Mound House Grand Opening November 14th
The much-anticipated Grand Opening of the Mound House will take place this Saturday, November 14, 2015. Fort Myers Beach residents, visitors and anyone with even a casual interest in area history or architecture are all invited to attend this all-day celebration at Estero Island’s oldest standing structure perched atop an ancient Indian Shell Mound. There are nine special presentations planned from 9am-4pm in addition to self-guided tours through the museum, special exhibits, interactive displays and gift shop.
There’s much more than the museum to see too. Stroll the pet-friendly grounds, visit the observation pier, watch kayaks launch to enjoy the Calusa Blueway Kayak Trail, visit the underground Shell Mound exhibit and notice the landscaping-worth a visit all by itself – it’s a collection of plants used by area residents over the centuries of habitation on this spot.
Saturday’s Open House will be free for all. Park at the Beach Baptist Church on the corner of Connecticut and Estero Blvd. Shuttles will be available to bring you to the Mound House.
Museum Director Alison Giesen and her staff is ready to welcome the community to this island treasure.
“The Mound House, known as the jewel of the Island, is a unique archaeological and historical site on Fort Myers Beach located directly on Estero Bay,” she said. “The historic William H. Case House has recently been restored to its 1921 grandeur and will open November 14th 2015 with new exhibits “Ancient People,” “Settlers on the Shells” and the “Digging Deeper Exploration Gallery.”
Mound House History
The Mound House sits on a Calusa Indian Mound, or at least the remnants of one. The original was begun about 100 BC, with most of the area mounds built between 300-600 AD. While the original mound in that location was at one time quite large, it was whittled away by excavations and development. Some say that parts of the mound were carted away and became part of the base material for the Tamiami Trail.
Remaining is the bay front property at the end of Connecticut Street on which sits the Mound House. The elevated site was an attractive home site to those who followed the Calusa to our island. The Ellis Family settled there in about 1870 and in 1906 William and Milia Case built a Tudor style home on the shell mound, adding on three years later. Those structures remain a part of the existing building. Then in 1921, Captain Jack DeLysle, owner and operator of the Seminole Sands Casino, located at the Gulf end of Connecticut, expanded the home. It is this era that is reflected in the current renovation.
The Town of Fort Myers Beach purchased the property in 2000, using funds from the Florida Communities Trust. Since that time, the site has been steadily improved as the Town of Fort Myers Beach has authorized a variety or improvement projects designed to meet the site’s educational mission. These included the construction of a kayak landing area that connects visitors to the Great Calusa Blueway Kayak Trail in Estero Bay, the Shell Mound Exhibit where visitors have the opportunity to walk inside a Calusa Indian Mound, and the addition of landscaping and signage to the grounds so visitors can learn how the native flora and fauna was used by early residents.
Most recently, Giesen and her team have spent countless hours painstakingly restoring the Case home to the way it was nearly 100 years ago.
Giesen and Emily Powlen, Project Manager with SEARCH (Southeastern Archeological Research) have utilized the expertise of many experts in the development of the museum – crafting museum displays, panels and interactive exhibits. The panel art is done by Martin Pate, whose work has appeared in National Parks for over 20 years. The botanical art gracing the interpretive signs on the grounds is the work of native Floridian Megan Kissinger – whose work will also appear in the museum’s store, where every item has been carefully handpicked by Giesen based on historical accuracy, uniqueness and educational value.
Giesen is grateful for the community support of the project.
“I can’t thank our volunteers and the community enough,” Giesen said. “They are so passionate and so excited about the museum. I’m thrilled to be part of a wonderful organization and couldn’t ask for better support! We couldn’t do what we do without them.”
The Mound House Museum, Shell Mound Exhibit and grounds will be available to the public during the long-awaited Grand Opening on November 14th, when the entire property will be open from 9am until 4pm.
“Special programs will be offered throughout the day,” Giesen said. “Tour the restored 1921 William H. Case house and experience the new exhibits, Ancient People, Settlers on the Shells and the Digging Deeper Exploration Gallery.”
Following the Grand Opening, the Mound House museum will be open each Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 9am-4pm through the end of the year. Expanded hours are expected to begin in January.
Tickets to the Mound House museum after the Saturday Grand Opening will be $10 for ages 13 and up; $5 for ages 6-12, with ages 5 and under free. Tickets for Fort Myers Beach residents are 50% off with proof of residence (license, utility or tax bill).
The Ticket Office and Museum Entrance is located in the Museum Store. Parking is at Beach Baptist Church at the corner of Estero Blvd. and Connecticut Street. Shuttle available. Call 239-765-0865 or visit the website at www.moundhouse.org for more information.
Keri Hendry Weeg & Missy Layfield
Mound House Grand Opening – Schedule of Events
9:00am-12:00pm Wood Carving Demos by Caloosa Carvers (Back Patio Tent)
9:30am-10:30am Meet the Artist-Martin Tate (Back Patio Tent)
10:00am-Noon Meet an Archeologist – SEARCH, Inc (Back Patio Tent)
10:30-11:00am Settlers Stories (Settlers on the Shells Exhibit)
11:00am-Noon Native American Medicinal Plants, Dr. Michelle Williams (Orientation Gallery)
12:00pm-12:30pm Calusa Tool Demo (Ancient People Exhibit)
1:00pm-2:00pm Shorebirds on FMB, Penny Jarrett (Orientation Gallery)
2:00pm-2:30pm Meet a Biologist & Live Marine Sealife Program, Parke Lewis (Observation Pier)
2:00pm-4:00pm Meet an Archeologist – SEARCH, Inc (Back Patio Tent)