Of the 28 Landmarked historic resources in unincorporated Hillsborough County, three are representative of African-American community history. These Landmarks were celebrated this April during the University of South Florida Institute on Black Life’s Spring Symposium. The Symposium is an annual event that honors local African-American life and history.
The Beal-Holloman House and the Glover School are located in Bealsville, which is southeast of Plant City, just north of SR 60 near the Polk County line. Bealsville was founded by former slaves from the plantations around Springhead after the Civil War. The founders were able to acquire land through the Southern Homestead Act of 1866. To retain title, the claimants had to construct homes, clear the land, and procure farming implements.
The community was originally named after Howell’s Creek, and for a while it was called Antioch. In 1923 the name was changed to Bealsville after Alfred Beal, son of one of the community’s founders, Ms. Mary Reddick. Mr. Beal was savvy in real estate and owned a large amount of land in this area. When property owners in the area had defaulted on mortgage or tax payments, Mr. Beal bought the property and resold smaller lots back to Bealsville residents. This began the pattern, which continues today, of keeping the Bealsville property in the hands of local families. Mr. Beal donated acreage for a community school, church, and cemetery. He also gave his daughter, Beulah Estelle Beal Holloman, the land for her house. Ms. Holloman was a prominent midwife in Bealsville. The Beal-Holloman House was continuously lived in by Mr. Beal’s descendents until about 15 years ago, when it was boarded up. However, the property remains in the family. The great-granddaughter of Alfred Beal is the current property owner.
In 1873 the community built a one room log cabin school that educated the children of Bealsville for the next seventy years. This school originally was named Antioch School, but it was later renamed Jameson School. The Glover School was built in 1933, on land donated by William Glover. The original Glover School was a three-room wood frame school house. The residents of Bealsville fought for several years to get a larger school, since education, along with religion, was one of the most important principles to the community founders. Once Mr. Glover donated the land and the community had raised $1,000, the school district agreed to construct the new three-room school house.
In the mid-1940s, several of the County’s smaller schools were consolidated. The schools for African-American children in nearby Keysville, Hopewell, Coronet, and Trapnell were closed, and the Glover School was expanded with the concrete block buildings you see in the center and left of the photo. There are an additional three other buildings at the school site, added over the years. Glover School remained segregated until 1972. The school was closed in 1980, and Bealsville, Inc. was formed and took over the property to use for the benefit of the community. In addition to being a Hillsborough County Landmark, the Glover School is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is on the Florida Black Heritage Trail.
The Citrus Park Colored School was one of the early one-room school houses to not survive consolidation. The first school for African-American children in this part of Hillsborough County was located further north along Gunn Highway, in a Methodist church on property owned by Mr. Tony Lewis, a former slave from Mt. Dora. The original school building was struck by lightning and burned. In 1921, Ms. Barbara Allen donated the land for a new school, and with considerable help from Reverend Charlie Walker who persistently petitioned the school board to establish the school, the Citrus Park Colored School was opened by 1925. This building was also used for services by a Baptist church and the Mt. Pleasant AME Church through the early 1950s. The school was closed in 1948 and deeded to the church at that time, and the students were sent to school in Sulphur Springs.
Progress Village is not a Hillsborough County Landmark, but it is an example of a valuable historic resource from our recent past. Progress Village was first platted in 1958, which now falls within the standard 50 year time frame in which cultural resources can begin to be considered historic. In addition to being a historically African-American neighborhood, Progress Village is one of the oldest planned communities in the unincorporated County. Progress Village was constructed to provide homes for families dislocated from the Scrub neighborhood in Tampa during urban renewal and interstate construction. Less than a quarter of the planned 3,857 residences were constructed, but in 1960 the non-profit Progress Village, Inc., with its interracial board of trustees, was awarded the national Lane Bryant Service Award for outstanding contribution to community life. In addition to the houses, a school, shopping center, and two churches were constructed in Progress Village.