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 ldegregory@tampabay.com.

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. Four questions the Lightning still has to answer

    Lightning Strikes

    FORT LAUDERDALE — The Lightning made its biggest round of cuts Monday, with some of the big-named prospects heading out.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) looks on from the bench during a shift change at Lightning hockey training camp in Brandon on Monday (09/18/17). In background on right is Nikita Kucherov (86). DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  2. Nine Florida football players, 62 felony complaints in fraud scandal

    College

    GAINESVILLE — The fraud scandal that has engulfed the University of Florida's nationally ranked football team for weeks exploded Monday with the first detailed accounts of criminal accusations that threaten to derail the Gators' season.

    Florida Gators wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) runs the ball during the Outback Bowl in January at Raymond James Stadium. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  3. Where Rays shortstop Matt Duffy's lost season leads

    The Heater

    BRADENTON — In a perfect world Matt Duffy would have been in New York on Monday with his Rays teammates enjoying the final off day of the year. Instead, he was on Field 4 at Pirate City on a sweltering afternoon, trying to restart his season.

    Rays shortstop Matt Duffy plays in his first game (since rehab was aborted) with the club's instructional league on Monday at the Pirate City baseball field and spring training complex in Bradenton [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  4. Vinny Lecavalier's jersey retirement will be another classic Vinny moment

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — He was the face of the franchise. He was taken first overall in the 1998 NHL Draft by a franchise at the bottom. Art Williams, the nutty Tampa Bay Lightning owner at the time, proclaimed the 18-year-old from Ile Bizard, a Montreal borough, "the Michael Jordan of hockey."

    Vincent Lecavalier makes a break for the net while playing an exhibition game on Sunday (9/24/17) with the 2017 U.S. Women???‚??„?s National Team at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Lecavalier was the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2000???‚??€œ2001 season and between the 2008???‚??€œ2013 and spent his first 14 NHL seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning before signing with the Philadelphia Flyers.
  5. Pinellas licensing board loses support for staying independent

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board on Monday lost its strongest supporter for staying independent.

    State Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican running for governor, said Monday that he will no longer support any legislation to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board independent. This photo was taken in August. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]