Mound House: History Above & Below
The Mound House has been in the making for some 20 years on Estero Bay, where it engages families, nature-lovers,and couples alike in archaeological, historical, and environmental learning.
Its restored 1921 home—the oldest standing structure on Fort Myers Beach—sits atop an even older structure, an ancient Calusa shell mound. The Mound house holds a cultural museum that spans over 2,000 years of history. Enter through the museum store, housed in a recreation of the site’s original structure—the 1906 Tudor Kitchen.The two-story home, with its original brickwork, circa-1909 living room and upstairs exhibits, is the centerpiece of a don’t-miss attraction that spans 2,000 years of local history. On the home’s second floor, the Ancient People exhibit’s hands-on elements include recreated Calusa tools that kids can touch, made from seashells. They can then look at the real artifacts that were excavated on property. Beautiful tableaux explore Calusa life and European encounters. Settlers on the Shells exhibit, with a re-created thatched wall of a Cuban fishing ranch hut as centerpiece, chronicles “people of the mound” who followed the Calusa.
Human habitation ended in 1994; the town of Fort Myers Beach purchased the Mound House property in 2000.
Walk through the French doors to overlook Estero Bay from the wrap porch, read about Calusa canoes, and see a re-created fishing net in the making. Odd as it may seem, the coolest exhibits, especially for kids, live in the bathroom. Its white tiled walls hold an exhibit named Digging Deeper. Touchscreen photo albums, excavated pieces of pottery under magnifying glass, and oversized puzzles turn kids into young archaeologists.
The 2.77-acre bayside complex has been welcoming visitors for several years with recreational opportunities and one of only two native American shell mound cutaways in Florida. (The other is in Sarasota.) The site’s original exhibit, the underground Stories Beneath Our Feet archaeological museum, allows visitors to peek into actual dig explorations. A video interprets the shell mound cutaway, illustrated with LED rope lights to distinguish the various layers of history. A 44-foot mural depicts an artist’s realistic interpretation of the Calusa village that once thrived here. Native landscaping, a kayak launch, picnic tables, and a boat dock complete the well-rounded bayfront facilities. A 2,500-square-foot observation Pier hugs the property’s shoreline with interpretive signage and plenty of room to fish and observe wildlife. Education staff conducts guided boat and kayak tours in season.
Visitors can self-tour the museum and grounds Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. January through April; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the rest of the year. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students, and $5 for ages 6 to 12. Docents are on hand to interpret exhibits and offer special programs.
Visit www.moundhouse.org for tour times and other information or call 239-765-0865 for information.
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