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Mounds of the past cleared for growth

By BILL WATTS

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 28, 2001


A copy of an 1895 West Hillsborough Times, found at the St. Petersburg Museum of History (http://www.museumofhistoryonline.org), proclaims St. Petersburg "The City of Mounds by the Sea." This mound was known as "Cheops" after the great pyramid of Giza, Egypt, the oldest-known man-made structure in the world.

A copy of an 1895 West Hillsborough Times, found at the St. Petersburg Museum of History (http://www.museumofhistoryonline.org), proclaims St. Petersburg "The City of Mounds by the Sea." This mound was known as "Cheops" after the great pyramid of Giza, Egypt, the oldest-known man-made structure in the world.

The earliest photograph of the mound can be found in a book Facts and Suggestions Regarding the Pinellas Peninsula, published by the F.A. Davis Printing Co. for Hamilton Disston in 1896, also at the museum. Davis wrote "the whole lower peninsula abounded with the relics of a prehistoric and what must have been a vast population."

At the beginning of the recorded history of this area, it was believed that no fewer than 12 mounds existed in and around St. Petersburg.

This mound was in the vicinity of Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue S and relocated from the waterfront by the early settlers.

Believed to be a kitchen midden, or refuse pile, it was made of discarded shells and earth, and dated as old as 10,000 B.C.

The area became known as Shell Mound Park. Augusta Memorial Hospital was built near the mound and named after early philanthropist E.H. Tomlinson's mother in 1913.

Augusta Memorial later became City Hospital, then Mound Park Hospital in 1923.

Nurses from the hospital posed for the photo that illustrated a story calling for the preservation of the mound when the hospital was considering expansion in 1949. The building in the background was built in 1937. By July 1950, the mound gave way to the growing community despite pleas from Mrs. Mary Apple, president of St. Petersburg Historical Society. Ray Arsenault wrote in St. Petersburg and the Florida Dream 1888-1950 that mounds were desecrated for sidewalks in the 1890s. This mound was used for road fill. Today, Bayfront Medical Center, serving the community since 1968, stands where once stood the evidence of a dense population of a lost civilization.

Learn more about the Native Americans who built this mound and others like it from Indian Mounds You Can Visit by I. Mac Perry or by visiting the Web site http://www.ancientnative.org.

-- Bill Watts can be contacted at bayart@aol.com.

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