Animal bones, pottery, and screaming peafowl cover Sacred Lands, David Anderson says with a smile.
It’s Sunday [Jan. 16] at 11:30 a.m. and I’m on the Jungle Prada site tour with around 10 other interested tour-takers.
The optimistic, masked Anderson leads several historical walking tours in Pinellas. The Jungle Prada tour is his main weekend gig, and it’s obvious that the place is close to his heart.
His grandparents purchased the Sacred Lands lot in 1940 for $20,000. More than 80 years later, Anderson immerses himself – and visitors – in the history of the Tocobaga Indian village, the Seminole ancestors who once lived on the site.
The climax of the tour leads up the Anderson/Narváez mound. Speckled with pottery and shells, Anderson believes the first Americans used the man-made hill as a ceremonial ground.
A town hall, if you will.
“Nobody had to tell the Tocobaga Indians to buy flood insurance,” Anderson jokes.
The Anderson family’s slice of Jungle Prada is the last piece remaining of the area’s pre-European past.
And they know it, so they put much care into preserving the bits of pre-European tools and art.
In the 1500s, the village lived on what is now parking lots, neighborhoods, and a restaurant (Jungle Prada Tavern.) In 1528, Spanish explorers Pánfilo de Narváez and Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca made contact with the site.
That contact resulted in death, disease, and failed gold explorations across the country.
Anderson knows it all, and he tells the heavy history in a light-hearted manner, shifting from pre-industrial revolution, to prohibition times, to now.
Anderson’s grandfather laid the winding brick road (by hand) through Sacred Lands, Anderson tells the group.
The bricks were abandoned, and he used his labor from his lumber company to collect them.
“My grandfather thought free was a good price,” he said. “It was a one-man job that took him two years.”
Details like this one (plus speculations of Al Capone drinking in a nearby speakeasy) comprise the tour.
It was the peafowl that hooked me.
Sacred Lands has groups of peahens and peacocks strutting around the site at all times. They look suspicious of strangers, but they seem to know the Andersons are responsible for leaving out food.
Anderson and his wife sell the molted feathers in the Sacred Lands shop, and the funds go to feeding the birds.
The original pair of peafowl flew to Sacred Lands on their own, and now their descendants thrive on the historical grounds.
Occasionally bird rescues – such as Birds in Helping Hands – take in peafowl and release them on Anderson land.
“From two birds back in the ‘50s, there’s more than 50 now,” Anderson said. “I like to joke that we become the unofficial peacock rescue center.”
Site tours are held most weekends. Book a tour at discoverfloridatours.com