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. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.