The Greenhouse was originally built in 1901 as the Domestic Science and Manual Training School. It is the oldest surviving school building in St. Petersburg, as well as the first vocational training school for children in Florida. The Domestic Science and Manual Training School was a state-of-the-art facility, offering classes in military science, physical education, industrial arts and domestic science.
The Domestic Science and Manual Training School building was designed and constructed by contractor Charles F. May. The building was designed in the Masonry Vernacular style influenced by Italianate elements. May served as the General Agent for the Utica Brick Company, which supplied the red brick used in the building’s construction. In 1998, the Domestic Science and Manual Training School was designated as a local landmark, and was later listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
The building was sponsored by Edwin H. Tomlinson, a local benefactor known as the “Father of St. Petersburg Public Schools.” Tomlinson came to St. Petersburg in 1981 and is known for his organization of numerous community and youth activities, including the first local celebration of Washington’s birthday, the military and cadet corps, the fife and drum corps, physical culture classes, and a rowing team. In addition to financing the construction of the Domestic Science and Manual Training School (now The Greenhouse), Tomlinson financed the construction of several prominent buildings throughout Downtown St. Pete.
In addition to its role as a vocational school, the Domestic Science and Manual Training School building served as a community and educational center for St. Petersburg residents through 1925. At that time, the school was relocated to Mirror Lake, and the building was converted into office space.
From 1925 through 1930, the offices at the former Domestic Science and Manual Training School were utilized by the local Chamber of Commerce. After 1930, the Veterans of Foreign Wars occupied the space until 1947. Then, from 1947 until 1956, the building became the location of the State Welfare Board, followed by the Child Guidance Clinic from 1956-1960, Welfare Offices (1960-1975), the Office on Aging and Public Works (1975-1979), and the Neighborly Center (1979-1981).
In 1981, the City of St. Petersburg gained ownership of the Domestic Science and Manual Training School building, which was known from then on as the “City Hall Annex.”
In 2013, the City joined in a partnership with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce to expand outreach and resources available to entrepreneurs and small business owners. The Business Assistance Center was rebranded as “The Greenhouse” by former Mayor Bill Foster, who wanted to showcase it as “a place to grow.”