Rutland Department Store
To start his legacy, Hubert created a men’s haberdashery on one side of the department store. This modest one-room retail area opened on October 1, 1923 but was so successful that Rutland expanded it in 1924. His business savvy fit right in with the boom time in
Rutland had the foresight to start a profit-sharing program for his employees. He issued certificates that allowed employees to become part owners of the business. He also expanded the store from men’s apparel and included women’s items; it quickly became one of the largest women’s apparel stores in the southern United States. He also kept his storefront current with frequent renovations. The first remodeling took place in 1924, with a second even more extensive rebuilding in 1948. Introduced into the building was an elevator system to help patrons move between floors faster. In 1950, he sold the department store to Robert M. King but later repurchased the building and business, now named the Hubert Rutland Department Store (Basse and Kosharsky, 1B).
Rutland also had some insight into the real estate market, possibly because he also leased space to a local real estate office. Hubert had access to inexpensive land downtown – the Depression knocked land prices for a loop. His property investments amazed his social circle. When one man expressed strong doubt that any profits would come from this strategy, Rutland responded, “If St. Petersburg goes to hell, I’ll go with it” (Yogman 14).
The Rutland luck held as St. Petersburg slowly climbed out of economic disrepair. Conceptualizing the downtown area as a high-end retail district, Rutland found himself owning 120 feet of storefront on Central Avenue. At one point, he bought the Snell building and renamed it for the Rutland family. He purchased the historic (and allegedly haunted) Detroit Hotel for $25,000, later quadrupling his investment when it sold.
In the late 40s, Rutland decided to break into the banking industry. He started the Rutland Bank that offered free checking to customers, required no minimum balance, did not charge service fees and lifted limits on check writing. His bank even offered Saturday hours. At its peak, the bank held $438 million in assets and $400 million in deposits in 12 branches.
Showing his usual passion, Rutland starred in television commercials for the bank. He had specialized t-shirts printed with the bank name and logo, which he gave to customers. While the St. Petersburg Times lauded that women were called to serve on a local jury for the first time in 1950, Rutland had already made the move to create long time female employees in his businesses. He believed that “women are more loyal, they stay with you, they are easier to handle, and they pay attention to what you want” (Yogman 20).
At least one artist, Richard Walles, remembers meeting Mr. Rutland. He was a teenager working in the Peltz shoe store across the street from the department store. Every now and again, the two would cross paths as Rutland walked between the department store and his bank. Richard would say “hello” and Rutland would grunt and nod his head in acknowledgement as he passed. The artist remembers Rutland fondly as a brilliant man who kept to himself. He often seemed to be preoccupied as he walked in St. Petersburg, likely considering his next appointment (Walles).
Rutland’s Personal Life
Hubert knew that all work and no play would catch up with him. When not working, he spent time with his wife, Ruth, who was, herself, business savvy. Known for her Southern charm, she moved to Florida from Newport News, Virginia in 1938. They were a renowned couple who were very dedicated to each other. Ruth was quite compassionate and hosted many charity events. She was a sounding board and lynch pin for her husband’s endeavors; Hubert showed his appreciation by purchasing a building to house her work. The couple had two children, Betty in 1926 and Bert (Hurbert, Jr.) in 1931. At the end of their lives, the Rutlands counted 9 grandchildren in the family ranks as well.
Rutland had a “special affinity for dogs” which he employed as hunting companions (Yogman 28). The dogs were more than mere hounds to Hubert. He ensured that they had good lives and excellent care. He even took responsibility for feeding and maintaining abandoned dogs until they could be re-homed. In fact, one of his friends commented that if he pre-deceased Hubert, he hoped that he would be reincarnated as a Rutland dog so he could experience such a posh lifestyle (29)!
Though the Rutlands enjoyed many good years in St. Petersburg, their time as the leading family was ending. Hubert was enmeshed in a dispute with IRS over $750,000 he claimed for tax deductions. After five years, they settled with Rutland paying $178,000 in back taxes. Three years later in 1985, Hubert’s struggles with dementia left him declared mentally incompetent. Ruth succumbed to similar issues and the same fate in 1986. In 1987, Hubert had a downturn in his health and was fitted with a pacemaker. Though he showed improvement, he passed away in 1988 at the age of 94, leaving an estate worth $80 million to his heirs, and a great deal of contention. Anderson-McQueen, on 22nd Avenue North, hosted his funeral. His son, Hubert, Jr., ran the department store but closed it that day in his honor (Basse and Kosharsky, 13B).
Post Hubert Rutland, Sr.
Hubert, Junior had taken over administrations of the businesses. He sold the Rutland banking chain, with its 12 branches, to the First Florida Bank of Tampa. The St. Petersburg Times noted the end of such an iconic business and declared it the end of an era.
A New Life: Art
After the store’s closing, the building’s ownership was registered to the law group of Radhert Steele Bryan Bole PA from 1988 until 2002. They used the building as rental space for a time. It attracted artists very quickly. The tenants on the first floor of the building were Florida Craftsmen (later renamed Florida CraftArt). The organization showed in a donated space within Florida Power. In 1992, the energy giant needed the space again and Florida Craftsmen moved into the McNulty building. Faced with little foot traffic, the group jumped at the chance to rent the former Rutland Department Store. The old building was in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg and proved to be a great show place (About).
Radhert rented the second floor as offices for various tenants. As the arts began to boom in St. Petersburg, a group of artists moved to the upstairs rooms in 1996. They formed a looser coalition called ARTSPACE. Upon moving in, long term local artist, Mary Klein, recalls that “We found acres of small straight pins in the carpet when we rolled it up to create the studios. The windows were French doors in the studios, and they were original to the building and covered up in a remodel job Rutland's did. We opened them back up.”
Other tenants included the members of the local Christian Science denomination. They had sold their former church property, which became the Palladium (see the chapter on the “Palladium”), and needed a place to worship. They moved in to part of the building around 2000. They did not stay for long as they had issues with the nude art hanging in the art studios (Skelton, 2013). An entry made on the SPIRITS of St. Petersburg website also noted Forrest Hoffman as one of the renters.
In 2002, Florida Craftsmen worked to raise enough funds to purchase the building. The second floor lofts were renamed The Art Lofts, which currently house nineteen artists. The walls enclosing the artist space were also installed around this time (Skelton, 2013).
The SPIRITS of St. Petersburg did an investigation of the building in December 2013. Major areas of activity were one the second floor at the end of both hallways of artist studios. Both had energies within them, but no real presence. What had been reported was a feminine energy and an odd secondary (male?) energy. See archived report:, link above.
Reported activity since 2013:
2018, August 11: At our last art walk meeting, I saw someone go into Beth's studio (234), but her door was closed. I just caught the corner of a tan colored short sleeve [most likely a man’s] shirt disappearing into her studio. It was a couple minutes later I shifted forward in my chair and could see the door was closed. I did not tell her because I didn't want to freak her out right after her Mom died.
Sept. 7, 2018
Three investigators present.
It started off as a stormy night. Florida Craftart was also having an artist reception, which was packed. Several artists were also in attendance in the Art Lofts.
Not much activity
Second Floor Mezzanine:
EMF was high on the stairwell and we had to switch to the 0 – 100 scale. There appears to be some wiring in the area that is rather high – this ran along the wall.
EMF was on the 0 – 100 scale. When asked “Is anyone here?” The meter moved from 3 –
4.5. When asked to confirm, it did it again. When asked what years the entity recalled, the EMF spiked on 2000 and beyond, but when this was broken down into years it only spiked on 2000 and 2001.
Valentina described high levels of information – a series of names came to her. One figure indicated trouble with the left eye (including a burning in the eye), possibly due to a stroke. She also sensed a seizure in the area, and something about a window that was significant. She noted the feeling that space had been cleared.
She picked up feelings of someone who was overwhelmed and thought that there was too much to do.
Names that came to her: Leonard, Pobeland, McNera, Oberst, Phil and Olivia. She also heard Sullen, Piermont, Tesher, Can – (unclear), and Klaus.
She picked up something about music – a violin, play the music, play it again (or play it again, Sam).
Valentine was getting information of two separate male entities. She was attracted to the closet area. The closet was about 76 degrees, as was the lobby area. The EMF was lower and the meter was set back to the 0 – 3 scale.
Question: Is anyone here? Big spike.
A second spike, however, happened right when the a/c turned on. We did watch for the a/c and other electrical factors when watching the EMF spoke. I moved my meter to another part of the area (chairs) and set it down. The meter was, again, on the 0 – 100 scale. This time it did something unusual: When I asked if anyone was there, the meter dropped power and went back to the prior reading, almost like a reverse spike. I asked “Are you the same entity that Valentina was sensing on the stairs, or someone else? It spiked on someone else. I asked again, Are you someone else? Spike.
Valentine started to describe an older gentleman around the age of 62. He was very cranky and
“opposite” in his answers. (She described him as saying “no” to all of our requests. I asked “will you be in our videos?” “No”. However, she also heard him say things like “I’m not crazy” as if defending himself from such an accusation). She described him as keeping to himself. He also seemed to be a part of a conversation that included “stop”, “how amny times have I told you” and “no, you can’t”. She also heard the phrase “Fido” relating to a dog or a dog reference.
He paces the halls and goes into the storage closet. He’s a tinkerer, and he goes into the closet because there was something else there before (tools). He goes about unnoticed. I asked why he was here and she got “I’m just here”. She confirmed that he wanted to be in the building and that in life he was in the building a lot. He’s not fond of interacting with others, though he “had a feeling” that some of the artists sensed him.
I asked where he went, and she said that he walks through the halls and checks on things, including the doors to make sure they are locked. He keeps everything safe and the doors locked. He did, however, accuse me (Brandy)
of being sloppy about locking my door (as in forgetful and scattered).
I asked if this man had any physical conditions and wondered if he had been diagnosed with dementia. She said that he wheezed and had an issue with his lungs.
A second fellow also showed up. He was the age of 49 - 51. He had a professorial air about him and she could see him teaching pupils. She picked up glasses, wavy hair, and a button down shirt.
She was also curious about a table and drawn to it. She got the idea that there was a connection to the legal with that desk. Would like to find the origin of where it came from.
She sensed something in the bathroom, maybe a female presence. EMF was 1.2 to 1./4 and temperature was 80 degrees. She got the names Dora and Dorothy, possibly related to the longtime employee’s name that showed up in the archives (Dottie). She also got the last name of Marsh and Philmore.
The final area of attraction was the area around studio 234. We discovered several drafts blowing through the area from under doors (note for later investigations). She got the names Ferrer, Diana, Dom – (not clear), Ned, Nessan or Nessam. However, she didn’t pick up a distinct presence or personality beyond the names and initial attraction to the location.
Taylor: Goosebumps with the observation and confirmation of meter spikes. He also saw the lights flicker. He was going to try for the sound recordings.
Brandy: I had goosebumps on the stairs, second floor lobby and the area of the halls outside the kitchen.
Observations: One artist who worked at Peltz shoes, across from the Rutland department store, talked about how he had met Mr. Rutland years ago. He described the man as keeping to himself, thinking all of the time. He was pleasant enough – he would see him crossing over from the store to the bank. He (the artist) would say “hi” and Rutland would grunt and wave back. He was not unpleasant, but he kept to himself. (Note the use of the same term as what Valentina had gotten. The artist was not present for her discussion and came through separately).
I asked about Hubert, Jr., and the artist said that he “just never got the store up and running”….
Personal observations based on research: I am wondering if one of the spirits is Mr. Rutland himself. Note the description given of him, his attachment to his real estate, and the “I’m not crazy” statement (he was declared incompetent in 1985, 2 years before his death). The link to “Fido” (referencing dogs) also indicates a connection to him – it ties to my research above. I only knew this when I read the biographical book in the archives. My second thought is to research the son to see if he still lives. He was the one who had to sell the banks and later closed the department store. Perhaps he’s the one who is exhausted.
The professor may be Robinson who had a PhD, was on a college board, and was a director of music.
Potential EVP 1: Wheezing sound, stairwell.
Sept. 21, 2018:
Brandy and Paranormal Pugs: Recheck
Time: 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.
Information gained: The pugs were comfortable in our areas that were hot spots. The ONE place that they would NOT go was the stairwell. Though I can normally coax them or carry them over stairs, they were not having any of it. When I asked if the entity liked the pugs, the EMF dropped (possibly a no answer -- it was like a reverse spike; we had 2 on the Sept. 7 investigation).
EVPs revealed nothing. The pugs were relaxed for the rest of the investigation.
One other thing of note: The area of the stairwell where we got so much EMF on
Sept. 7 help very little this morning. I even bought a non-contact electricity sensor
and it picked up nothing (I had initially thought that it might be wiring that was putting
off the readings). So, the readings from Sept. 7 are still a bit of a mystery.
This was our first year participating in either the International Day of Ghost Hunting or the World's Largest Ghost Hunt. It was quite a learning experience! We did broadcast part of the event live, but technical snafus were a bit of a problem. The link above is about 2 hours of live feed.
The night started out with a Ghost Hunting prep, followed by the investigation. The group was split into two halves and one was sent downstairs and one did upstairs. I wasn't sure what to expect because the ghosts before had been so reluctant to communicate with us. I was pleasantly surprised when not only did we get communication, but pretty much everyone present was witness to phenomena.
Things that the hit upon:
1) Four people reported difficulty breathing in the stairwell.
2) Compass activity -- one person would have unusual or strange compass readings.
3) One person, who later revealed that he was a sensitive, saw some of the research on the building. He saw the entity and looked through the photos I had included in the packet. He starred one picture -- the same one that matched the description given in the prior investigation by Valentina.
4) They were interested in the studio door. (Have to look into that).
5) They picked up activity in MY art studio -- storage closet. (I'm wondering if this is the second entity -- the cranky old man -- who wants to stay out of the way?)
6) They picked up the sensation of falling/feeling sick on the BACK stairwell (which had not been checked by any of the prior investigations). The parallel between these two stairwells (feeling sick on the stairwell) is very interesting. Place memory attached to both of them?
7) A strange sound in the downstairs ladies restroom that sounded like a blow-dryer. However, the doors to the restroom were locked. No one was in there as the doors were locked from before the time I arrived and I do not have a key to open them.
8) Feeling of sadness or illness in the bathrooms, particularly the women's room.
9) When both groups had come back in, I thought I heard footsteps in the room behind us. I was so sure that I kept asking if we were missing anyone. All were accounted for and present at the time.
Actual notes from investigation (typed before discussion):
1.Mike had shortness of breath as he came down the stairwell in the mezzanine area 2.Joanne had sweaty palms 3.First floor there was a noise that was coming from the locked ladies’ room door – sounded like the hand dryer 4.One of the compasses completely turned around in the opposite direction 5.There were a couple of times when the meter spiked and beeped 6.Near the mailboxes we asked if there was anyone there and if there was to move the needle on the meter all the way to the right and the needle moved 7.Second floor back stairs hair on arms standing up and heart jumped 8.Men's restroom felt as if somebody in there with them, huge EMF spikes 9.Strong EMF on second floor lobby 10.Feeling of being pulled to storage room in artist loft/back corner of room
1. Mezzanine felt heavy, but also highest spikes of EMF. Strange movement of compass needle near window in mezzanine stairwell.
2. Strange feeling by mailboxes first, though also high EMF readings there from recessed lighting.
1. Heavy feeling by back (exit) stairwell reported by multiple investigators. Heavy chest feeling.
2. 2nd floor lobby strange EMF readings
3. 2nd floor front stairwell felt as if being observed
4. Brandy’s studio strange EMF reading and feeling in main studio and adjacent rooms
5. Strange energy by studio with red door
6. One investigator reports nausea in women’s bathroom.
We started an EVP session and eventually broke down into 2 groups again. One focused on the stairwell (I stayed with that one) while the other checked the other sites. While the EVP session did not reveal voices from the entities, it did record some rather interesting phenomena.
Two people, both sensitives, were standing on the stairwell. One looked at the other, who shook her head. They began to talk to the group. The one woman felt as if there was a man standing behind her. The second sensitive who had looked over at her saw him, and she shook her head that she didn't want him to say anything. However, they did get information from him. This was the man in glasses with wavy hair (H.R.). He did cooperate. There were spikes on the EMF meter as to areas that he agreed ("yes"). This was quite impressive since the meter was on the 0 -100 scale because of higher EM in the area.
Two women at the bottom of the stairs (I was one) reported feeling cold air around them. I asked if the entity was drawing energy from us (which I think he was). Standing next to me was one of the sensitives who was feeling very hot. One other person on the stairwell also felt warm.
At one point, one of the members of my group started to feel uncomfortable. This was observed by another person who asked what was wrong. The man, also sensitive, answered that he was feeling discomfort in the chest. I asked if the entity was getting bit overwhelming; the man said "yes". I asked the entity to draw back its energy. Almost immediately, the two sensitives reported that he had. I reported that the cold air was gone and that the hallway felt different. The man who had felt uncomfortable felt immediate relief.
I am sad that nothing seems to show up on the recording, though I may try to listen to it again and post parts of it that correlate with the interaction of the ghost.
The photographs that I took that night also revealed nothing.
10:13: Talk and brief trou
Ghost tour was a little chaotic but we did have a couple of things happen: 1) A little girl reported feeling "uncomfortable" in the bathroom (before the talk). 2) Another little girl was crying because she didn't want to go down the steps (same spot where most activity happens). 3) Compass movement in my art studio (!!). Reports from another artist that her art studio appeared to have some items moved, though the door was locked and she hadn't been there. A light was moved, a piece in the window and some papers. Interesting!