Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

forever frozen

Can you solve the mystery of this afflicted St. Petersburg statue?

ST. PETERSBURG

She slumps beside the sidewalk on a plaster stump, right arm resting on her thigh. Her right hand fell off long ago. Her left arm is gone.

Her torso, draped in concrete cloth, is turned toward the house, as if she were watching it. But her eyes are closed — as if she can't bear to see.

The statue is life-size; its features, eroded. It sits on the edge of 22nd Avenue S, at the edge of 46th Street, next to a no-name corner store. Its bare feet are rimmed by broken Snapple bottles.

Every day, dozens walk past the statue while cutting across the scrubby yard; about 15,000 people drive by. No one seems to stop. But some, like me, must wonder. How did a huge, once-ornate statue wind up outside an abandoned house in a run-down neighborhood? Who was she?

Or he? Gender seems indeterminable. There are no defined breasts or biceps; the shoulder-length hair could be the locks of a Greek god. The lips are full, the nose missing. The bare butt is crumbling but perfect. The body language, to me, seems feminine. I'll call her a she.

I wonder what she has seen. And why she looks so afflicted.

In January, someone draped a T-shirt over her peeling face. To preserve the plaster? Keep the shirt out of the dirt? I like to think it was to spare her the sight of her pink house falling apart.

• • •

Once, they must have been lovely, the home and the statue.

The house was built in 1921, property records show, on what was then four lots — a half-acre hugging the trolley tracks that carried folks from St. Petersburg to Gulfport Beach.

White columns shored up the sloping roof, which shaded tall front doors. There were six bedrooms, three baths and a fireplace — almost 4,000 square feet of living space. Outside, a large pool yawned under live oaks.

One of the columns is missing now. Boards block some windows; other windows are shattered. For years, a faded blue tarp has blanketed the old shingles. The pool is filled with dirt and daisies.

It was once a cafeteria for Country Day School, said April Hornsleth, who went to kindergarten there, on grounds covered with doll houses and blow-up boats. The school closed in 1956, and the house became a home, and sometime in the early '70s, an artist moved in and started working on the statue. The left arm, now gone, shielded its face. She thought it was American Indian. Another longtime resident thought it was a protest to the Vietnam War.

In 1998, Ernest Beachman bought the house for $56,000 as a fixer-upper. Instead of flipping it, he moved in.

"That was a real love story, him and that house, and him and my mama," said Roberta Beachman, whose papa lived there until 2005. Her parents had met when they were 7, married young and been divorced for years. But in 2000, after Mama's second husband died, she moved back in with Papa until their daughter moved them both to Tampa, where she could care for them. "Papa even built a secret room in there. If there were any shootings, any trouble at all, that was supposed to be our sanctuary."

She remembers the life-size statue in the front yard. So does her brother, Ernest Jr. But they don't know what it is supposed to be. She thinks maybe a mermaid. He, a young fisherman. Both were surprised that after all these years, the statue is still there.

The property was sold again last month. During a foreclosure auction, a bank bought it for $33,100. Workers came to mow the yard, board more windows, drape a new brown tarp over the old blue one.

The T-shirt disappeared, leaving the statue's troubled face turned to the sun.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Contact Lane DeGregory at [email protected]

Can you solve the mystery of this afflicted St. Petersburg statue? 03/01/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 3:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Me too': Alyssa Milano urged assault victims to tweet in solidarity. The response was massive.

    Human Interest

    Actor Alyssa Milano took to Twitter on Sunday with an idea, suggested by a friend, she said.

    Within hours of Alyssa Milano’s tweet, tweets with the words “me too” began appearing. By 3 a.m. Monday, almost 200,000 metoo tweets were published by Twitter’s count.
  2. Tampa tax shelter schemer too fat for his prison term, attorney says

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced two Bay area men to prison terms last week for peddling an offshore tax shelter scheme that cost the IRS an estimated $10 million.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.

  3. Weinstein Co., overwhelmed by backlash, may be up for sale

    Corporate

    NEW YORK — The Weinstein Co., besieged by sexual harassment allegations against its namesake and co-founder, may be putting itself up for sale.

    Weinstein
  4. Trial begins in 2014 death of 19-month-old Tampa girl

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Even before his trial officially began, Deandre Gilmore had planted his gaze on the floor of Judge Samantha Ward's courtroom Monday, taking a deep breath and shifting in his seat as a pool of 60 potential jurors learned of his charges.

    Gilmore
  5. Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville amid federal corruption probe

    College

    In an expected move, the University of Louisville Athletic Association's Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to fire men's basketball coach Rick Pitino. The decision came 19 days after Louisville acknowledged that its men's basketball program was being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe and …

    In this Oct. 20, 2016, file photo, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino reacts to a question during a press conference in Louisville, Ky. Louisville's Athletic Association on Monday officially fired Pitino, nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged that its men's basketball program is being investigated as part of a federal corruption probe. [AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File]