historical collage

About the Museum

gbhm museum building


The Gulf Beaches Historical Museum is located on the grounds of the first church of the local barrier islands. Built in 1917 of rusticated block, the Pass-a-Grille Community Church was a staple of the growing island town throughout the years. But in 1959 it’s membership outgrew the small building and a new church was built on 16th Avenue in the Pass-a-Grille area of St. Pete Beach.

Bound for the wrecking ball, the original church property was saved by Joan Haley, a widowed journalist who moved to the beach in 1952 from Washington, D.C. Her passion for historic preservation, love of antiques, and curiosity about the area prompted her to sell her bayfront property, purchase the old church and make it her very special home. Upon her death in 1989, Mrs. Haley left the church property to Pinellas County to be used as an island museum.

After updating, cleaning and refurbishing the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum opened to the public in March 1993. A non-profit support organization was formed, volunteers were recruited, artifacts gathered, and with hard work the Museum has grown to become a real island treasure. The museum is operated entirely by volunteers, and our mission is “To collect, preserve and exhibit the history of the barrier islands.”

The permanent collection includes a time-line display from 1500 to present, hundreds of then and now photographs and maps, postcards, local school yearbooks, Haley’s personal memorabilia, a WWII exhibit, artifacts from island churches, and a special Don CeSar Hotel display.

The museum also has a gift shop featuring books, local art, vintage-style wares, and island-inspired items for visitors of all ages.