A new distillery in St. Petersburg is building an important art plaza unlike anything the city has previously seen.
The American Freedom Distillery, which is slated to open early next year, is owned by a group of former Special Forces and Green Beret combat veterans, including Mark Nutsch, who led a team of Green Berets on horseback. Nutsch was portrayed by Chris Hemsworth in the recently released motion picture 12 Strong.
Now retired from the military, the group of friends are looking to honor those they fought with and those lost on 9/11. On top of honoring them through their Rekker Rum and Horse Solider Whiskey, the team was seeking a way to provide a space for dialogue and contemplation, as well as a focus on the continuing impact of that day in American history.
The team is proposing a 20-foot by 40-foot monument plaza, Rise St. Pete, in the middle of the Warehouse Arts District with its central focus being a large steel beam from the World Trade Center site. On the website for the proposed memorial, they showcase the connection between Tampa Bay and 9/11.
Rising from the center of the half-circle shaped memorial is the large steel beam. Behind it is a large wing, made out of copper recovered from a recent renovation of the Statue of Liberty. Framing the wing and steel beam is a blue tile arch. The tile arch will be made locally at St. Pete’s Morean Arts Center. A fountain will wrap around the steel and copper statue. Four trees, symbolic of “The Survivor Tree” at the NYC 9/11 site, will provide shade for benches. The memorial is designed by Mark Aeling of MGA Sculpture Studio.
A groundbreaking for the new memorial will take place Saturday, Nov. 10, at 10 a.m. Expected to cost $1 million, the memorial is now accepting donations.
Beyond the memorial, American Freedom plans to open the distillery for tours beginning in the spring. A high-end sit-down restaurant, America Neat Grill & Whiskey House, is also slated for the site. The restaurant will feature a 30-foot-long bar. American Freedom also has a warehouse in Columbus, Ohio, where it will continue to produce its bourbons due to the favorable weather conditions. The St. Pete location will house the company’s gin, vodka and rum productions.
The memorial, distillery and restaurant will be located at the corner of Fifth Avenue South and 22nd Street in St. Pete.