A new development is springing up on South Magnolia Drive near the Florida Lottery. The proposed site will soon be home to a few new fast food restaurants and other shops. But at least one local group say the development is a lost opportunity in the ongoing quest to learn more about the Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto.
Hernando de Soto was a conquistador, whose search for gold and fame brought him to the Americas, and ultimately to Tallahassee, where he and between 400 and 700 of his men, stayed near Lafayette Street behind a local night spot, The Moon. A state marker stands at the place believed to be the site where the first Christmas might have been celebrated. But according to Lonnie Mann, with the community archaeology group PAST—de Soto’s camp, may have stretched much farther South.
“We know his footprint was a lot larger than what is currently known. Since this site is so close to the existing de Soto site, we thought there could be more de Soto material in that location," he says.
Before property developers razed it, the South Magnolia site was heavily wooded, and largely untouched. Mann says as part of the permitting process, the city required the developers to do a study in February, but that exploration turned up nothing. The organization wanted to do a bigger exploration, but officials denied the request. Mann says he’s disappointed. But there’s another spot further up Magnolia Street the organization is looking to explore.
“There’s an area on South Magnolia where a property owner has allowed us access to do excavations this Fall and Winter, but not nearly as close to the current de Soto site as the other property however.”
Mann says he’s sad to see the lost opportunity as development continues on South Magnolia, but hopes more artifacts from de Soto’s time in Tallahassee are still out there, waiting to be uncovered.