Historic Schools Tour

The Second Annual TPI Historic Schools Tour was held on Saturday, April 19th. This year’s tour included Plant High School, Roosevelt Elementary, Gorrie Elementary, Mitchell Elementary and Wilson Middle School. Everyone met at Plant and hopped on a yellow school bus for an “authentic” experience.

Each Principal greeted participants, took them on a tour and shared their facility’s unique history. Assistant Superintendent of Facilities Cathy Valdes informed the group that the Hillsborough County School District has the second largest inventory of historic schools in the state and is the largest steward of historic properties in the county. What a huge responsibility!

Tampa Preservation’s own Paula Meckley was a featured speaker at both Wilson and Mitchell where she has taken her knowledge and skills as a preservationist and put them to work. Whether procuring and installing salvaged wood floors or writing grants to fund a new lunchroom at Mitchell, Paula can’t be stopped! Everyone was inspired by her stories and enthusiasm. She is proof that preservation works.

As the yellow bus pulled into the Plant parking lot everyone received a Tampa Preservation Salutes Historic Schools poster. Old friends visited and new friends were made on the short outing. Something about “going back to school” is special for everyone. Don’t miss the Third Annual Historic Schools Tour next year!

Hillsborough County Archaeological Resources

Moseley HomesteadHillsborough County’s archaeological resources include prehistoric campsites, burial mounds, shell middens, quarries and manufacturing sites for tools, along with historic archaeological sites, such as Fort Foster. Scattered artifacts, usually tools or fragments of pottery, are the most common indicators of an archaeological site. Most of the identified archaeological resources in Hillsborough County date from the Archaic Period (7500-500 BC). The second most common type of identified archaeological resources in this County dates from the historic periods.

Fort Foster State Historic Site, part of Hillsborough River State Park, is considered a historic archaeological site. While the original fort buildings are no longer standing, there remains a wealth of historic artifacts in the ground. Fort Foster, established in 1836 and abandoned in 1849, safeguarded the Fort King Military Road Bridge over the Hillsborough River during the Second Seminole War. Today the park contains a replica of the fort and an interpretive center.

Florida’s archaeological resources, the material remains of past human life or activities, date back approximately 10,000 years. An archaeologist can study the way found artifacts are placed in relationship to one another and to the natural environment to determine information about the way past people lived. By studying the context of the site, an archaeologist can determine what people wore, what kind of food they ate (and how they got the food), who they interacted with, and other details about how they lived. Because much of this information can only be determined by the context in which the archaeological resources are found, it is important to provide a high level of protection for these irreplaceable resources.

In Florida, it is illegal to dig for artifacts without the landowner’s permission, and digging for artifacts on state lands without a permit is a third degree felony. It is also illegal to knowingly disturb, buy, or sell human remains. Florida Statutes govern the treatment of unmarked human burials. Due to the sensitive nature of these sites, the locations of archaeological resources are exempt from the Sunshine Law.

Projects that receive state or federal funding, such as road widening projects, must survey for archaeological and historic resources before work begins to ensure that these resources will not be negatively affected by the projects. This also applies to projects that take place on state and federal lands, such as parks.

Florida’s rapid and intensive land development poses additional challenges for these often “invisible” sites. Unfortunately, archaeological resources are often not discovered until they have been negatively affected by development activity. A cultural resource assessment survey of a development site prior to construction activity can determine whether significant archaeological resources are present.

One of the goals for 2008 of the Hillsborough County’s Historic Resources Review Board (HRRB) is to identify archaeological resources in the unincorporated County that are eligible for Landmark designation. Landmark-eligible archaeological sites will be listed in the County’s Historic Resources Inventory.

Once listed in the Historic Resources Inventory, these archaeological sites will receive some protection. The HC Land Development Code requires that when development permits, development orders or other development approvals affect or abut the properties on the Inventory, the HRRB can review and comment on the applications. The HRRB’s comments are not binding, but are an opportunity to work with the property owner to provide the best possible outcome for significant sites. Upon Landmark designation, a Certificate of Appropriateness from the HRRB is required before archaeological resources can be altered. When making a decision on an archaeological resource, the HRRB considers methods to avoid, reduce or mitigate adverse effects on the archaeological features, while taking into account the current needs of the owner.

Property owners of Landmarked sites in unincorporated Hillsborough County are eligible for a variety of benefits, including a preservation plan for the long-term maintenance of their Landmarked property, and economic incentives, including matching grant funds for HRRB-approved projects and a property tax exemption for the value of HRRB-approved improvements. Landmark sites are also eligible for a transfer of development rights, which may reduce the taxable value of the property.

Conservation easements allow property owners anywhere in Florida to protect their archaeological resources, regardless of whether they are listed in the National Register of locally Landmarked. A conservation easement restricts the use of their land through the property deed, protecting the archaeological site from development activity. This restriction can lower property taxes and estate taxes. Additionally, property owners can receive a federal income tax deduction if they donate an easement for conservation purposes in perpetuity to a qualified organization such as an historical society or a land trust. Conservation easements can be written to address the unique needs of the individual property owner.

Owners of property that contains archaeological resources can also seek Archaeological Landmark designation from the State of Florida. This designation provides extra protection to sites that are eligible for listing in the National Register. A permit from the State is required before anyone is allowed to dig at a State Archaeological Landmark.

Article by Elaine Lund

The Fitzgerald Building

Port Tampa City, known earlier as Passage Point or Black Point, was established in 1893 at the end of a Henry Plant Railroad spur line. Early Port Tampa history revolved around the Plant System of railroads, hotels and steamships, serving as a steamship port to Cuba as well as home to several hotels. Absorbed by the City of Tampa in 1961, Port Tampa still has a small town atmosphere secluded from Tampa’s city life. The area retains much of its historic charm with brick streets, 1926 marble Port Tampa City Library, quaint churches and historic homes. In addition, the area capitalizes on its environmental assets with Tampa’s Greenways Trail and Picnic Island, featuring a beach, boat ramp, fishing pier, and bird sanctuary.

Within this setting is a threatened piece of architecture inherently tied with Port Tampa history known as the FitzGerald Building. The building was built by Captain James W. FitzGerald, a stockholder of the Peoples Line Steamers and Superintendent of Plant’s steamship line. FitzGerald was captain of the steamboat h. b. plant from 1880 to 1886.

Captain FitzGerald arrived in the area that was to be Port Tampa City in 1885 and partnered with Charles W. Prescott of Erie, Pennsylvania. Together they purchased a section of land that they platted with the streets and blocks of the town, then chartered as Port Tampa City. Captain FitzGerald and Mr. Prescott, along with sea captain Henry G. “Harry” Warner, also formed the Port Tampa Building and Loan Association.According to City of Tampa property records, the FitzGerald Building was constructed in 1890. Approximately 1,300 sf, the brick building is two-stories high and has a pressed metal cornice. All indications are that it was built as the Captain’s place of business, although no official documentation has been found. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. map of 1899 depicted the footprint of the FitzGerald Building as it stands today.

Mrs. FitzGerald died in 1904, Captain FitzGerald died in 1909, and the heirs retained ownership of the property until 1944. Thus, the FitzGerald family owned this particular piece of land for 51 years. The building then went through a succession of owners who utilized the building for various commercial and residential uses. One owner, with plans for a nightclub, gutted the building interior, but never completed the remodeling. The current owners, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Devoe, purchased the Fitzgerald Building in 1976, to use for equipment storage for their contracting business. The building has been vacant since the Devoe’s retirement and is now in need of stabilization to prevent further deterioration.

A developer planned to purchase the property a couple of years ago, with intentions of demolishing the building; however due to the historic significance of the building, the demolition request was denied. The FitzGerald Building is the oldest surviving business structure in Port Tampa City and is worthy of preservation. The Devoes acknowledge the historic significance of the property and are supportive of the efforts to preserve the building; however, they are eager to sell the property. Local residents are working with the Devoes and community preservation groups to find ways to save this important historic Port Tampa building.

For more information, contact Carol Curtiss at Cabacur@aol.com or (813)831-1985.

Article provided by Carol Curtiss.