For Immediate Release
Thursday, February 8, 2024
Contact: Mark Ard
PRESS RELEASE: Secretary Byrd Designates Deuces Live Main Street as Florida Main Street Program of the Month
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
Today, Secretary of State Cord Byrd announced that Deuces Live Main Street, located in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, has been designated the February 2024 Florida Main Street Program of the Month.
“The Deuces neighborhood today is a testament to the resiliency of its founding residents,” said Secretary Byrd. “The district’s long-standing traditions in food and entertainment, among others, form a solid historical foundation for the future of the community.”
St. Petersburg’s 22nd Street, dubbed “The Deuces” after its double 2s, became the heart of a vibrant and prosperous Black community on St. Petersburg’s south side in the 1960s. Despite challenges and encroachment caused by the construction of Interstate 275 in the 1970s and urban renewal, Deuces Live remains committed to reestablishing “a world class community with old-world charm and ambiance where traditions and new ideas unite.”
Deuces Live can trace its heritage back to 1868, when Black people first settled in the St. Petersburg area. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the community was starting to gain national recognition as a Black American main street, mentioned in the same breath as the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta or Memphis’ Beale Street. From the 1930s to the 1960s, Deuces Live hosted entertainers such as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, and James Brown. During its peak in the early 1960s, the community was home to 111 businesses, with estimates indicating that up to 75 percent of those businesses were Black-owned.
One cannot appreciate the legacy of The Deuces without acknowledging community members that are significant in its founding. Among them was Elder Jordan , Sr. (c. 1848 -1936), who was devoted to the economic development of the neighborhood. Born into slavery, Jordan moved to the area later known as Deuces Live in 1906 and became a successful businessman. He built the Jordan Dance Hall (later renamed Manhattan Casino), fought for the establishment of a school for Black children (Jordan Park Elementary), and donated land for the Jordan Park housing development. At the time it was being built between 1939 and 1941, the Jordan Park housing complex was the state’s largest public housing project, totaling 446 units. He was also instrumental in the establishment of a bus line and a beach for Black Americans during .
Photograph courtesy of DeucesLive.org
In recent history, his legacy was carried on by lifelong residents Elihu and Carolyn Brayboy, former owners of Chief’s Creole Café. Recognizing a need in the community for a place for good food and good music, the Brayboys opened Chief’s inside of the former local grocery store, which has since been transformed into a speakeasy called The Catalyst. The couple have refocused their efforts from providing the community with delicious food to providing affordable housing for local essential workers. Their entrepreneurial spirit soon spread to other life-long residents, resulting in the formation of additional restaurants such as Lorene’s Fish House and Callaloo inside of the Manhattan Casino.
Deuces Live was a 2020 recipient of an “Our Town” grant through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Phase 1 of the grant involved developing a strategic creative strategy to celebrate the neighborhood’s rich culture and history and attract visitors to the area with new gateway signage. The Deuces Live, Inc., the non-profit organization reviving the historic neighborhood, has worked tirelessly in its revitalization efforts of the commercial corridor to create a vibrant community that attracts businesses and consumers while preserving its history and heritage. was accepted into the Florida Main Street program in 2001, the program has received $44,966,099 in private and public investment. There have been 42 new net businesses opened within the district, adding 203 new net part-time and full-time jobs. The program’s goal is to preserve and protect the quality of life for all residents and businesses owners through awareness, community involvement, and affordable recreational programs. One does not have to look further than their event calendar to witness that goal being realized. There are consistent opportunities for families to participate in the First Friday events, karaoke and spoken-word poetry nights, and free yoga sessions in multiple community centers.
Executive Director Latorra Bowles is ecstatic to have the success of the district highlighted. “Thank you for acknowledging Deuces Live for Program of the Month,” said Director Bowles. “I am grateful for the opportunity to showcase our businesses along the corridor. This occasion allows us to strengthen our program and grow the organization. Thank you for recognizing how hard we work for the community. Our hard work is the bridge between dreams and reality. I hope we continue to prove ourselves to be an asset to the Florida Main Street program. I look forward to working on more projects in the future.”
About Florida Main Street
Florida Main Street is a program administered by the Division of Historical Resources under the Florida Department of State, which currently oversees 57 communities throughout the state. By implementing the National Main Street Center’s Four-Point Approach, Florida Main Street encourages economic development within the context of historic preservation through the revitalization of Florida’s downtowns – the community’s heart and soul.