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Tampa’s erased College Hill Cemetery will be marked again

The Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council will place a historic marker near the cemetery’s former site.
Angela Alderman has on a decade long search for her great uncle's grave in College Hill Cemetery that was located where the Italian Club Cemetery's parking lot is today. Alderman is holding her uncle's death certificate in the parking lot.
Angela Alderman has on a decade long search for her great uncle's grave in College Hill Cemetery that was located where the Italian Club Cemetery's parking lot is today. Alderman is holding her uncle's death certificate in the parking lot. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]
Published Sep. 15

TAMPA — Beginning in 1889, College Hill Cemetery was marked on maps and in other public records.

And then, sometime after 1941, the cemetery with burial sections for Tampa’s Cuban and Black residents was erased and replaced by a parking lot for the Italian Club Cemetery at 2520 E. 24th Ave.

The more than 1,200 people buried in that acre are missing.

This week, the Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council approved a request to mark that parking lot as the onetime site of College Hill Cemetery.

A historic marker will be placed along the road outside the parking lot.

“Now they can get the dignity restored that they deserve,” said Angela Alderman, whose uncle Frank Martinez is among those buried in College Hill Cemetery.

Alderman applied for the historic marker in reaction to a Tampa Bay Times investigation of the erased College Hill Cemetery.

The marker will cost $2,565.

Alderman must raise half of that. The county will kick in the other half.

The marker could be installed four to five months after the county receives her portion, according to an email sent to Alderman from the historical council.

Alderman said she is not done with her push to honor those buried in College Hill Cemetery.

She wants ground-penetrating radar to scan the parking lot to determine if the graves are still there or if they were moved.

Siblings previously told the Times that in the 1970s, they discovered a mass grave next to the parking lot on property that the city was turning into a retention pond. The pond is still there.

“I would love nothing more than a GPR scan to be completed,” Alderman said. “It is key in finding the graves of the lost.”

This will be the second historic marker on that strip of 24th Ave.

The Italian Club Cemetery also has one, but it is factually incorrect, claiming they purchased the cemetery property in 1896 from the prominent African-American Armwood family.

Records show the Italian Club did not own cemetery land until 1908 when it bought a sliver of what today makes up the social club’s 5-acre burial ground. They purchased the remaining acreage over the next four decades. The Times has not found a record of the Italian Club buying land from the Armwoods.

The Times shared the results of all of its College Hill Cemetery research with the Italian Club in March.

They responded by telling the Times via email, “We do not have records that indicate that anyone is buried in our cemetery other than the families on our registry.”