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Moxy Heritage- The History of Sacred Lands



 

Photo Above- A memorial and tender message to Frances rests upon the Indian midden at Sacred Lands. 

 

Happy and Frances
A Love Story Between Two People and the Sacred Land They Called Home
By:  Jean Harper

 

Enter, leaving behind the noise of busy traffic at the onset of a long driveway, and you are soon overcome with an aura of love and peace that hangs over this place. You may have trouble finding this Shangri-La-like, earthly paradise, called Sacred Lands.  Unlike all of the other private, gated entrances, that line the waterfront homes on Park Street, in the area called the Jungle neighborhood, this special piece of land has been nearly preserved since the days when it was a Tocobagan Indian Village.  Only a small mailbox at 1620 Park Street  (address is 1700 for the public entrance) confirms you are there.  An opening through the lush greenery leads to a private residence and a piece of Florida land that is rich in history. Along the way you will notice many colorful peacocks that give way to your visit.

Once upon a time, in 1925, during a summer vacation from MIT, Harold Anderson worked for a farmer near Cornell University in New York.  When Harold, nicknamed- Happy, met Frances Marshall, the farmer's daughter, it was love at first sight.  Frances was a beautiful girl, just 14, who had been stricken with polio at the age of 11 and left paralyzed. However this did not affect Happy Anderson's desire to marry her.  After asking her father for her hand, he was told that he would need to wait until she was old enough.  Wait, he did, and 6 years later they were married.  The couple married in 1931 and later moved to St. Petersburg, Florida and picked a place to build their home and raise a family. 

When Happy was just four years of age, his father, Theodore, an early builder in St. Petersburg, brought him out to Park Street by streetcar, to where the tracks ended.  Jungle Prada, one of the earliest shopping centers in the Southeast, was built there and passengers could connect with a ferry to the white, sandy beaches now called Treasure Island.  Happy fell in love with the area and dreamed of someday living there.  After marrying Frances he brought her to this, still wild place and they agreed to build their life there.  They built their home in 1954. On the first trip to their future home, Frances broke a wheel from her wheelchair. As part of the  building process Happy built trails from recycled bricks throughout the 3 acre property so that her wheelchair could traverse easily and she could tend her gardens.  Both Happy and Frances were avid and expert gardeners but they wanted to maintain the grounds as natural and wild as possible.  When something died on the property such as a palm tree or a limb, they let it lie naturally.  They never planted a lawn and the lower level of their garden being at sea level, they planted salt water tolerant plants that could survive the flooding bay waters. 

The couple later opened their gardens to the public and people from all over visited and were given more than just a tour of gardens.  The gardens and home of the Andersons is the site of an ancient, Tocobagan Indian Village and the site that the first white men launched their explorations of Florida.  An Indian shell or midden mound was preserved by the couple and only 7 trees were disturbed in building their home.

Frances Anderson, a Moxy woman, lived a full life, although confined to a wheelchair, she birthed four children and played an active part in the upkeep of the gardens.  She was a renowned horticulturalist.  Happy was a builder of homes and began Anderson's lumber company where Frances also worked as the secretary-treasurer for 20 years. The couple remained devoted to one another throughout their lives and Happy proclaimed to Frances, recalls their son-Erik, that he would outlive her so that he would always be there to take care of her.  He kept his promise, Frances passed away on Valentine's Day,  1988 and Harold lived on to the age of 92, passing away in 1997 at his home.

Another love story that parallels Frances and Happy's is the story of the first peacock and peahen to join the Anderson's in paradise.  Gertrude and Heathcliff, named by the couple,  appeared one Sunday morning.  Heathcliff arrived with one injured wing.  The couple began to feed them and the birds decided to make this place their new home.  The story goes that Heathcliff was a very vain bird and quite proud of his beauty- spreading his beautiful fan of feathers for those who would admire him.  Soon after Gertrude would have a brood trailing behind her and Heathcliff proved to be quite the father. He protected his family and cared for the young ones.  When the babies were old enough the Andersons would give them away to friends.  Gertrude would go into hiding and was heard moaning and wailing.  One morning early, terrifying sounds erupted and when the Andersons rushed to see what was happening,  they found Gertrude, lifeless, having been mauled by four large dogs.  Heathcliff was injured, his beautiful train of feathers pulled out.  Heathcliff disappeared for three days before making his presence known again.  He remained on the roof of their home for 3 months and the Andersons climbed a ladder, each day, to provide him with water and food.  It took six months for the feathers to grow back and Heathcliff's train became as beautiful as it had ever been.  He went on to find a new mate and today there are many peacocks and peahens roaming the grounds of Sacred Lands.

 

 

Photo above- Peacocks- best known for the male's extravagant tail which it displays in courting the female.

Happy and Frances Anderson lived their lives with great respect for the land and the creatures that co-existed with them.  In their time, considered unusual, they didn't require trash pickup.  They ate fresh fruit and vegetables, had their own herb garden, practiced recycling and natural decomposition techniques- therefore they had no trash.  Frances fought with the city, early on,  refusing to pay a trash bill, and won.  Today they would be considered poster children for conservation of the earth and its natural resources.

Erik, the son of Happy and Frances, now owns Sacred Lands and continues the legacy of his parents to preserve this small piece of precious history.  Just as his parents before, Erik with his wife, Doris continue with many of the practices started by Happy and Frances.  Today, Sacred Lands Preservation and Education, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving land that has historical and archeological significance.  Happy and Frances Anderson bought the property in the 1940's and  hosted many activities over the years.  Erik and Doris currently host Native American sweat lodges, peace meditation circles as well as art, music and workshop events. 

To learn more you can visit- SacredLands.info

Interview video below with Erik Anderson- Son of Frances and Happy

 

Frances and Harold Anderson were featured countless times in the decades following the purchase of the now- Sacred Lands  property back in 1954. The innumerable newspaper articles report on  their park-like gardens, ancient trees, Indian mounds, variety of plants as well as  their pioneering spirit.

 

Photo Above- clipping from the St. Petersburg Times article by Barbara Hansen- July 1, 1979- A Jungle in the City.

 

 

 

Photos above- Sacred Lands sign at the side entrance to the property at 1700 Park Street- and marker declaring the site as that of an ancient Indian village.

 

Photo Above- hangs on the wall at the home of Erik Anderson- given by the Central Gulf Coast Archeaoligical Society.

 

Photo Above- sculpture donated to Sacred Lands, one of many items of artwork that add to the ambiance.

 

Details on the Upcoming Event- "Igniting the Fire Within" to be held on Sacred Lands, May 15, 2010.

 



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