TAMPA — More than 1,200 were buried in College Hill Cemetery.
Frank Martinez, a cigar maker and mechanic who died in 1917, was among them.
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. There is no evidence that the bodies were relocated to another cemetery.
On Friday, College Hill Cemetery was marked again thanks to Martinez’ niece, Angela Alderman.
At her request, the Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council installed a historic marker on city property outside the cemetery’s site.
“Although they are lost, this can be their tombstone and their legacy,” Alderman said of the marker.
Alderman applied for the historic marker in reaction to a Tampa Bay Times investigation into what happened to College Hill Cemetery.
The marker details the history of the cemetery. It was established in 1889, “likely as the first burial ground dedicated to serving Tampa’s growing African American population ... Extensive documentary evidence points to this location as the site of College Hill Cemetery but further archaeological investigation is needed to confirm if those buried within it still rest here.”
Archaeologists have confirmed that six sites throughout the region are home to erased or forgotten graves tied to pioneering communities, mostly Black. Another six sites — including College Hill — have been identified as likely locations but have not yet been surveyed.
Each of the discoveries came after the Times in 2019 detailed the story of Zion Cemetery, a pioneering Black cemetery that was paved over to build all-white public housing in 1954.
College Hill is the largest of the erased cemeteries.