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

Friday, April 26, 2013

Plants in Profile #24 - Society Garlic

SOCIETY GARLIC (Tulbaghia violacea)

This attractive and useful plant can be found in the scientific and medicinal gardens at Mound House. It comes to us from South Africa. A favorite food and medicine of the Zulu, society garlic was cultivated by Dutch colonists as far back as the 1600’s. The genus name “Tulbaghia” is in honor of Ryk Tulbagh, a governor of the Cape of Good Hope back in the 1700s. “Violacea” comes from the violet like blossom. From the Dutch colonists of South Africa, society garlic found its way into the Dutch possessions of the Caribbean and ultimately, here to Florida. The flowers and leaves are eaten raw or added to salads and other dishes. The bulbs are primarily used for medicinal purposes such as treating intestinal, stomach disorders, and joint pain. The name “society garlic” comes from the Dutch practice of serving this less potent and more polite variety of garlic at social functions!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


            In 2009, I was living in Chicago when my cousin Jimmy died in Kansas City.  His funeral luncheon was at his sister’s house. His brother Bob had been house sitting for some friends in Kansas City who had just returned from a Florida vacation. They gave Bob a gorgeous Florida avocado, large, shiny bright and smooth skinned. When Bob brought that sunny avocado to the luncheon, it was agreed by all to be the best avocado any of us remembered tasting. I asked if I could have the pit to attempt to grow it.

            While I have attempted to grow many avocados, they have never survived a harsh Chicago winter even when they are brought indoors. Nevertheless, I figured I would try if for no other reason than it is a handsome plant with its' coppery leaves when it is happy. To my surprise, the pit sprouted not one, but two strong shoots! I began reporting its progress with pictures to all my cousins in Kansas City. But winter was coming! What to do!? A friend told me of a nursery about 45 miles west of Chicago where they would overwinter houseplants or patio plants of fragile nature for a nominal charge. So, off to the Spa went Jimmy's avocado!

            The next Spring when I went to retrieve Jimmy's avocado, I could not believe how well it had done! Pictures of its progress continued to be sent to Kansas. But when I picked it up in the Spring of 2012, I knew I would never get it back to the nursery and home again at the rate it was growing.

Jimmy's avocado's new home

            At the same time, I began making plans to spend the cold half of the Chicago year in Florida where my brother lived. If Jimmy’s avocado could thrive by being reprieved of the bitter, dry winter, I should pay attention and consider following its example! So in the Fall of 2012 I packed up everything AND Jimmy's avocado and drove down to Fort Myers Beach. We were intrepid travelers and arrived safe and sound where my brother has hosted Jimmy's avocado on his pool deck until I could find a suitable place for this prodigal pear.

            A perfect spot became evident at the historical, cultural, ethnobotanical site on Fort Myers Beach, the Mound House. Earliest archeological evidence showed the mighty Calusa Indians inhabited and built a shell mound on this site starting 2000 years ago where they thrived. They were gone by the 1800s, victims of warfare and diseases, but many of their resources were utilized by the early white settlers. The Mound house is the oldest structure on Fort Myers Beach and is in the process of being restored to its 1920s glory. Already the plants that people have relied on for centuries here are once again thriving. Papaya, mango, banana, avocado, pineapple, coconut, cabbage palm, orange and grapefruit trees all blossom there.

            Jimmy's avocado is starting a new life back in its homeland and besides beautifying the yard, it will provide a graphic learning experience to the visitors and schoolchildren who visit the Mound House. Thank you, Jimmy!
Jimmy's avocado with the Case House in the background

Monday, April 15, 2013


 Visitors to the Mound House are offered an opportunity to learn about the Calusa culture and those who built and lived on this site so long ago. As a distinct culture, the Calusa are described as a having a well-organized and stratified society who traded extensively and collected tribute from tribes from as far away as the east coast of Florida and the Kissimmee River basin. One of the groups with whom the Calusa interacted, traded with, and collected tribute from, were their neighbors to the east, known by archaeologists as the “Belle Glade People.” Like the Calusa to the west, these folks were also mound builders. Belle Glade people shared many of the same technologies and cultural structures as the Calusa, but are given a distinct identity based on historical accounts and archaeological evidence.

 While the Calusa lived primarily along the coast of Florida, from Charlotte Harbor to the 10,000 Islands, are known as the “Shell People,” the Glades Indians might be considered their “Freshwater” neighbors. The forests, hammocks, swamps, and ponds of the south Florida interior were, and still are, rich in fish and wildlife. The Belle Glade people harvested, ate, and utilized most everything, including alligators, frogs, turtles, and snakes. They fished for largemouth bass, catfish, bream, and garfish. They hunted deer, turkeys, bears, ducks, wading birds, and numerous small mammals such as raccoons, opossums and rabbits. As noted above, the Glades People were mound builders. However, their mounds were constructed of earth and sand rather than shell. In addition, unlike the Calusa, there is some evidence that the Glades people may have grown crops, including maize.

 The most notable of the Belle Glade archaeological sites is Fort Center, in Glades County. Here archaeologists have discovered extensive earthworks and a series of circular canal systems. Bundles of human remains and beautiful, intricate, wooden carvings of wildlife including birds, cats, bears foxes and eagles have been uncovered.  Centuries later, a cabbage palm palisade, Fort Center, was constructed by the United States army during the Third Seminole War in 1855.

 Today you can visit the Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area and enjoy the beautiful area the Belle Glades people once occupied. Visitors can fish, hunt, bike, canoe, and camp while taking in the natural splendor.    

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Salute to Bill Grace

Please help us in honoring our outstanding volunteer Bill Grace. Bill has been involved with Mound House even before it was Mound House! He is also the great grandson of William and Milia Case who began the construction of the historic house on our property (the Case House) back in 1906.

We ask you to help us by logging on to the Salute to Senior Service website:
searching for "William Grace" and voting for him starting on April 15. So when you finish your taxes, cruise on over and give Bill a vote. But, you're not done yet! You can vote for Bill each and every day from April 15 to April 30. Not only will this reward Bill for his incredible efforts on the part of Mound House and many other organizations throughout Southwest Florida, but it has the opportunity to reward Mound House with funds to help us to continue performing quality public programming. Also, we encourage you to leave testimonials attesting to Bill's great service, I know we are always impressed by his willingness to fight through beach traffic to reach us!

Below we have reproduced Bill's nomination and don't worry we will remind you to vote as we get closer!

Bill Grace, a board member for Lee Trust for Historic Preservation, was alerted that the Mound House property was up for sale and the historic home was threatened with demolition in 1995. With his help the Town of Fort Myers Beach acquired the Mound House property, containing the oldest standing home on the beach, started in 1906 and called the Case House, which was built atop a 2,000 year old Calusa shell mound. A portion of the mound has since been excavated to create an underground exhibit, enabling visitors to see the strata, or layers, of shell that were built up by the Calusa over hundreds of years. Bill was instrumental in developing the plan for the exhibit and the Case House, which is now in the process of being renovated into a museum space and educational facility.
Bill is the great-grandson of William and Milia Case who began the construction of the Case House. He has been an amazing asset in educating the volunteers and docents about the families who have lived at the site. He continues to help with volunteer education as well as leading weekly tours of the site. Bill is also writing the application for Mound House to be designated on the National Register of Historic Places, a very prestigious honor. As the Historic Advisor for the Town of Fort Myers Beach's Cultural and Environmental Learning Center Advisory Board, he has given vital advice and insight into the value of preservation and the procedure needed to restore the historical integrity of the building.
He is also a founding and current member of the Friends of the Koreshan State Historical Site, another amazing treasure in our community. The Lee Trust for Historical Preservation is another organization that relies on Bill. The Lee Trust searches out important and historic sites worthy of preservation in the City of Fort Myers as well as the greater Lee County area. His presence on the board and service to this organization has been of great importance.
Bill feels that the preservation of our history, both in written form and the physical structures, is important; knowledge of the past affects what we do today and what we will do in the future. Bills invaluable work in preserving our past in today's fast paced, forward looking society deserves all the accolades we can give him and we hope you join us in recognizing all his incredible efforts.