Mound House Marks 5th Anniversary!

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New Book & Store Sale Celebrate Milestone

By Gary Mooney
thewritestuff25@gmail.com

The iconic Mound House on Fort Myers Beach, one of Southwest Florida’s most historic attractions and destinations, commemorated the 5th anniversary of its opening as a cultural and environmental learning center on November 14. It traces its roots back to the ancient Calusa of over 2,000 years ago, with a wealth of artifacts, nature and education programs, and its innovative archaeological underground exhibit that showcases the unique Calusa Indian Shell Mound upon which the Mound House rests.

“What makes the Mound House such a special place is we share over 2,000 years of our unique history with our Fort Myers Beach community as well as with visitors from Southwest Florida and all over the nation and world,” explained Alison Geisen, the Director of Cultural Resources for the Town of Fort Myers Beach and Mound House Executive Director. “The Mound House, however, is more than a museum, as we have collaborative partnerships with organizations like the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and Florida Gulf Coast University to study and protect our region’s water quality, along with events like kayak tours, twice-weekly Newton Beach Park walks, and numerous other educational programs to teach conversation not only to our visitor today but to benefit future generations.”

While the Mound House observed many milestones and achievements over its first five years, a prime accomplishment was attaining National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) status in late 2019! “That was remarkable,” Alison recalled. “People travel all over the nation to visit NRHP sites, as that means you are the best of the best! We are proud as well of our cultural and environmental learning initiatives, educational
programs, long-range strategic planning, and fulfilling much of our Mission Statement, along with contributions from our fabulous volunteers and our invaluable service to the Fort Myers Beach and Southwest Florida communities.”

While the Town promotes the Mound House as a cultural and environmental center, “it is really a fun and creative outlet,” Alison offered. “We always tell people they must experience the Mound House for themselves, because once you do, you discover it for the first time or rediscover it all over again. We provoke thought to get your brain going, as a terrific museum experience is when visitors interact with each other, eye-to-eye, to bring people together. It is so rewarding to serve our community and I love to see our visitors when they walk away looking so happy. They often come in not knowing much about us, then leave saying ‘Wow!’ One of my favorite times is when visitors ask ‘where is the mound’ and I tell them, ‘you are standing on it!’ The Mound House is a wonderful outlet to inform guests about our environment, early settlers, water quality, nature, plants, and how we can be better stewards over all these things – you cannot discuss these essential issues too often.”

COVID-19 Precautions

“The Mound House is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., though closed on Thanksgiving, November 26,” said Alison. “Visitors must wear masks, with Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Social Distancing guidelines in place. We limit visitors at any one time, so groups are small to keep everybody safe while ensuring a quality experience. An important protocol is our Social Distancing Ambassadors who disinfect everything while maintaining appropriate health and safety measures. We do not have staff or volunteers lead guests through the Mound House, so it is a self-guided experience, though we still offer interactive tours outside for the Shell Mound as well as various aspects of the Mound House property, along with several different kayak tour adventures. While the Mound House closes at 4 p.m., the property is open from sunrise to sunset, as many people prefer to stroll the grounds after touring the museum.” As for what Mound House guests absolutely must experience during their visit, “Everything,” Alison raved! “It is all unique and absolutely ‘Must See’!”

The Town of Fort Myers Beach acquired the Mound House in the year 2000 to save the structure and its 2.77-acres from demolition for prospective villas and condominiums. Improvements since the Town purchase include an Estero Bay kayak launch, the Shell Mound Exhibit where visitors walk inside the Calusa Indian Mound, and landscaping signage that identifies the property’s distinctive flora and fauna.

Museum Store Holiday Discounts

While the Mound House is a unique attraction, its Museum Store is so as well! “It is such a great place to shop, especially for the upcoming Holidays,” Alison related. “Most of our merchandise is from small local businesses and much of the profits benefit our ‘Friends of the Mound House’ volunteers group who assists us in numerous ways including fundraising, as we could not do all we do without them. Many of our products are environmentally friendly with natural resources, like our all-natural honey, and we feature many books that cover in-depth a variety of interests and subjects.”

With the Holidays right around the corner, shop now at the Museum Store to save! On Saturdays from November 28 through December 19, it hosts special discount sales with 15% off your entire purchase, excluding Membership fees, with Mound House members saving 20%. The Museum Store is open during the regular Museum hours of Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., though closed on Thanksgiving, November 26, with the special discount days on Saturdays. Due to COVID-19, the Museum Store mandates masks & social distancing.

“Crown Jewel of FMB!”

Among the Museum Store’s unique Holiday gifts is a brand-new book that is the first-ever written about the Mound House. Patrick McKeown authored “The Mound House: Crown Jewel of Fort Myers Beach.” “This is the first book exclusively about the Mound House,” enthused Alison. “Many visitors requested a book about the Mound House over the years and Pat, who is a docent with extensive writing experience, stepped forward, donating all his time to the project. All the book proceeds support the ‘Friends of the Mound House,’ so we really look forward to offering it to the general public.”

McKeown is a Professor Emeritus in the Management Information Systems (MIS) Department in the Terry College of Business at The University of Georgia, of which he was the founding department head. He has degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He authored or coauthored over 30 textbooks in management science, computer science, and management information systems, with more than 50 academic articles. Pat retired in 2003 to Fort Myers Beach to enjoy fishing, biking, reading and becoming a Mound House docent. Married to Carolyn for over 50 years, they have a son, daughter, and two grandchildren. While he wrote many textbooks, this is Pat’s first historical foray.

The Mound House, at 451 Connecticut Street with overflow parking at 216 Connecticut, is the oldest standing structure on Estero Island. Admission is $10 for ages 13 & up, $8 for students with IDs, $5 ages 6 to 12, and 5 & under free, with Town residents receiving a 50% discount. For additional information and a program schedule, call 239-765-0865 or visit www.moundhouse.org.

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