SAINT PETERSBURG, Fla. — A new report reveals archaeologists have discovered what appear to be three graves from the old Oaklawn Cemetery in parking lot 1 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Research into the possibility of graves at the site began amid city talks of redeveloping the 86-acres around Tropicana Field.
Three cemeteries once existed at the site: Oaklawn, Evergreen and Moffett. During segregation, Oaklawn served mostly white residents, while Evergreen and Moffett served African Americans.
Archaeologists with Cardno began earlier this year surveying the area of what was once Oaklawn Cemetery, which today comprises lots 1 & 2 at Tropicana Field along 5th Avenue South and 16th Street.
The report says with just three strong radar results that show grave shafts, it appears most of the graves from this cemetery have been moved.
"While the number of potential graves discovered is small, it is not insignificant. Every person has value and no one should be forgotten. This process is of the utmost importance and we will continue to do right by these souls and all who loved them as we move forward,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a statement.
However, there is concern among archaeologists that graves from the Evergreen and Moffett remain.
Cardno was not contracted to search for those graves, as plat maps place those cemeteries mostly underneath interstate I-175 along 5th Avenue South.
FDOT confirmed to 10 Tampa Bay in May that it is investigating the possibility of graves under the interstate.
The FDOT District Seven Cultural Resource Coordinator, State Historic Preservation Office, and the Pinellas County Project Manager are working together on a respectful and sensitive approach to the potential County conduit project within the boundaries of two historic cemeteries, Evergreen and Moffett. This collaboration is a part of FDOT’s environmental review, which occurs prior to any potential project which receives environmental certification. – Kris Karson, FDOT Dist. 7 spokesperson
Archaeologists said in their report to the city of St. Petersburg about Oaklawn that, when FDOT built I-275 and I-175, construction workers found a skull, vertebrae, leg and arm bones.
The report says no official archaeological investigations ever happened.