Preserving South Shore’s History
If you’ve read Townie Life Magazine for any amount of time you know I love South Shore. We truly live in an amazing community. One of the most impressive things about our community, in my opinion, is its history and the fact that we can still experience it.
We have long-time residents as our neighbors. (Oh, the stories they can tell.)
We have vestiges of ‘old Ruskin’ still standing in many of our backstreets. Just take a drive. The Ruskin Drive-in is alive and well.
History can fade quickly, though, and preserving it is important. As South Shore explodes in size and popularity it’s more important than ever to remember and preserve our past. Knowing where our community came from, who built it and on what, is what gives us our identity and forges a sense of community pride.
I say it often and I’ll say it again, “The more we know about our community, the more we love it and take care of it.”
Southern Hillsborough County Historical Connections Project
Lucky for us, we have many in our community working hard to preserve our past including individuals like Dr. Mac Miller, groups like the Community Development Foundation of Tampa Bay, South Shore Council and Hillsborough Community College, South Shore Campus, who is now the driver of the Southern Hillsborough County Historical Connections project. And, there are more.
I learned about the Historical Connections project exactly one year ago to this day when I met Dr. Craig Hardesty, Dean of Hillsborough Community College, SouthShore campus.
Dr. Hardesty, who is soon stepping down as Dean but will remain at HCC SouthShore, is a Math guy, but he minored in history and has a particular sweet spot for local history. So, when about one month into his tenure as Dean, Dr. Hardesty met a gentlemen by the name of Dr. Mac Miller the stars aligned. It was a match made in heaven.
Dr. Mac Miller approached Dr. Hardesty with boxes and boxes of historical documents about Ruskin (*see notes below about Dr. Mac Miller). Dr. Miller knew one bad storm and these priceless historical pieces would be gone forever. So, he asked if Dr. Hardesty and HCC SouthShore would be interested in professionally preserving and archiving these documents.
Yes! It was a no-brainer for Dr. Hardesty who then, with the help of HCC SouthShore President Dr. Witt and soon-to-be-retired librarian Kathy Braund, set out to raise funds and develop a plan to scan and archive these documents. The project would enrich the student experience and give the public access to these treasures.
The plan started relatively small. On the day I visited in June 2016, Dr. Hardesty and Kathy Braund had already begun the preservation process and had created a small historical display in the HCC SouthShore library.
Here are a few pictures from that early visit:
While there are other places in South Shore that display historical artifacts from our area the primary goal of the Southern Hillsborough County Historical Connections Project is to create a one-stop place for people interested in Southern Hillsborough County History.
“This Southern Hillsborough County Historical Connections Project is a way to link all of the people and groups, who are collecting history and artifacts in our area, together – bring it all to one place,” Dr. Hardesty says.
Word of the project spread and Dr. Hardesty and Kathy Braund began receiving artifacts from more local citizens, so the job grew. While Dr. Hardesty was able to secure financing through a grant to help pay Kathy to work part-time on the preservation and archiving process, it was only enough to move the project along at a part-time pace.
The process of scanning, tagging, documenting, archiving and getting each artifact up to the website (Yes, they have an amazing Website here) is a slow process and time consuming.
But, that all changed recently.
Dr. Hardesty, Kathy Braund, Dr. Witt and and HCC South Shore persisted in their efforts, which included seeking additional funds so Kathy could work full-time on this project and they could acquire more equipment.
Help wasn’t far.
A Knight in Shining Armor
The Community Foundation of Tampa, South Shore Council steps up to the plate.
Recently, I had the great fortune to attend an event at which the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, South Shore Council presented the Southern Hillsborough County Historical Connections Project with a grant for $20,000.
The Southern Hillsborough Connections Project can continue their important work.
The grant funds will be used to: purchase a ‘portable’ archiving device so artifacts, which cannot be moved, can be photographed, scanned and preserved where they are; add three computer stations in the HCC SouthShore Library, History Center Area – for the public; and, continue archiving artifacts.
The ultimate goal is to turn part of the HCC SouthShore Library, where many of the artifacts are now displayed, into a small History Center – giving full access to students and residents.
Check out the Southern Hillsborough County Historical Connections Project for Yourself
If you’ve not yet visited, I highly recommend it. They have several items on display, with more added regularly. Simply head to the HCC SouthShore campus library at: 551 24th St NE, Ruskin, FL 33570
No time to visit in person? Definitely check out the Southern Hillsborough County Historical Connections Project website. You’re sure to find some fun facts you didn’t know about our amazing community including little known facts like how Wimauma got its name, when Sun City Center was founded and all about our ‘river of fire’.
Do you have artifacts from the South Shore area to share for preservation?
Please contact Kathy Braund at email@example.com
*Footnote: For those of you who do not know Dr. Mac Miller his family is the original family that settled Ruskin in 1906. Mac’s father, Dr. George Miller, founded Ruskin College, among other area facilities, which burned down in 1918 and was not re-built.
A little trivia: The site of today’s Ruskin Women’s Club on Hwy 41 is the original home that Dr. George Miller built for his family.
What do you remember about South Shore from years gone by, that’s no longer here? Tell us in the comments below.