Saving Area's History Ponte Vedra Has Significant Sites

Article excerpt

Byline: Beau Halton, Shorelines editor Shorelines editor

PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- For a place that got started as recently as 1935, Ponte Vedra Beach shows evidence of a relatively rich history, according to recently completed historical and archaeological studies of unincorporated areas of St. Johns County.

Of the 1,123 historic buildings and seven structures noted during the studies, about 110 are in Ponte Vedra Beach and another 50 were cited in Palm Valley, study officials said. The studies also list underground shell mounds and other signs found near the beach and rivers that show communities thrived in the area thousands of years ago.

"We can assume that people lived there thousands of years ago for the same reasons they live there now ; it's a nice place, it's near the water," said Greg Smith, senior archaeologist with Environmental Services, the Jacksonville firm that completed the studies for the county.

Historians and archaeologists catalogued artifacts that had already been found through the years and documented houses and other structures that are at least 50 years old. The information is being compiled onto maps of the county to be used as a guide for county planners, developers and others to make sure potential historically significant sites are taken into consideration before future development.

"This isn't the last chapter of the story; its the beginning," Smith said. "This information can be updated as more discoveries are made, but this at least gives the county a good framework to know what's there now."

The $70,000 project, half of which was paid for with state historic preservation grants and the other half by the county, was divided into historical and archaeological studies.

"As we start using the information, we'll discover more details about the individual buildings and sites," said Donna Godfrey, senior county planner. "It will become apparent there are very special resources in the county that we can now learn to protect and appreciate."

With some designations of historic sites and buildings already in place, most developers already are told to be careful about where they dig and build, Godfrey said. But the new surveys give the county a more comprehensive look at its historic places.

In the archaeological study, maps will show the areas deemed highly probable of containing significant areas by coloring them red. …