Thursday, October 30, 2008
Here are the graves of Lorenzo Dow Ross and his eldest son Percy. Lorenzo was born in 1836 in what became Tampa. A local boy, he fought in Florida's Indian wars and joined the Confederate Seventh Florida Infantry during the Civil War. After nearly two years as a prisoner of war in Tennessee, he came home to Ross Island, now part of the Weedon Island Preserve. Bad food killed Lorenzo in 1889, bad hunting killed Percy in 1886, and they came to be buried side by side.
Lorenzo and Percy Ross' tombstones have had some adventures, which you can read about in these articles from the St. Petersburg Times:
"Marking Time" (Dec. 10, 2006)
"The history behind one Floridian's headstone" (Sept. 19, 1998)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"Exhibit tracks evolution of artist Christopher Still" (St. Petersburg Times, October 26, 2008)
Christopher Still's murals in the House Chamber at the Florida State Capital
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
If you were to take a few steps further towards the water and look to the east across Old Tampa Bay, you'd see the Interbay Peninsula, home to South Tampa, Port Tampa, and MacDill Air Force Base.
Squint a bit, and you'll see a very large airplane landing at MacDill AFB.
Today MacDill Air Force Base is home to the 6th Air Mobility Wing, U.S. Central Command, and the headquarters of the U.S. Special Operations Command, along with 51 other Mission Partners. Nearly seventy years ago it was a brand new base, training pilots for World War II. Base commander on December 7, 1941, was General Clarence Tinker, also known as the first Native American to become a Major General in the United States Army. Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma was named in his honor.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Officers of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment in Tampa, Florida, in 1898. From left to right: Major George Dunn, Major Alexander Brodie, Major General Joseph Wheeler, Chaplain Henry A. Brown, Colonel Leonard Wood, and Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. (Photograph courtesy Florida State Archives)
Theodore Rossevelt was born in New York on October 27, 1858, which means that today is his 150th birthday!
A few years before he became the 26th president of the United States, Roosevelt spent a little time in Tampa with his Rough Riders, the men of the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry. The year was 1898 and the United States was at war with Spain. Tampa served as the point of embarkation, meaning that troops and supplies headed to Cuba passed through the city's ports. Tampa was still a small town, and the military logistics got gummed up, so there was time for Roosevelt to have dinner in Ybor City.
The Library of Congress website includes digital files of motion pictures taken of Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in Tampa.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Building the airport required clearing and leveling large portions of the island. Over the past 60 years gopher tortoises have worked hard to convert the former runway into scrub.
For more information: Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Florida: Southern Tampa Area. Includes photos and aerial views of Grand Central Airport.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
This week I took my class to the Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg. The class is a seminar, an interdisciplinary overview of the Humanities with Florida as a unifying theme. My students are freshmen in the University Honors program at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. This fieldtrip to Weedon Island was a chance to escape the classroom for an afternoon, and a chance to visit a place that is both a valuable natural resource and a valuable cultural resource. The Preserve is managed by Pinellas County Parks, and offers nature trails, interpretative exhibits, historic sites, Indian mounds, kayaking, birdwatching, educational programs, and more.
The design on the exterior of the museum is inspired by a prehistoric culture that flourished here a couple of thousand years ago, the Weeden Island culture, known for its elaborate pottery. This particular pattern would be Weeden Island Punctate, basically made by poking wet clay with the end of a reed or stem. The Weeden Island culture was found along the gulf coast from Tampa Bay northward and westward into southern Georgia and Alabama.
Jesse Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution named the site and the culture in the 1920s when he excavated the site. He was also, unfortunately, responsible for a spelling error. Archaeologists refer to the Weeden Island culture and the Weeden Island site, and Weeden Island pottery. That's Weeden with three e's. But the name of the island is actually Weedon Island, with two e's and one o. Technically speaking, the island's name originally was Weedon's Island, with a possessive apostrophe s. In the 1890s the island was a wedding present to Blanche Henderson and Leslie Weedon, a Tampa physician. The couple and their family used the island as a weekend retreat. A twist to the story is that Leslie Weedon was the grandson of Frederick Weedon, known to historians as the doctor to Osceola while the Seminole leader was imprisioned in St. Augustine. When Osceola died, Dr. F. Weedon prepared his body for burial, but for some reason kept Osceola's head separate.
Further Reading: The Weedon Island Story (pdf)
Monday, October 20, 2008
"Using old curbs, Trilby house rises piece by piece " (St. Petersburg Times, October 20, 2008) "The Tudor-style stone cottage nestled on a bluff on a bend in the Withlacoochee River looks like something straight out of Harry Potter. With its English garden, tower, sun-faded blue columns and heavy front door handmade from 1,000-year-old pecky cypress hauled a century ago from a Florida swamp...."
"Woman returns to Breakers 65 years after her birth there" (Palm Beach Post, October 7, 2008)
"The Breakers 'a different world' for mom who gave birth there 65 years ago" (Sun Sentinel, October 8, 2008)
"Biscayne National Park celebrates 40 years" (Miami Herald, October 12, 2008)
"Distant Shores" (Biscayne Times) "Biscayne Bay may be our area’s most prominent feature, but just try getting close to it."
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
"The outhouse . . . stood on a direct line with the dining room windows. One fortunate diner might sit with his back to it. The others could not lift their eyes from their plates without meeting the wooden stare of the unhappy and misplaced edifice. They were fortunate if they did not meet as well the eye of a belated occupant, assuring himself stonily that he could not be seen." (from "The Evolution of Comfort," in Cross Creek, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings [Charles Scribner's Sons, 1942])
The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park preserves or recreates Rawlings' house down to the minute details, including the gray paint on the screen door of the outhouse, intended to shield the user from view, but rather giving that unfortunate the appearance of a gray, mossy monster. There's even a red cloth flag, a system worked out by one of Rawling's guests to indicate when the outhouse was occupied. In Cross Creek, Rawlings recounts how she vowed to use any windfalls of money to pay for indoor plumbing, being disatisfied with the outhouse as well as icy outdoor showers in the wintertime. With the $700 she earned for Jacob's Ladder, she was able to install a bathroom: "The formal opening of the bathroom was a gala social event, with a tray of glasses across the lavatory, ice and soda in the bathtub, and a bouquet of roses . . . ."
Although Rawlings did acknowledge that she was better off at her house than were many of her neighbors when it came to water, her desire for convenience and comfort are echoed by Ma Baxter's wish for a well in The Yearling. And as Rawlings had to postpone her bathroom to pay for mortgages, car repairs, and poor citrus crops, so did Ma Baxter have to wait for her well:
"Ever' spring, I'd figger to git your Ma a well dug. Then I'd need a ox, or the cow'd bog down and perish, or one o' the young uns'd put in and die and I'd have no heart for well-diggin', and medicine to pay for. Bricks so turrible high--When I begun diggin' oncet, and got no water at thirty feet, I knowed I was in for it. But twenty years is too long to ask ary woman to do her washin' on a seepage hillside." (Penny Baxter to his son Jody, in The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings)
Further reading about outhouses:
"Honor has outhouse restorer over the moon: Historic latrine in Cocoa to be rebuilt near church" Florida Today, September 6, 2008
"Bushnell man finds opportunity in outhouses " St. Petersburg Times, September 21, 2008
Florida Outhouses, by Kevin McCarthy, 2002
Nature Calls: The History, Lore, and Charm of Outhouses, by Dottie Booth, 1998
Sunday, October 05, 2008
"In a Town Apart, the Pride and Trials of Black Life" New York Times, September 28, 2008
Florida; a Guide to the Southern-most State (Federal Writers' Project, 1939)
The WPA Guides: Mapping America, by Christine Bold (University Press of Mississippi, 1999)
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Friday, October 03, 2008
"Improved Process for the Artificial Production of Ice" U.S. Patent Number 8080, issued May 6, 1851
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Friends of Paynes Prairie
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
"Napoleon of the Everglades," by Gary Mormino, Tampa Tribune September 14, 2008
For further reading:
Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, Florida's Fighting Democrat, by Samuel Proctor (1950, reprinted 1993 by the University Press of Florida)
The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise, by Michael Grunwald (2007, Simon and Schuster)