Blog Description

Mound House Happenings shares the latest in ongoing projects, site improvements, scheduled programs and events, plus interesting facts and photos on our unique archaeology, history and ecology.

Mound House

Mound House
October 15, 2013

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mound House Underground Exhibit

View the process of creating the unique Underground Exhibit - Stories Beneath our Feet in this custom video produced by former intern Lindsay Mancuso.

Due to copyright laws, soundtrack has been changed.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding now at Mound House

Friday, December 21, 2012


As visitors to the Mound House will learn, in 1513 ,Ponce de Leon was the first European to explore “La Florida” and it was in that same year that he and his men landed very near to this location and first encountered the Calusa. But before even making landfall, Ponce made another important discovery that would affect trade and exploration of the New World for centuries. Although its existence was known to a few others, it was also during this same voyage that Ponce discovered the vitally important the Gulf Stream and according to Ponce: “ A current such that, although they had great wind, they could not proceed forward, but backward and it seems that they were proceeding well; at the end it was known that the current was more powerful than the wind”.

A river of seawater averaging 6 miles wide and over 3,000 feet deep, the Gulf Stream originates in the straits of Florida and is driven largely by wind stress as it travels across the southern tip of Florida, turning northward and into the Atlantic, extending along the eastern coast of North America and then turning again eastward into the North Atlantic and Europe. The Gulf Stream is a rapidly traveling current moving at as much as 5.6mph. This conveyor belt current gave sailors a tremendous advantage in sailing back to Europe from the New World. Fighting its current could add as much as two weeks to a transatlantic crossing from Europe.

As Deputy Postmaster of the British American Colonies, Ben Franklin assembled the knowledge of Nantucket whalers and was the first to publish a map and be the first to name the Gulf Stream in 1770.

Moreover, the proximity of warm Gulf Stream waters to the peninsula of Florida not only warms the air of our State during the cold winter months but also the British Isles and coastlines of Northern Europe.                        

Friday, November 30, 2012

Plants in Profile #21 - Gallardia

#21 - GALLARDIA (Gallardia pulchella)

This week’s subject plant is one of the sturdiest and most reliable native wildflowers found in coastal strand habitats. Also known as “ Blanket Flower” because of its resemblance to traditional brightly colored woven Indian blankets, gallardia can be found throughout the United States. It is tolerant of acidic, or alkaline sand such the soil found here at Mound House, and has a high salt tolerance making it a hardy resident of the dune plantings at nearby Newton Park. Also very drought tolerant, the gallardia can withstand tough conditions that make other flowers wilt.  The blossoms of the gallardia are attractive to butterflies and our resident white sulphur and mangrove buckeyes can often be found gathering nectar in the flowering clusters of gallardia growing on the Mound.     

Creature Feature #21 - Calico Scallop

#21 - CALICO SCALLOP (Argopecten gibbus)

Either walking the beach at Newton Park or touring the shell wall forming the underground archaeological exhibit at Mound House, you will invariably find the colorful shells of this enigmatic little scallop. Rarely found in the shallows, calico scallops prefer deeper waters and inhabit anywhere from 30 to 1,300 feet of water all along the coast of Florida and into the Carolinas. Scallops are swimmers and mass migrations occur up and down the coast to take advantage of seasonal changes in both the Gulf and Atlantic. Genetic identification of calico scallop populations show that larval scallops from Florida take advantage of coastal currents such as the gulfstream to find their way as far north as North Carolina. Occasionally after storms, live calico scallops can be found washed ashore in great numbers. Given that calicos are a deep water species, this is perhaps how they were harvested by the Calusa and eventually became part of the Mound. Today ,calico scallops are harvested commercially by trawlers ,but this is a true “boom or bust” species with catches ranging from a few thousand to millions of pounds depending on the environmental conditions which cause population cycles to change. Scientists believe that many of the massive calico scallop beds on the seafloor are never found because of how calicos readily migrate to better conditions. Scallops are filter feeders living primarily on a diet of microbial suspensions including bacteria as well as detritus and other organic matter. Calico scallops rarely live beyond two years of age and grow to about 2 inches in size making them somewhat smaller than bay or sea scallops. In addition to frequently finding themselves as the entrĂ©e at many of our Islands’ seafood restaurants, calicos are preyed upon by starfish, octopus, squid, numerous species of fish, crabs, rays, and even sharks.

Monday, November 26, 2012


After being closed since the late 1570s, in 1699 Spain reopens “legal” trade between Cuba and Florida and contemporary historical records rather casually observe that “Glades Indians” in dugout canoes were commuting between Key West and Havana, travelling in a 24 hour crossing to conduct trade. They brought furs, plants and fish, and quite interestingly, willow cages containing live song birds such as cardinals and mockingbirds which were sold to the cigar factories and wealthy homeowners to provide musical entertainment.

Paddling at least 90 miles across the Gulf of Mexico in a dugout canoe is an amazing feat by any modern measure, that this was something done on a regular basis to conduct trade is an indicator of remarkable physical endurance and navigational skills. Of course, as a means of transportation, the canoes of the Calusa were a vital component of their culture, providing transportation and a means to conduct trade throughout south Florida and the Caribbean.              

The dugout canoes utilized by the indigenous people of South Florida were long and narrow shallow draft boats, crafted from the trunks of pine or cypress in which fire was used to burn into the trunk, sculpting out the hollow interior of the canoe which would then be finished to a smooth surface with hand tools.

As a sophisticated maritime culture with a network of over fifty villages up and down the coast of southwest Florida, the ability to travel and fish the rivers, creeks and estuaries meant life itself.
Known by their neighbors as the “fierce people”, the Calusa maintained a large and powerful warrior class that employed war canoes, enabling them to reign over a vast area and collect tribute from numerous other tribes while effectively defending their realm for over 2,000 years.  

When Ponce de Leon encountered the Calusa for the first time in 1513, he and his men were attacked in force by hundreds of warriors in large canoes which were lashed together and protected by interlocking shields. As one can easily imagine, the ability to assemble and deploy large numbers of warriors in canoes gave the Calusa a significant  tactical advantage.

Here in 2012, we can’t offer you a hand carved canoe ride through the back country creeks and bays of Matanzas Pass and we don’t deploy large numbers of warriors at a moment’s notice, but we do offer specially scheduled kayak tours and educational events as part of our program curriculum here at Mound House. Our next scheduled kayaking event will be held December 8th from 9:00-12:00. This trip will include a tour of the creeks connecting Hell Peckney Bay to Matanzas Pass and the Dog Key Calusa Mound site. This event is free of charge, but is limited to volunteers and those interested in becoming a Mound House volunteer. Call 239-765-0865 for details.     

-Parke Lewis
Environmental Educator
Town of Fort Myers Beach  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mound House History - Video

Former intern Lindsay Mancuso had many versatile talents - from archaeology to multimedia. While she was working at the Mound House she produced this video on the historical history of the Mound House structure. Please take a moment to view this fantastic video and take a Walk Through Time.

Due to copyright laws, the original soundtrack has changed.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Plants in Profile #20

#20 - SEA OATS (Uniola paniculata)

This weeks plants in profile specimen does not grow here on Mound House, but without the sea oat ,there may have been no Estero Island at all . Barrier islands are formed as sandbars that build up over time and become stabilized by dune vegetation. As this vegetation holds the dunes together and prevent wind and water erosion, over time, the island expands and grows landward of the dunes. The sea oat is a beautiful plant that has a very high salt tolerance. As such, it is often the first line of defense against the erosion of storms . It is out there on the dunes where very few other species can grow. Its dense root systems hold back wave action and as the breakers roll in, the root mass coils upon itself forming a natural barricade that resembles a bundled roll of twine.
The “oats” or seeds of the sea oat are not harvested by humans, but do serve as a food source for birds and wildlife. It is unlawful to pick sea oats on public property.  

Creature Feature #20

#20 - LIGHTNING WHELK (Busycon contrarium)

One of the first things Visitors to the Mound House learn is that they are standing upon millions of shells and that the Calusa ,who once inhabited this mound, used these shells not only for food ,but for tools, weapons, jewelry and ultimately, building material. So, as we tour the underground exhibit examining  the layers of shells that constitute the mound ,or study the mural, or check out the artifacts on the display shelf, we will find the lightning whelk. Lightning whelks shells from the Gulf of Mexico have been discovered in archaeological sites as far away as the great mounds in Cahokia Illinois. Large lightning whelks were carved out into elaborate drinking gourds as part of ancient religious ceremonies conducted on these mounds by Native Americans  .
Closer to home, we find lightning whelk shells dispersed like old cans of spam  within the ancient hunting middens of the Calusa  dozens of miles from the gulf, these shells were carried by hunters to serve as a quick meal when  traveling or at camp.    

 An edible species of very large predatory sea snail, as such it has  a muscular foot to crawl on ,eye stalks and a feeding tube or proboscis. The lightning whelk has a unique sinistral or “left handed” spiral  that is not found on other whelks or conchs. A large specimen may be over 15 inches in length and be over 20 years old. The lightning whelk feeds primarily on clams and other bivalves, and smaller whelks can be found just below the low tide mark on our beaches and patrolling the bayside grass flats. As a protective measure, smaller whelks will dig into the mud leaving only the sharp pointed end of their shell protruding and protecting the breathing siphon. This sharp protrusion will puncture the foot of an like The largest of our lightning whelks prefer the bayside to the beach. Using its operculum or “door”, to wedge open a bivalve, such as a quahog  clam or cockle ,the whelk extends its proboscis into  the bivalve and devours it from the inside out.  
As the water temperature dips below 78 degrees, as it does here in November, the lightning whelk will greatly reduce its activity. Likewise, they will be much harder to find on the beaches and patrolling the shallows as they spend the winter in deep water making them much harder to find this time of year.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mound House Timeline

Historic and archaeological sites such as ours here at Mound House use timelines to give visitors a sense of “when” they are visiting. It is a common misconception among visitors and residents alike that human history here on Estero Island is relatively brief. In reality, this is a very ancient place.

Estero Island is a Barrier island. By their very nature, barrier islands form and reform, changing shape in a near constant adjustment to the unstoppable and eternal forces of nature. Like the island itself, the people who inhabit Estero Island have changed dramatically as well. In geologic terms, Estero Island is very young indeed. Our island formed only about 6,000 years ago. Emerging from the gulf after the last ice age, modern sea levels were established as we know them today.

The first people to inhabit Florida were the Paleo Indians who moved south into our state some 14,000 years ago, and going back about 4,000 years, archaic Indians with a maritime based culture  lived throughout Florida and including our region. Later, the Calusa became what archaeologists recognize as a distinct culture about 2,500 years back. Our site here at Mound House is about 2,000 years old and was essentially abandoned for over 400 years before the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon first encountered the Calusa in 1513. Abandoned even though the capital of the Calusa kingdom was a scant 3 miles away.  At that time, there were perhaps tens of thousands of Calusa living in the region and they were at the height of their culture civilization and power.

However, by 1700 Estero Island was very nearly devoid of humans until the arrival of Cuban fishermen, some of whom used Mound Key as a seasonal fishing camp or “rancho”. This in turn ended in the 1830s as federal troops evicted the Cuban fishermen. Pioneer settlers have inhabited Estero Island since the 1870s, and traffic has gotten steadily worse ever since.

12,000 BC              : Initial human presence in Florida, the paleo  Indians
2,000-1,200 BC     : Late archaic period
500 BC                  : Early Calusa period
1500 AD                : European Contact with the Calusa             
1700 AD                : End of Calusa, Florida depopulated
1921 AD                : The first bridge to Estero Island is built
2010 AD                : Mound House underground exhibit Stories Beneath our Feet opens to the public 


- submitted by Parke Lewis

Friday, November 2, 2012

Volunteer Training - Kayak Event

Volunteer Training - KAYAK EVENT

A volunteer training and kayaking trip to the Dog Key archaeological site will be depart from Mound House to tour the back country mangrove creeks and stretch our legs at the Dog Key archaeological site. The goal of the trip is to train volunteers interested in assisting with future kayak tours , to learn a little about our estuary creek system , visit the Calusa mounds at Dog Key, and if there’s any time left… have fun. Kayaks, equipment and bottled water will be provided, but please bring your own gear if you prefer. The group will be back at Mound House by 11:30 and a picnic lunch will be served on site.

Volunteers, as well as those interested in becoming a Mound House volunteer are encouraged to participate .

Please call the office to sign up, or if you have any questions.

December 8th, 2012, 9am - 12pm
Mound House
451 Connecticut Street Fort Myers, FL 33931

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mound House Volunteers

Volunteers are essential to Mound House success and operations. Please take a second to view this amazing video dedicated to our volunteers, created by former Mound House intern,
 Lindsay Mancuso.
Due to copyright laws, the original song has been changed.

Friday, October 26, 2012

How's the Fishing?

Mound House property offers many activities and tours to fill up a leisurely afternoon. We get many visitors who simply want to fish off the pier, and some of them come for multiple days at a time. The Eades family from Bristol, Tennessee, pictured below, came to Fort Myers Beach in June this year for Donna Eades father Raymond Pennington’s first visit to Florida. Raymond liked it so much that they returned for a second time this week and wound up fishing off the Mound House dock for three days.
The family managed to have some luck while fishing too – about 100 fish (between the three of them). Even ‘Chili Dog’ had a good time enjoying the weather in his jazzy doggy-stroller. Raymond, 94, enjoys fishing with his daughter and son in law on Emerald Isle in North Carolina as well, and has even appeared in the local papers back home like The Johnson City Press for his catch.

(L to R) Joe Eades, Donna Eades & Raymond Pennington
(L to R) Joe Eades, Donna Eades & Raymond Pennington

Chili Dog :-)

Trail of Florida's Indian Heritage

Parke Lewis and Brent Newman had the opportunity to attend the annual Trail of Florida Indian Heritage meeting in St Augustine FL on October 13 and 14. The Trail of Florida Indian Heritage is non-profit organization whose mission is, “To promote awareness, responsible visitation and protection of the remaining cultural sites of the original people of Florida. Interpretation will engage all levels, will be consistent and based on current science to encourage heritage tourism." Mound House is a one of the 52 sites and 20 state parks that feature Native American sites, artifacts, or information.
In addition to attending workshops on grant writing and the use of social media Parke and Brent visited four sites in St Augustine as part of the meeting. These sites included Fountain of Youth Park (open since the 1860s!), where they have an excellent presentation on the Indians and early Spanish colonists to Florida. Staff agreed they learned a huge amount there and got some ideas to improve our atlatl presentations. After the Fountain of Youth the group arrived at Mission Nombre de Dios museum, this relatively new museum covers one of the earliest missions to the Timucuan Indians. Their presentation of historic documents and hanging, printed silk screens were both impressive. The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum was also visited, we viewed some of the challenges they faced turning a historic lighthouse keeper’s home into a museum and the clever ways they utilized their space. Finally, we visited Fort Mose historic site, another new museum, we were impressed with presentation and took away many good ideas. They did an excellent job presenting the story of Fort Mose while using a limited number of artifacts.

Brent and Ponce

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Plants in Profile #19 - Blue Porterweed

#19 - BLUE PORTERWEED (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis)

There are over 120 species of plants and trees at  Mound House. This weeks’ subject is both a beautiful native plant and serves as a valuable medicinal resource in traditional medicine.
The verbena family, or “porterweeds” as they are commonly known, are present throughout the Caribbean, and in South Florida. A foaming, porter-like brew is made from the leaves of the plant and is used as a treatment for fever,as a wash for skin irritations and  even as a treatment for worms in children, because honestly, nobody likes wormy children.

There are many varieties and even hybrids of porterweed in Florida and plants are often misidentified. Here in South Florida, it is believed that our native species of porterweed, Jamaica porterweed, which is found in coastal strands and tropical hammocks, has hybridized with a similar species from the Bahamas  brought here by Bahamian settlers as medicinal plants. Here at Mound House ,the porterweed is grown not only on the native coastal hammock portion of our site, but also in the Scientific and Medicinal section of our gardens.

As an added bonus, blue porterweed is an excellent butterfly garden plant helping to make Mound House a “vacation destination” for many types of butterflies including the monarch, white sulpher, great white southern, mangrove skipper and mangrove buckeye that come to Mound House.  

Creature Feature #19 - Green Iguana

#19 - GREEN IGUANA (Iguana Iguana)

Here at  Mound House, visitors will occasionally encounter one of our non- native residents, the green iguana. Frequently found lounging in the trunks of mangroves on our canal bank  ,these vegetarians are native to the Central and South American tropics where living in dense canopy above the water is their preferred habitat. As such, our shady mangrove lined shoreline is the perfect location for these lizards. Scientists  believe that our resident population of green iguanas are the descendants of escaped and released pets and have been observed in the wild here in  Southwest Florida since the 1960s.

It is important to note that  while we do have a few resident iguanas here on Estero Island, these reptiles cannot tolerate freezes and we are at the near northern range of their territory. Outer islands such as Estero,  Cayo Costa and Gasparilla  islands are warmed by  gulf waters in the winter and rarely freeze. As such they have become home to the green iguana.
Juvenile iguanas are bright green and tend to darken into a grey or brown as they age. Larger adult males (and we have one) will have dark stripes and even turn a shade of orange during breeding season. Adult males may reach a length of nearly 5 feet. In many cultures, the  iguana is considered to be of great medicinal value. Its body fat has been found useful in the treatment of sore throats ,ear aches and arthritis. In fact, the meat of the iguana is even considered an aphrodisiac in Central and South America.

However, unlike their cousin the gecko, researchers have determined that green iguanas can neither speak in an Australian accent or sell car insurance.        

Mound House resident iguana

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mound House Promotional Video

Official Mound House Promotional Video

Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce

View Ceel Spuhler Promote the Mound House! Click the video above to view

FMB Art Association Paints the Mound!

This morning, Mound House was treated to the Fort Myers Beach Art Association. While the mound was washed in colorful sunlight, the artists washed their canvas' with different media techniques. Acrylic and Water Color renditions of various viewpoints offered an inspired aura to our regularly scheduled Mound Tours. A better day could not have been selected with cool breezes flowing and birds singing beautiful songs.

Gordon using a watercolor technique

Pauline using a watercolor technique

Penny using a acrylic technique

Bryan using an acrylic technique

Friday, September 21, 2012

Moment(s) of Zen...

...In the Wake of the Calusa!

Mound House - Calusa Blueway Festival 2012

This year, the Mound House will participate in the 2012 Calusa Blueway Festival on November 1st, 2012. We will be hosting a back bay paddle in Estero Bay, launching from the Mound House at 9am. Spaces are limited, so please call to reserve your spot today!

Prices are $30.00 per person, $15.00 with Festival Wristband, No Charge if you bring your own equipment.

Call 239-765-0865 or email to reserve your spot
 ...In the Wake of the Calusa!

Information on the 2012 Calusa Blueway Festival can be found at

Friday, September 14, 2012

Moment of Zen...

Want to Volunteer?

Volunteer at Mound House!
Mound House is an archeologically and historically significant property, where the William H. Case House, the oldest standing structure on Estero Island (Ft. Myers Beach), sits atop a 2,000 year old Calusa Indian shell mound. The site itself employs a small staff and relies extensively on its volunteers. Volunteers at Mound House bring history to life “from the ground up” through tours of our “Plants and Peoples” trail and taking visitors into our incredible underground exhibit, “Stories Beneath Our Feet.” These tours take place Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. In addition, volunteers assist with kayak tours and environmental programs, lend a hand with school groups, set up and staff special events and festivals, help in the office, provide maintenance of the grounds, and assist with a variety of other exciting projects. 
New volunteers undergo a short training program where you will get the opportunity to learn about Southwest Florida’s unique ecology and history. The training includes a few lectures and field trips to some of our cultural partners throughout the region. Previous field trips have included Manatee Park, the Museum of Southwest Florida History, and J. N. Ding Darling National Wild life Refuge. Volunteers are a vital part of Mound House.  Training is critical because the volunteer may be the only Mound House representative with whom visitors interact. It is the image of the volunteer and the tour experience that visitors take away with them. Volunteers are truly the ambassadors of Mound House to the visiting public. Volunteering offers a great way to expand your horizons, meet new friends, and improve your health. So if you are friendly, enthusiastic, and reliable help put a smiling face on Mound House and the Town of Fort Myers Beach for our many diverse visitors every year by contacting Brent Newman, Education Coordinator,, or (239) 765-0865.

Volunteer Jobs currently offered:

Green Team
Office Help
Docent/Tour Guide

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Underground Exhibit Unveils New Custom Mural

Stories Beneath Our Feet
– Underground Exhibit Unveils New Custom Mural

The Mound House on Fort Myers Beach is offering guided tours of the newly renovated underground exhibit – Stories Beneath Our Feet. The exhibit has been undergoing numerous changes in the last few months and the Town of Fort Myers Beach would like to share them with the public.

The improvements began with construction of a new wall along the north and east side of the exhibit. The east side was fitted with a door for authorized access to the exhibit. Then, the new wall was primed and prepared for a 44’ long, custom Calusa Indian Mural – a true sight to behold. The mural depicts a peaceful and serene scene from what artists believe life was like for the Calusa Indians who lived on the Mound House property over 1,000 years ago. Funding for completion of this project was generously given to the Mound House by the Florida Humanities Council.

Other improvements to the exhibit include the staining and coloring of the concrete floor turning it into a warm tan and terra cotta. This treatment on the floor compels visitors further into the space, which suddenly now feels more warm and inviting. The color chosen for the floor complements the raw exposed surface of the Mound’s layers of stratification.

Please stop by Mound House for your chance to see the improvements. Tours are offered every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 9:00am – 12:00pm with the last tour leaving the picnic tables at 11:30am.

For more information about Mound House, please visit

Golden Silk Orb Weaver Spider

The GOLDEN SILK ORB WEAVER also commonly known as the ‘banana spider’ in Florida are common throughout warmer regions around the globe. Here on Estero Island, they can be found working on their intricate webs spanning them between trees and shrubs to capture insects. The photos shown in our blog were collected right here at Mound House. Note the complex web and the zig zag pattern within the web which gives this spider its other common name “writing spider.” The web of a banana spider can reach 3 feet or more across. Typically, these spiders weave a non-sticky outer spiral with in between spirals sticky spirals to capture prey. Interestingly, some webs are built with a haphazard network of guard strands that may hold plant detritus or insect carcasses. Scientist believe that these strands serve to alert birds of the presence of the web and avoid flying into and destroying the web.

The venom of the banana spider is potent but non- lethal to humans. The bite causes local pain, redness and blisters… so avoid them.    

Monday, September 10, 2012

Plants in Profile #18

Plants in Profile #18 - GOLDENROD (Solidago sp.)

There are three species of goldenrod growing around the Mound House property. These include the giant goldenrod, seaside goldenrod and slender goldenrod. These species of solidago all have become well adapted to surviving on the shell mound that comprises Mound House with the giant goldenrod often reaching heights of 12 feet or more. In the fall ,their vivid, bright yellow flowers decorate the road around the site and on the meadow.

Goldenrod is often blamed for causing hay fever and this is inaccurate. Historically, goldenrod has been used for making tea to treat kidney stones, and was chewed by native Americans to treat sore throats .Goldenrod produces a spicy tasting honey. Looking for a domestic source of high quality, inventor Thomas Edison utilized goldenrod to produce rubber, and the tires on the Model T given to him by Henry Ford were made of goldenrod. While producing a very high quality product ,this production was soon supplanted by the invention of synthetic rubber from petroleum products.       

Creature Feature #18

Creature Feature #18 - AMERICAN WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

Visitors to the Mound House frequently encounter flocks of white ibis wading the rocky shoreline, perched in the mangroves or patrolling our freshly mowed lawn in search of grubs and insects.
A very distinctive wading bird, the white ibis sports a long curving orange bill, orange legs and brilliant white plumage with black wingtips when mature. Younger white ibis are a brownish white.
The American white ibis can be found throughout the Gulf and South Atlantic coastal regions of the United States ,Mexico and Central America as well as the Caribbean. They are found in a variety of habitats from muddy pools to mangrove swamps, mudflats, cypress forests and even the manicured lawns here on Estero Island.

Feeding primarily on small fish, crabs and crayfish as well as insects, the white ibis readily adapts its feeding behavior to match availability. During the breeding season, ibis gather in large flocks. They are territorial and defend their nests against intruders with elaborate displays of bill snapping ,lunging and biting.

Sometimes, the American white ibis can be found foraging in mixed species flocks that include the glossy ibis, the scarlet ibis and even wood storks. Many of the white ibis observed on Estero Island will move inland to the coastal marshes as waters recede with the onset of the dry season. These lowered water levels concentrate forage species such as minnows and crayfish into much smaller areas making feeding easier for the ibis.

Native American folklore holds that the white ibis is the last bird to seek shelter before a hurricane and the first to emerge after the storm, making the ibis a first a harbinger of danger and later optimism as the “all clear” sign that the hurricane has passed. Fittingly, the white ibis is also the mascot of the Miami Hurricanes.         

Friday, August 17, 2012

Moment of Zen...

Creature Feature #17

# 17 - THE MANGROVE TREE CRAB (Aratus pisonii)

There is an impressive array of wildlife living on the Mound House site. Some on land, some in the surrounding waters, and some perfectly at home in either environment, such as this weeks’ subject : THE MANGROVE TREE CRAB

The mangrove tree crab makes its home among the roots and branches of the mangroves that line our shore here at Mound House. They can be seen crawling high up into the top limbs or even crossing the road on occasion, making their way home after a long evening or on the way out to dinner. Thriving on a diet of plant and animal material including mangrove leaves, seagrasses, worms and small crustaceans, the mangrove tree crab is perfectly adapted to is unusual environment where it lives both in the water and on land. This makes the mangrove tree crab an important link in the conversion of plant biomass into zooplankton, which serves as component to the base of the estuarine food chain. Though extremely fast and able to scamper out of the way of most visitors, mangrove tree crabs are small and seldom exceed the size of a quarter.         
Predation is tough on the mangrove tree crab. As larvae, they are preyed upon by a variety of other zooplankton, filter feeders like barnacles, hydroids and anemones. As adults, larger fish ,wading birds and even other crabs target this species.    

Plants in Profile #17

#17 - FIG TREE (Ficus spp.)

A native of western Asia, figs have been cultivated for over 5,000 years in the Mediterranean. The fig tree has long been an important, highly valued, vital food crop and its cultivation spread rapidly with civilization. The early Greeks so highly prized figs that in the Olympics, winning athletes were crowned with fig wreaths. Now grown throughout the world, the fig tree was first introduced to Florida in the early 1500s by Spanish explorers. As far back as 1520, colonists in Cuba were only allowed one fig tree per household so as to prevent competition with growers back in Spain (Validez 1526). As a ficus, the fig tree is cousin to our native strangler figs, including the giant strangler fig you will find standing next to Mound House. Out in the backyard, our edible fig tree is among the numerous fruit trees which are part of the historic gardens at Mound House. This garden includes the many of  the fruits and vegetables which could be found in a 1920s era garden on the Beach, and like the old days, are frequently stolen by visitors and neighbors alike.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Congratulations to Mayor Kiker!

The preliminary news for the county commision seat for district 2 is in - Fort Myers Beach's Mayor Larry Kiker beat out Ray Judah in the Republican Primary election on August 14th, 2012. For more details on the story, please read the article from the Fort Myers Beach Observer, found below:

"Kiker captures Dist. 3 County commission primary"

August 14, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer
There will be a new County commissioner in the District 3 seat for the first time in 24 years.

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Larry Kiker unofficially defeated incumbent Ray Judah in the Republican primary election Tuesday evening and will face San Carlos Island resident Charlie Whitehead, of no party affiliation, in the general election on Nov. 6.

Kiker beat Judah by a 36,614 to 20,658 vote margin by gaining 63.93 percent of the vote. The results will become certified and official on Friday at 9 a.m.

Article Photos


Beach Mayor Larry Kiker is all smiles with wife, Paula, after hearing the news of victory over incumbent Ray Judah in the Republican primary election for County Commission Dist. 3 seat.
"I'd be lying to you if I couldn't tell you this is not exciting. This is probably one of the most exciting things that has happened to me since I have been in political office," said Kiker, who held an election party in the Island View Restaurant on top of Lani Kai.

Judah has been in office since 1988. Did Kiker see himself as an underdog in this race?

"I am not looking at it that way," he said. "People said they wanted new leadership, and I hope I represent that to them. We started from the very beginning that we needed a new face and a new attitude. That's exactly what I will bring to the board if elected in November."

Kiker stated he looks forward to meeting with Whitehead in the next three months. He was swamped by "150 of his closest friends" Tuesday evening.

"My expectation is that this election is not over yet," he said. "I will be working harder than I did before."

At age 60, Kiker brings more than 30 years of business experience along with political prowess to the commission. He has been mayor of the Beach for the past five years, but will focus on a "businesslike approach to government" at the county level if elected in November. By that, he plans to pay close attention to the budget crisis and what he calls overspending at the County level.

"Our message has been clear. We need to stop spending more money than what we have. We need to bring tourism back to basics. We need to start helping local existing businesses. And, we need to get people back to work."

Before the night's final tallies, the first set of results featured early voting and ballots-by-mail numbers. Kiker led that category with 6,000 votes or 62.91 percent of the vote, while Judah trailed with 3,538 votes or 37.09 percent.

In the other two county commission races, Cecil Pendergrass collected 17,067 votes or 31.34 percent of the vote to win a somewhat tight race in the Republican primary in District 2 over Doug St. Cerny (13,837 votes), Don Stilwell (13,144 votes) and Warren Wright (10,405 votes). The seat is being vacated by Brian Bigelow, who lost to Linda Doggett by a 38,796-17,092 count in the Republican Primary race for Clerk of Circuit Court. Pendergrass will face write-in candidate Neal Moore and independent John W. Sawyer in the Dist. 2 November election.

In the Dist. 5 Republican primary, incumbent Frank Mann received 34,802 votes or 63.21 percent of the vote to defeat Sonny Haas and get one step closer to gaining a third term as commissioner. He will take on Independence Party of Florida candidate Matt Miller in November.

In the Republican primary race for Lee County Sheriff, incumbent Mike Scott beat Tim Fisher by a 43,970 to 15,576 voting margin.

Of the combined 125 county precincts, a total of 80,601 ballots were cast out of 375,727 registered voters for a 21.45 percent voter turnout. Of them, 60,560 were Republican, 14,349 were Democrat and 5,692 were Nonpartisan.

A total of 12,839 ballots were cast in early voting. Of them, 9,962 were Republican (77.59%), 2,259 were Democrat (17.59%) and 618 were Nonpartisan (4.81%).

Friday, August 10, 2012

Moment of Zen

Creature Feature #16


Slow moving, thick shelled and armed with enormous claws that can exert a force of over 19,000 pounds per square inch, the stone crabs which inhabit the rocky shoreline of  Mound House are a remarkable testimony to millions of years of evolution. They are adapted to life on the sea floor with juveniles and young adults living in the estuaries and larger adults moving offshore to burrow in the the deeper grass flats or to inhabit  rocky limestone ledges. They are well camouflaged with a mud colored carapace and sandy underside. Feeding on carrion and even seaweed if need be, the powerful stone crab prefers using its claws to break into shells of clams, oysters, conchs ,whelks and other marine mollusks.  

On the other hand, stone crabs are a celebrated Florida delicacy and, in season, their delicious powerful claws can be  found served  with melted butter and a side salad at your favorite  seafood restaurant.

Stone crabs are harvested by commercial trappers ,recreational trappers and even divers  from October until May. Remarkably, the stone crab is a renewable resource. By law, only the claws may be taken, and the crab is released alive back into the water where it will regenerate new claws within a year.    


Plants in Profile #16

There are over 120 different species of plants and trees on the Mound House property. These specimens represent not only native Florida vegetation, such as those found in mangrove fringes, coastal hammocks and shell mound habitats, but also plants cultivated by the Calusa, Spanish  colonials and American settlers as part of early Estero Island agriculture. Species of scientific and cultural importance from around the world are also found here and are included in the “Plants and People” tour here at Mound House.



There are now over 120 species of plants at Mound House. The latest addition is a native of Florida and can be found growing in our garden containers right in back of the Mound House.  As you may know, the garden portion of our site exhibits some of the numerous varieties of fruits that would commonly be found growing in the backyard of 1920s Estero Island home.

True to its name, the Seminole thorny blackberry is an aggressively thorny variety. Sharp thorns are found along the stems and mid rib of the leaves. Blackberries are also one among the various species of brambles that have been used throughout the United States and Europe for hundreds of years as an effective natural barrier around homes or gardens to keep out marauders.

Blackberries are delicious and have one of the highest levels of antioxidants found in fruits . Antioxidants are natural substances that slow the aging process. In addition, blackberries are used in herbal remedies to treat stomach ailments, sore throat, and even dysentery. The ancient Greeks even used blackberries as a treatment for gout.

Blackberries are also an important food source for wildlife including deer ,bears and songbirds. 


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

FHC Board Member Visit

FHC Board Member Andy Maass visited Mound House to tour the facility and get a first hand look at the underground exhibit and long time volunteer Ceel Spuhler gave the most wonderful tour. Please see images below.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Unity - Post-Teed

Mound House staff and volunteers had the opportunity to visit Koreshan State Historic Site on May 17, 2012 where we had the opportunity to learn more about the unusual religious organization that developed in Estero, FL as the nineteenth century closed. This multi-part series follows the Unity following the death of its charismatic leader, Cyrus Teed.
Disillusionment immediately took a toll on the Unity. Younger members began to leave and, dividing into factions, a power struggle ensued as to who would succeed Koresh as head of the Unity. Several groups split off from the Unity. One such group was the Order of Theocracy that left in 1910 and moved to nearby Ft. Myers. This group lasted until 1931. Surprisingly, the persistent faith of about three-dozen members sustained the community for the next 30 years. The Koreshan Unity continued to be productive however, from 1916 until 1946, they generated their own electricity to power the community and sold it as well to homes in the surrounding area. The fact the Unity was celibate did not help, even though there was a married status within the Unity. Celibates were the highest order. Without new members joining, the group slowly dwindled. It continued to publish the Flaming Sword until the printing press burned down in 1949. It also published the American Eagle, which began in 1906 and later became a horticultural newspaper.
By 1940, 35 elderly members remained. It was at this time that a Jewish woman named Hedwig Michel, having just fled Nazi Germany, arrived at the Unity. She had learned of the organization while living in Germany. Over the next two years, Michel proceeded to reorganize the Koreshan General Store, adding a restaurant, a Western Union office, and, across the street, a gas station. The Unity experienced a momentary renewal, but, with only four members left by 1960, Michel offered the 300-acre “utopia” to the State of Florida.
Sometimes referred to as “The Last Koreshan,” Michel has been called a fussy and hard-nosed businesswoman who took over a failing ideological community and rekindled its elderly and faltering membership. Michel became head of the Koreshan Unity, the corporate arm of the settlement, in 1960, and hoarded the community’s possessions and land until she died in 1982. Considered by many to be a shrewd opportunist, Michel lived a life of luxury on the Koreshan grounds, driving a new Cadillac and traveling to Europe each year while many of the elderly Koreshans complained they didn’t have the bare necessities.
Mound House volunteer Bill Grace’s great-grandparents, John and Mary Grier, were part of the original Chicago Koreshans who came to live on the banks of the Estero River near the turn of the 20th century. “They considered her to be an interloper,” Grace said. “And they considered Vesta (Newcomb) to be the last surviving Koreshan.” The settlement flourished in its early days, bringing electricity and modern printing presses to a remote and relatively unsettled Southwest Florida.
Unlike the majority of Koreshans who lived at the compound in the 1960s, Michel was an outsider who forced her way into the leadership role. After securing her place as the legal figurehead, Michel later deeded more than 300 acres to the state in return for a life estate within the settlement and tax-free status. There are countless stories documented in books, newspapers and verbal tales of Michel abandoning the settlement during storms and spending money on her personal comforts rather than food and utilities for elderly Koreshan members. “She got a majority vote on the (Koreshan) board and (Koreshan Allen) Andrews filed a lawsuit against her for converting Unity assets to herself,” said Grace, himself a Fort Myers attorney. The lawsuit eventually was dismissed and Michel became an autocrat in a settlement that was founded on communal beliefs and equality among all people and races.
Evelyn Horne worked for Michel from the time she took over the Unity until Michel’s death in 1982. Over the years, Horne developed a loyalty to Michel that’s still evident when she talks about the fallen Koreshan leader today. Even though Michel ruled with strict guidelines and took little input from outsiders, Horne considers her to be a saving grace. “She really brought the Unity out of debt when we were really in the hole,” Horne said. Still, Horne doesn’t subscribe to “The Last Koreshan” title either. Like Grace and many historians, Horne says Newcomb was the real last Koreshan. After Hedwig gave custody of the land to the state, the Koreshan State Park (now known as the Koreshan State Historic Site) opened in 1967. Hedwig Michel was allowed to continue to living in the opulent building known as the "Planetary Court" until her death in 1981. Horne’s deceased husband, George Horne, buried Michel on a plot in the middle of the Koreshan State Historic Site’s garden. “The water was knee-deep where the (original) cemetery was when Hedwig died, and George couldn’t get down there to bury her,” Horne said. “So we got permission from the state to bury her in the garden.” Her grave is fenced off and marked with a descriptive stone.
Grace, one of Michel’s biggest detractors, said Michel doesn’t deserve to rest in the center of the Koreshan settlement. “I think it’s most inappropriate, especially when you consider how she let the other cemeteries go,” Grace said. There are two Koreshan cemeteries still in existence. Neither burial ground was well kept under Michel’s tenure; and today the grave sites are in risk of being lost to decay.
While many had vastly differing views of the last leader of the Koreshans, it can be agreed she took dictatorial control of the religious group and used it for her own advantage. Her greatest work, which self-servingly allowed her to live expense and tax free until her death, may have been the donation of Koreshan land to the state of Florida forming the Koreshan State Historic Site where visitors fish, picnic, boat, hike, and learn from park rangers about this unique utopian religious community along the scenic banks of the Estero River. 
The settlement became the Koreshan Unity Settlement Historic District when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Eleven of the community’s buildings now remain within Koreshan State Historic Site, a unit of the Florida Park Service, and house a collection of approximately 5,000 artifacts. Half of the collection is state property and is fully cataloged. The other 2,500 objects were conveyed to the State of Florida by the College of Life Foundation, the nonprofit corporate successor of the Koreshan Unity. Today, visitors can fish, picnic, boat, and hike where Teed´s visionaries once carried out survey experiments to prove the horizon on the beaches of Collier County curves upward. A boat ramp and canoe rentals are available. Visitors can take self-guided tours of the settlement or a ranger-guided tour.