Ground-penetrating radar to determine whether cemetery is hidden under Tampa school

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – There could be history hidden for decades beneath a Hillsborough County High School.

“I would bet my life on it. That that is Ridgewood Cemetery,” said local historian Ray Reed.

Last week, Reed found records that there may be an unmarked African-American cemetery buried beneath King High School.

Records show Ridgewood Cemetery was at 56th and Sligh in the 40s and 50s.

King High School then opened in the 60’s.

Reed notified Hillsborough County Schools, and they immediately began investigating.

“This is a top priority of our district right now. We will show the highest level of respect for the individuals who may be buried in this cemetery and their descendants,” said Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins.

The documents that Reed discovered point to the cemetery being located in the southern part of the school property.

The school district found another document, a city resolution in 1937, which detailed plans to use the land for a cemetery, however, in a different location, the northeast corner of the property.

“If the bodies are there, and I believe they are, I hope they’ll be treated with dignity and respect,” said Reed.

On Wednesday, the school will take the next step in finding out. A team of geophysical technicians from GeoView will begin mapping and scanning the campus of King High School.

The team will be using Ground Penetrating Radar to first start scanning in the south end of the property as previously planned. If no signs of a cemetery are found, the radar scanning will move to the northeast corner, according to a news release.

They will collect data and review what they discover with archaeologists.

The district reports that they have looked over documents including an appraisal and deeds, aerial maps and historical county and school records, which have conflicting information.

“Of course there will be more to verify, exactly what is beneath that particular land, but we want to ensure we meet with local historians, local members of the black community, and ensure we do the right thing by those individuals,” said Eakins.

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