The headstone of Wilburt Brooks is one of hundreds at the historically black Rose Cementery.
TARPON SPRINGS – Planning and Zoning director Heather Urwiller asked Mayor Chris Alahouzos to sign a letter, requesting the nomination of Rose Cemetery to the National Register of Historic Places, during the Aug. 16 meeting.
“Essentially, this is an application that started as a partnership between the city and the county as a means to recognize this very historic place that’s had a very interesting history,” Urwiller said.
The cemetery is nominated to the register under the criterion in the areas of Ethnic Heritage/Black and Social History.
Originally known as Rose Hill, the property was owned by Lake Bulter Villa Company and was located in the back of Cycadia Cemetery, the white burial ground, wrote Tina Bucuvalas in the National Register of Historic Places registration form.
“As a result of local and county segregationist policies that sought to bury African Americans separately from other citizens, the Lake Bulter Villa Association gave a 99-year lease to the citizens’ board that was formed in 1916,” Bucuvalas said. “In 1917 they deeded the property to the Rose Hill Association.”
Rose Cemetery serves as a historic reminder of racial segregation practices, the development of Tarpon Springs’ African American community and the combination of southern and African American burial practices.
“The earliest recorded burial dates to 1904, but it has believed to have been used by black community members to bury their dead since the 1870s,” Bucuvalas wrote.
The name was changed to Rose Cemetery in 1979 when the managing association changed.
The Heritage Preservation Board heard the application for nomination to the registry on Aug. 1.
“There were only three members present at that time, but it was unanimous enthusiastic support for this application to move forward,” Urwiller said. “At this time, the board is approving moving forward.”
The mayor and board of commissioners approved of the idea. The application will go to the state officer of historical research.
“Then it would move forward to the national folks,” Urwiller said.
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places that are worthy of preservation. There are more than 90,000 properties listed in the register.
Although being part of the register will not open up the site to national grant money, it will provide more protection and options for grants from private sources.
“The registry provides more visibility,” Urwiller said.
On Oct. 8, from 9 a.m. to noon, the Tarpon Springs Rotary will participate in a cemetery beautification and clean up day. For more information, contact the Tarpon Springs Rotary at 727-755-1205 or RotaryTarponSprings@gmail.com.