Riverwalk bust honors area's Indian heritage
TAMPA - Mound Builder Indians, who lived in the Tampa area at least 10,000 years before white men touched Florida soil, were the area's first settlers. On Wednesday, a bronze bust honoring the natives was placed in its permanent location at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park next to Garrison Channel. "One of the largest mounds created by these Indians was right there, very close to that location," said Steve Anderson, chairman of the Historical Monument Trail Committee. "It was said to be about 50 feet high, and some huge oak trees are on top because it had been there so many centuries," Anderson said.By the end of today, the busts of six Tampa-area trailblazers will be placed in their permanent positions along a 2-mile stretch of the downtown Riverwalk. In addition to the Mound Builder, the 2,000-pound busts included in the historical monument trail include Henry B. Plant, who brought the railroad to Tampa; nurse Clara Frye; cigar czar Vicente Martinez-Ybor; shipping magnate James McKay; and suffragist Eleanor McWilliams Chamberlain. "It's critically important for our kids and for visitors to understand the rich history that we have here in Tampa," Anderson said. "This is a perfect way for people to both enjoy the river, take advantage of the opportunities we're going to present along the Riverwalk to them … and also learn about our history. It also develops a sense of identity for this community, where we came from." In March, a panel of nine historians selected the historical figures. Those chosen were lauded for their positive impact on Tampa or Hillsborough County. By day's end, Plant's bust will be placed on the stretch of Riverwalk next to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, directly across from his Tampa Bay Hotel. Ybor's will be near the Tampa Bay History Center, Chamberlain's at the Performing Arts Center and McKay's at the Tampa Convention Center. Frye's bust temporarily will be at the convention center, as well. Ultimately, it will be moved to Waterworks Park. The nonprofit group Friends of the Riverwalk worked with the history center on the project. Private donations paid for the six busts. The process of creating them, manufacturing their pedestals and placing the sculptures in their permanent locations cost about $120,000, Anderson said. In future years, dozens more contributors will be represented on the trail winding along downtown Tampa's waterfront. The panel of historians already has met to discuss the next group of six. An announcement is expected early next year. Honorees must have been dead at least 15 years. Ultimately, the Riverwalk will span about 21/2 miles and create a pedestrian corridor from the Channel District to Tampa Heights.
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