heated swimming pool. Expanded in 1986 and again in 1994, the clubhouse has a fitness center, billiards room, and a modern kitchen. Activities include regular luncheons and dinners, bingo, and a Sunday evening vespers church service for all denominations. Public buses stop on First Street just outside the main entrance. Shuffleboard courts are located between the clubhouse and the park business office. The clubhouse is also available for city and other elections.
ACTIVITIES AND SERVICES
A variety of organized and other recreational and social activities are available to residents. Bob Larson is chairperson of MAA, Mobel Americana Association, the parent and coordinating group for the park. Betty Chase is in charge of the kitchen and most catering, as well as trips by bus to various attractions.
The Shuffleboard Club competes regularly with other park groups, and The Par Seekers, a golf group, plays a full winter season at the Mainlands Golf Course in Pinellas Park and other locations. The two groups, as well as the Cue Club, billiards and pool group, end the season in March with a banquet and awards program in the clubhouse.
The Garden Club, the Old Timers Social Club, and many other smaller groups are active, and Vespers, the Sunday evening church service, is led by Don Delzel and features a regular choir and visits by ministers from various denominations. John Hill, long time director for Vespers, is still active in the choir and as a home and hospital visitor for the group. Barbara Magada directs the activities of the Crime Watch group. A Hobby Shop, with shared power tools, is a popular feature. The Forecaster, monthly newsletter is edited by John Bassett. The MAA sponsors a bazaar and a 'White Elephant' sale annually to assist the activity fund for many of the groups.
Mobel Americana was managed by Nick Ferraro from 1993 through 2001. The current manager is Dawn Simmons. Virginia Curtis served as president of the Board of Directors for the governing association (MAROA) from 1994 to 2000. Edward M. Kelly and Robert Larsen recently completed terms as president and Paul Mattina is the current president. Other board members are Jerry Spetz, William Hart, Ed Mosakowski, Patricia Ruedy, Ted Jackson, George Milner, Annette Novotka and Annette Solomon.
The park was opened in 1961 by Knutson Corporation and International Tilsen.
The MAA was formed in 1962 with John King as the first president. International Tilsen withdrew from the corporation in a few years. The park became an adult community in 1967, and in 1969 was purchased by MOAMCO of Minnesota. The same company continued to manage the park after selling it to Multi-Vest Real Estate of Michigan in 1972.
A group of residents tried to buy the park from Multi-Vest in 1976, but were unable to do so. It was purchased shortly after that by the DeAnza Corporation of California, and owned and operated by them until 1994 when Mobel Americana Resident Owned Association (MAROA) bought the property for $18 million. Dick Linville was active in leading the effort to sign up 412 shareholders in 1993 and served as first president of MAROA. A celebration, featuring local and city officials, was held in March 1994 to mark the purchase of the park by residents and is observed annually on the last Saturday in March.
The Renters Association (RAMA) represents residents who lease space for their homes rather than become shareholders. It is currently directed by John Dunn.
Today singlewide homes in the park since the 1960s are gradually being replaced (mostly by 24 foot wide doubles with carports for two vehicles) and Mobel Americana is taking on a more modern look. A new channel to Riviera Bay has made boating more popular, and boat slips are also available to rent near the clubhouse. There is also an RV and van storage area in the park. A plaque with the names of the first (1994) members of the MAROA Board of Directors is on display.