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Visit the best-preserved American Indian mound in Tampa Bay

Harold and Frances Anderson: Stewards of the Land

Tocobaga Indians, Spanish explorers, legendary pirates, fisherman, developers, gangsters, and peacocks – The Jungle Prada Site has more than 1,000 years of incredible history! This quiet corner of St. Petersburg was the location of an American Indian village for over 600 years. A concrete marker placed along the road in 1933 reads: Here landed Panfilo de Narvaez – April 15, 1528 – From the site of this ancient Indian village was launched the first exploration by white man of the North American continent.

The Jungle Prada Site was the center of a Tocobaga Indian village, where people lived and worked for hundreds of years. The shell midden mound on the Anderson property at Jungle Prada is on the National Register of Historic Places. This local secret is the best-preserved example of an American Indian mound in the Tampa Bay area! The horse conch and lightning whelk shells scattered over the surface of the mound are between 500 and 1,000 years-old. They are the original building material used to raise the Jungle Village up above sea level.

Harold C. “Happy” Anderson has carefully watched over the mound since 1940. Harold was born in upstate New York in 1905, but his family moved to Florida when Harold was only eight or nine-years-old. Growing up in St. Petersburg, he was fascinated by a remote region on the outskirts of town called “The Jungle,” due to its huge live oaks, twisting vines, and dense palmettos. Walter P. Fuller owned the entire area back then, and his two hotels, along with a trolley line built starting in 1913, provided access to the depths of The Jungle. There archeologist discovered the remains of an American Indian village along the shore of the bay, near Fuller’s new restaurant and fishing pier (called the Jungle Prada). As a young man, Harold Anderson participated in an archaeological dig at the site.

A series of economic depressions beginning in the 1930s would cause Fuller to list much of his land for sale. In 1940, Mr. Anderson was able to purchase most of the village plaza and shell midden for a price of $20,000. Harold called himself the caretaker of the land. He often said that the mounds belonged to everyone, but that it was his duty to preserve them. Mr. Anderson eventually built his home at the site (without cutting down any trees or disturbing the mound). His wife Frances, a professional horticulturalist, planted a lovely seaside garden along the shore of Boca Ciega Bay, but the area around the plaza and the main midden was kept in what archaeologists have called “pristine condition.” Over the last 75 years, The Jungle surrounding Mr. Anderson’s property has been developed and re-developed, but “Happy” Anderson kept a window to the past open for us.

Today you can tour the ancient midden mound, and learn about the lives of the Tocobaga Indians who lived at the site all those years ago. David Anderson, Harold Anderson’s grandson, leads our guided tour. It’s a 75-minute long journey through the past in a timeless setting overlooking beautiful Boca Ciega Bay.

David is a horticulture professional like his grandmother Frances Anderson. Did we mention that over 50 free-roaming peacocks live on the property today? These colorful birds have been here since the first two wandered over in 1953. A small museum in a converted greenhouse on the property features artifact found during a professional archaeological dig which took place from 1994 – 98.

Come discover this hidden family-owned gem in St. Petersburg! Tours are Wednesday through Sunday at 11:30 and 2:30. Free parking available at Jungle Prada de Narvaez Park. 1700 Park St. North, St. Petersburg, FL 33710.

 

"Calusa Wife" by Theodore Morris