75 things you may not have known about Farragut in St. Petersburg

In honor of celebrating 75 years since Admiral Farragut Academy’s campus in St. Petersburg opened, here are 75 interesting things to know about Farragut and the St. Pete area.

Location, Location, Location

#SunShinesHere

St. Pete Beach

  • With an average of 361 days of sunshine each year and a Guinness World Record for logging the most consecutive days of sunshine (768 days between 1967 and 1969), St. Petersburg (also known as St. Pete) is nicknamed “The Sunshine City.” It also gets its share of rainy days as well, especially during the summer, with an average of 51” of rain annually.
  • St. Petersburg was co-founded by John C. Williams (from Detroit) and by Peter Demens (from Russia). Williams purchased the land in 1875; Demens was instrumental in bringing the terminus of the Orange Belt Railway in 1888.
  • St. Petersburg’s Sister Cities are Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan (since 1961) and Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico (since 2016), and its Twin Cities are Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Figueres, Catalonia, Spain (since 2011).

Aerial view of downtown St. Petersburg, FL

  • A peninsular city with a subtropical climate, St. Petersburg is surrounded by 244 miles of shoreline along Tampa Bay, Boca Ciega Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and intracoastal waterways.
  • In 1940, just five years before Farragut opened its campus in St. Petersburg, the city’s population was 60,812. Today, that has swelled to nearly 265,000. The entire Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area is at about 3.1 million.
  • Out of 520 students at Farragut during the 2019-20 academic year, 379 are from the Tampa Bay Area — with 208 of those from St. Petersburg.

First Facts

  • The world’s first scheduled airline flight took off from St. Petersburg on January 1, 1914, and flew the mayor to Tampa.
  • In 2008, St. Petersburg was recognized by the Florida Green Building Coalition as the first “Green City” in Florida.
  • The campus pool at Admiral Farragut Academy was the first in-ground pool in Pinellas County. Today it is a training facility for our scuba students and a fun activity for our boarders and summer campers.
  • The International Shuffleboard Association was founded in St. Petersburg in 1979 and is still a fun activity enjoyed by locals.

What’s Nearby

Walt Disney World

  • Farragut is a 45-90 minute drive to many popular vacation destinations.
    • 45-minute drive: Busch Gardens, Adventure Island, the Tampa Zoo, and the Florida Aquarium.
    • 90-minute drive: Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld.
  • Boarding students and their families have their choice of two nearby airports:
    • Tampa International Airport (TPA) recommended
    • St. Petersburg Clearwater Airport (PIE)
  • St. Petersburg’s main shopping center is Tyrone Square Mall, which opened in 1972 and is a five-minute drive from campus. It has always been a popular hangout for Farragut’s boarding students on weekends.

Anderson/Narváez Mound at Jungle Prada Park

  • Farragut is just up the road from the 900-year-old Anderson/Narváez Mound at Jungle Prada Park, one of the most important historic landmarks in Tampa Bay. The Tocobaga Indians lived in the area from the 900s to 1500s, when Spanish conquistadors — part of the ill-fated Narvaez expedition — landed.

Beaches & Boating

Caladesi Island

  • Just 2.5 miles from Farragut are the beaches of Treasure Island, where students may spend their weekend free time.
  • Caladesi Island, just a 45-minute drive from Farragut, was voted one of the top 10 beaches in the U.S. in 2019. Other local beaches, St. Pete Beach and Clearwater Beach, have also held the honor.
  • A boater’s paradise, the St. Petersburg Marina is the largest city marina in the Southeast, with 610 boat slips. There are also nine boat ramp locations, open year-round.

Parks & Recreation

Flora Wylie Park

  • Farragut’s campus is less than a mile from the Pinellas Trail, a 37-mile hiking/biking trail, that spans all of Pinellas County and is the longest urban linear trail in the Eastern U.S.
  • St. Petersburg has the third-largest dedicated public waterfront park system in North America, stretching 7 miles (11 km). It’s used year-round for public events, festivals, and other activities.
  • There are 2,300 acres of public land dedicated to parks (137 of all sizes) and recreation.
  • Fort De Soto Park, which includes a military fort built during the Spanish-American War, is one of the nation’s top-ranked beaches.

Art & Culture

Murals in downtown St. Petersburg

  • Since the new millennium, St. Petersburg has emerged as a top destination for the arts – there are 15 museums and galleries in the downtown area, some world-famous, like the Dali Museum and the Dale Chihuly world-renowned glass collection, and others such as the brand new James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art and the soon-to-be-open Museum of American Arts & Crafts Movement.
  • There are more than 80 murals painted by local artists throughout downtown St. Petersburg and you can take a walking or biking tour to see them.

Events & Sports

Al Lang Stadium, home of the Rowdies. Photo by Brian Blanco/Tampa Bay Rowdies

  • More than 900 events — ranging from yacht races and triathlons to festivals and exhibits (not to mention pro sports) — bring over 10 million people each year to St. Petersburg.
  • St. Petersburg is home to the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team and the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team and Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team call nearby Tampa home, and several MLB teams have Spring Training in the area.
  • The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg started in April 2005. The circuit itself is made of downtown streets passing the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ stadium, the marina, and a runway in Albert Whitted Airport. Streets are temporarily blocked off for the annual Indy Racing League’s IndyCar Series race.
  • The Bay Area Pelicans Rugby Football Club, based in St. Petersburg since 1977, plays in USA Rugby’s Division II. Throughout its history, the Pelicans have been named Florida Cup Champions and competed in national championship tournaments.

Admiral Farragut Academy

School History

  • Admiral Farragut Academy started in Pine Beach, NJ, and a second campus was purchased in 1945 in St. Petersburg, FL (and is the only campus open today).
  • Farragut was originally an all-boy military boarding school and became a co-ed institution in 1990. Today the student body is an average of 40% female and 60% male, 75% day and 25% boarding, and the Upper School students in 8th-12th grade still participate in the NJROTC program.
  • The elementary division was established in the fall of 1999 and consisted of 26 children in Kindergarten and a 1st/2nd grade combination class. Today, the Lower School serves around 170 students in grades PreK-7.
  • The 2019-20 school year started with 514 in total enrollment of which 149 were boarding students representing 24 U.S. states and 32 countries.

Notable Alumni

Farragut has many notable alumni in many different fields. This list only represents some.

Brig Gen Charles Duke, USAF (Ret.) ‘53S

Science & Space

Farragut is proud to boast two alumni who became moonwalking astronauts.

  • RADM Alan Shepard Jr. USN (Ret.) ‘41N was the first American in space in 1961 and a member of the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.
  • Brig Gen Charles Duke, USAF (Ret.) ‘53S was a member of the Apollo 16 mission in 1972.

RADM Mark H. Buzby, USN (Ret.) ‘75N

Military & Politics

  • William N. Small ‘44N is a retired United States Navy Admiral and former Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
  • Lieutenant General Sidney “Tom” Weinstein ‘52N was the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence during the 1980s. He is recognized as the principal architect of the modern military intelligence corps, and was the crucial player in its expansion and professionalization.
  • Richard W. Fisher ‘67N was the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and retired in 2005.
  • RADM Mark H. Buzby, USN (Ret.) ‘75N is the former United States Navy Rear Admiral and is currently serving as Administrator of the United States Maritime Administration.
  • J. Fred Miller IV ‘81S is a Foreign Service Officer with the US Department of State, and he began his service in 2002 under the Secretary of State Colin Powell.
  • John Hodges ‘85N started his career on Capitol Hill in 1992 and is currently the Director of Office Supply Services under the Chief Administrative Officer of the House. He has served the US House of Representatives for a total of 27 years.
  • Maj. Megan M. McClung ‘91N was the first female United States Marine Corps officer killed in combat during the Iraq War.

Casper Van Dien ‘88S

Entertainment

  • Harry Humphries ‘59N is a retired United States Navy SEAL who currently works as a consultant and actor on Hollywood films. His many notable works include GI Jane, Armageddon, and Black Hawk Down.
  • Stephen Stills ‘63S (non-grad) is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
  • Lorenzo Lamas ‘75N is an actor whose notable works include the role of Tom in Grease and the role of Lance in Falcon Crest, for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film.
  • Andy Luckey ‘84S (non-grad) is a writer, director and producer of primarily animated works and most notably produced on the 1980s-’90’s animated TV series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • Joseph Zolfo ‘86N is a film and television producer of the most notable shows God Friended Me and NCIS New Orleans.
  • Kurt Knutsson ‘86S is a journalist and actor and is currently a technology contributor on Fox and Friends known as the “CyberGuy.”
  • Casper Van Dien ‘88S is an actor on the most notable movies Starship Troopers and as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City.
  • Sean Rankine ‘91N is an executive producer with the Bravo Network. His recent works include Camp Getaway and Married to Medicine Los Angeles.
  • Chef Spike Mendelsohn ‘00 (non-grad) is a Washington, D.C.-based chef and restaurateur best known as the fifth-place finisher of the fourth season of Top Chef which aired 2008-2009.

Rayshawn Jenkins ‘12

Sports

  • Tom Thompson ‘68S is the oldest kicker in NCAA football history.
  • Marreese Speights ‘05 has played basketball with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Orlando Magic, and most recently the Guangzhou Long-Lions in China.
  • Rayshawn Jenkins ‘12 is a safety for the Los Angeles Chargers
  • Brad Muhammed ‘13 a defensive back for the Cedar Rapids River Kings indoor football team.
  • Delroy Baker ‘14 played with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.
  • Napoleon Maxwell ‘14 recently signed to play with the Chicago Bears.

Fun to Know

Actor Morgan Freeman in front of Farragut’s Lower School

  • Farragut owns 3 acres of waterfront property on Boca Ciega Bay and is the only private school in Pinellas County that can boast a waterfront campus.
  • Boca Ciega Bay is an aquatic preserve with mangrove islands, sandy beaches, and submerged habitats such as oyster bars, seagrass beds, coral habitats, and spring-fed caves.
  • Farragut’s softball team is one of only four bay-area teams to have ever won two consecutive state softball championships, one in 2018 and 2019.
  • Farragut’s campus was selected as the location for the veteran’s hospital scenes in the 2010 Warner Brothers film Dolphin Tale. Not only did on-campus scenes include actors Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, but some employees and students were even hired as extras. (Winter, the dolphin featured in the film, lives at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, just a 30-minute drive from Farragut.)

Facts and Figures

Engineering teacher Carolyn VanArsdale and her family, including Farragut students Leah ‘26 and Lillian ‘24

  • Admiral Farragut Academy is accredited by:
    • Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS): Assures that each school maintains high standards and independence of character without political, financial, or bureaucratic pressures.
    • Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS): Provides leadership, accreditation services, and professional development resources.
    • AdvancEd (SACS): One of the six regional accreditation organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This agency accredits over 13,000 public and private educational institutions.
  • Farragut’s operating budget was about $16 million for 2019-20.
  • Farragut employs about 110 people, many of whom themselves send their children to the school.
  • It’s estimated that Farragut boarding students annually pump over $500,000 into the local economy.
  • Farragut alumnus Martin Ludwig ‘54N, CEO of Hello Energy, spearheaded an energy-efficient LED lighting system throughout campus in March 2018 and so far has seen a savings of $52,000.

Students in front of DeSeta Hall

  • In 2019, Farragut opened a new multipurpose arts building, DeSeta Hall, which also is available to the local community to rent for weddings and other events. One resulting partnership is with American Stage, which made DeSeta Hall the new home of its theater summer camp.

Signature Programs & Curriculum

Aviation students learning on the flight simulator under the tutelage of Aviation teacher Rob Ewing

  • Farragut’s Aviation Academy allows students to learn aeronautical science and gain a Private Pilot’s License through ground flight simulators and air instruction. Students fly out of Albert Whitted Airport in Downtown St. Petersburg.
  • In 2019, thanks to a $5,000 grant from American Airlines, students as young as 9 got to experience the Farragut Aviation Program and fly in the airplanes.
  • Farragut’s Engineering students designed and built “Grow Tables,” which are tables that hold plants in a hydroponic system that works in tandem with a water pump. The Biology classes maintain the system.
  • Every graduate is required to earn their QBH (Qualified Boat Handler) designation before graduation.
  • Lower School students learn to cast and seine net and Upper School students learn to sail school vessels of all sizes at the waterfront. Students can also fish, kayak, paddle board, and sail after school or on the weekends.

In the Community

Farragut football players at Nina Harris Center for Exceptional Children

  • Every summer, Farragut hosts a variety of day and boarding summer camps that are open to the public. Learn more at www.farragut.org/summer.
  • Farragut is a proud member of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Treasure Island and Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce, as well as the RGA Network.
  • Farragut has a commitment to support and hire local businesses as much as possible. This has included our website providers, student information system, bank, printer, and more.
  • Farragut’s local families include many local business owners. You can see many of these families on our Farragut Business Directory.
  • Farragut students need 80 community service hours to graduate. Over the last decade alone, our students have contributed more than 55,000 hours in the community.
    • Over the years, Farragut has graduated many Eagle Scouts, whose scout projects have included everything from informational billboards at our waterfront to trash can containers at local parks.
    • The Interact Club, an Upper School service club sponsored by the Gulf Beaches Rotary Club, exemplifies the club’s motto “Service Above Self” through various volunteer opportunities that include pancake breakfasts, clothing donation drives, and bake sales.
  • For nearly a decade, Farragut’s color guard, drill team, football, and softball team have visited Nina Harris Center for Exceptional Children to share in a special activities day with their students.
  • Tampa Bay Watch has been running the Bay Grasses in Classes program with Farragut since 1993. The program aims to provide students with hands-on experience in habitat restoration while promoting science education and the value of maintaining a healthy environment.
  • For the past few years, Farragut has held a schoolwide Earth Day Clean-Up at the Clam Bayou Preserve, a 10-acre park in nearby Gulfport. Volunteers have picked up more than 1,000 pounds of trash.
  • Farragut is the first school in Pinellas County to place sunscreen dispensers across campus.

Awards & Accolades

  • Farragut won the Tampa Bay Times’ Best of the Best award in 2019 for best private school for Preschool, Middle School, and High School.
  • 10 Farragut teachers have won the Barrett Family Foundation Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teacher Award since the award’s inception in 2013.
  • Science Teacher and Department Chair Sari Deitche, at Farragut since 2002, has earned the Florida Association for Water Quality Control (FAWQC) E2 Fund grant for 11 years in a row.
  • In 2019, Farragut participated in the annual Veteran’s Boat Parade in Madeira Beach, winning 3rd place in the size category, and the annual Treasure Island Lighted Boat Parade, taking 4th place in the small-boat category.

History of the School’s Location & Buildings

  • The site that Admiral Farragut Academy sits on today was originally the Jungle Country Club (also sometimes called the Jungle Hotel or the Jungle Club Hotel) and was built in 1926 as a resort hotel and golf course. Farragut Hall, the current home of cadet dorms and school offices, was the main hotel building.
  • Celebrities and notables of the era played on the course, including Babe Ruth (who celebrated several of his birthdays at the hotel, including his 40th), Jimmy Walker, Jack Dempsey, mayor Al Lang, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, H. Walter Fuller, and Walter P. Fuller. Click here to view video of Babe Ruth golfing at the Jungle Country Club.
  • During World War II, it also hosted Air Corps trainees, and in 1943, a tent city of 10,000 U.S. troops and trainees camped on the golf course.

Cadets in front of the entrance to Admiral Farragut Academy, 1945

  • In 1944, a $300,000 agreement was signed ensuring the transfer of the Jungle Country Club Hotel and golf course to Admiral Farragut Academy, which until then only had one site, in Pine Beach, NJ. In the mid-1950s a residential neighborhood was built on the property.
  • Golf Creek is the only section of the Jungle Country Club golf course that has not been covered by roads and houses. Today, the creek follows the same path through the neighborhood as in 1916, when it was a water hazard on several holes of the golf course — including through the campus of Admiral Farragut Academy, and into Farragut’s waterfront. The creek is frequented by ibises, heron, egrets, storks, peacocks, and roseate spoonbills, and is home to ducks, turtles, frogs, and fish.
    • Former science teacher “Coach Nick” (Mike Nicholson), who retired in 2017, often searched the creek for plant and animal life. Sometimes he found broken pottery and dishes from the Jungle Country Club, which are on display in the Lower School science classroom.

  • Two nearby roads were named after Admiral Farragut Academy.
    • Farragut Drive was named for the academy and its namesake, the courageous first admiral in the U.S Navy, Admiral David G. Farragut.
    • Russell Drive was named for the two brothers, Captain David H. Russell and Captain W. Kabel Russell, who worked on behalf of Admiral Farragut Academy to implement the transfer of Academy land to the developer Azalea Homes. The Russell family has a long tradition with Farragut – one of the Russell brothers had a grandson who graduated from the school and two of that graduate’s grandchildren are current students. A classroom building on campus is named the Russell Building.

Farragut Hall Today

  • Farragut Hall houses our dormitories, mess hall, administrative offices, and a few classrooms. The west side of the building enjoys waterfront views and overlooks Boca Ciega Bay.
  • On Nov. 5, 1992, the St. Petersburg City Council, passed a resolution designating Farragut Hall as a local historic landmark. Farragut’s maintenance crew has refurbished many pieces of the building to its historic look over the years, including a new front door built to match the original.
  • Farragut Hall was featured in the Architectural Digest June 15th, 2017, article, “This Sleepy Florida Beach Town Is Home to the Most Amazing Architectural Hideaways,” alongside such local gems as the Don Cesar Hotel, the Dalí Museum, and the historic open-air post office in downtown St. Petersburg.
  • A waterfront mansion across Park Street was once part of the Jungle Country Club. Legend says that during Prohibition there was an underground tunnel connecting the property and former hotel.
  • The hotel had the distinction of housing the first radio station to operate in the city, a station that was known as WSUN and used the slogan “Why Stay Up North.” The station is now known as 97X.
  • In 2006, astronaut and Farragut alumnus Charlie Duke presented the school with a moon rock, now on display in the Farragut Hall lobby. There are three locations where moon rocks can be found in Florida: at the Kennedy Space Center, at the Museum of Natural History in Tallahassee (in storage, not on display), and at Admiral Farragut Academy.

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