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Historical Marker Will Honor Temple Terrace Founder

A plaque for Bertha Palmer is being created by the Temple Terrace Preservation Society.

The black-and-white photo depicts Temple Terrace’s founder in white gloves, a feathery headpiece and a dress with exquisite details.

Born in 1849, Bertha Palmer was a socialite, art patron and businesswoman who helped create the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, according to Grant Rimbey of the Temple Terrace Preservation Society.

“She was a woman ahead of her time,” he said.

Around 1910, Palmer bought 19,000 acres of property in the Temple Terrace area and called it “Riverhills,” Rimbey explained. She used this land as a ranch and game preserve for herself, her family, and her wealthy northern friends.

“She was drawn to the Temple Terrace area because of its natural beauty—river, rolling hills, the same things it is treasured for today,” Rimbey said.

At the time of her death in 1918, Palmer was planning for a community of about 500 wealthy people in Temple Terrace. Her heirs worked with the first developers of Temple Terrace to help realize her vision for the area following her death, Rimbey said. The is the last remaining building from her Riverhills Ranch.

Because most citizens of Temple Terrace don’t know much about Palmer, the Temple Terrace Preservation Society is in the process of creating a historical marker in her honor similar to the one it installed last year near for influential religious leader .

Palmer’s marker will be installed on the east side of the Woodmont Clubhouse between the building and the street, Rimbey said.

Temple Terrace resident Lana Burroughs wrote most of the draft of how the plaque will read. The text, pending review completion, is as follows:

MRS. BERTHA HONORÉ PALMER (1849-1918)

Bertha Palmer, born in Louisville, Kentucky, was a world-renowned socialite, art patron, successful businesswoman, and philanthropist. In 1893, she played a major role creating the World’s Columbian Exposition.

In 1902, after the death of her husband, Chicago millionaire Potter Palmer, she became entranced with exotic, mysterious Florida and headed south in search of new adventures and business opportunities. Mrs. Palmer set up her main residence in the Sarasota area, and soon became one of the largest land owners in the state.

Between 1910 and 1914 she established a 19,000 acre (29 square mile) hunting and game preserve in the Temple Terrace area, and called it “Riverhills.”

This building, now known as the Woodmont Clubhouse, was originally an outbuilding for Mrs. Palmer's extensive ranch. It is Temple Terrace’s oldest building and the last surviving structure from the Palmer era.

In 1927, it was converted into the city’s first school, the two-room “Temple Terrace Grammar School,” and later was saved from demolition by Ruby McSweeney and still later by Marjorie Schine. Today it is a cherished community center.

Marker dedicated ______, 2012

Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council, City of Temple Terrace, Temple Terrace Garden Club, GFWC Temple Terrace Woman’s Club, GFWC Temple Terrace Junior Woman’s Club, Woodmont Clubhouse Association, Inc., Temple Terrace Preservation Society

The plaque will have a photo of Palmer (which appears with this story) inserted on it, Rimbey said. It will be the first historical marker in Hillsborough County to have a photo.

The following groups have partnered to help create the marker:

  • GFWC Temple Terrace Woman’s Club
  • GFWC Temple Terrace Junior Woman’s Club
  • Temple Terrace Garden Club
  • Woodmont Clubhouse Association Inc.
  • Temple Terrace Preservation Society

Each group has contributed $500 to the effort, Rimbey said. The Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council is the county agency that oversees the creation of historical markers in Hillsborough County.

“The plaque is about to go before the Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council for approval of the text in the next week or two,” Rimbey said. “They have already approved the marker in general, and all the civic groups have donated their money.”

He said markers are typically received eight weeks after they are ordered.

“So, we should have the new plaque around Sept. 1,” he said. “No installation date has been set yet; we’ll need to coordinate that with the schedules of the other groups.”

The Preservation Society is also searching for relatives of Palmer who could be interviewed for its oral history project.

“With a matching grant from the City of Temple Terrace, the oral history project is an ongoing (Temple Terrace) Preservation Society project that aims to capture a unique form of history, the verbal history of what folks remember of Temple Terrace when they first moved here,” Rimbey said.

Using a digital video camera, society members interview those who have memories of Temple Terrace’s earlier years. About 23 residents have been interviewed so far, Rimbey said, and most of the interviews focus on the 1940s-60s.

“We are now looking for relatives of the early 1920s pioneers and developers, and heirs of founder Ms. Bertha Palmer,” he said. “The (Temple Terrace) Preservation Society is thinking about using the oral history footage to create a new video narrative of the city, and this needed footage would help tell our city’s story.”

To be a part of the project or for more information about the Temple Terrace Preservation Society, call 813-914-9037 or email grimbey@ij.net.

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