Hillsborough County Public Schools unveils memorial honoring those buried at Ridgewood Cemetery

Press release 2/27/2023 7:00 AM EST

HCPS is one of the first known public entities in the region to take action by memorializing individuals buried in forgotten graves.


TAMPA, FL – Hillsborough County Public Schools unveiled a beautiful memorial honoring the men, women, and children buried at Ridgewood Cemetery, the one-acre pauper’s cemetery, on the southern edge of the King High School property.

The district is honored that the site has been designated as an official historical site by the State of Florida’s Division of Historical Resources and Bureau of Historic Preservation. In the fall of 2019, the district received information from a citizen about a possible cemetery on the property at King High School. The district took immediate action by fencing off the area and within days, hired a team of geophysical technicians to begin mapping and scanning the southern end of the campus.

The scans conducted by the technicians found clear evidence of approximately 145 burials. Through historical city and county records, documents show that in 1933, 90 years ago, the City of Tampa bought a 40-acre parcel at this location. An area on the southern part of the property became a pauper’s cemetery to bury indigent residents until 1954. Historical records vary, but they show between 250 and 268 burials at Ridgewood Cemetery. After several years and transactions, the school district eventually bought the property and King High School was built, opening on the north end of the property.

“After Skanska was made aware of the historical significance present at King High School and the strong ties to the community’s roots, we knew this was a project we had to take on,” said Daniel Abou-Jaoude, Skanska USA Vice President. “As a longtime partner of Hillsborough County Public Schools, Skanska is honored to lead the effort in donating this magnificent memorial that now honors the many lives buried at Ridgewood Cemetery.”

Now, with this memorial, the individuals buried at Ridgewood Cemetery will be remembered with dignity and from this day forward, will not be forgotten. The memorial monument is located within the burial grounds and is positioned in an area not to disturb any burials underneath. Every attention to detail was considered by global construction firm Skanska USA, who donated time and material to create the memorial. Architect Jerel McCants designed the memorial with a vision to “reclaim what was lost and allow it to be accessible to students, staff, and the community to find a place of peace and contemplation.”

The inspiration for the memorial is a dove’s wings – the symbol of the soul’s release from its earth-bound duty. The angles of the memorial are all intentional along with the dimensions used, which are divisible by the number “7” representing completeness. The pedestal is 7’ high and sloped to support (2), 7’ wide by 21’ long wings. The wings are pitched at 42 degrees, which is the optimum angle to see a rainbow.

The reflection pond is 21’ by 21’ and it emphasizes the importance of the circle of life, as water is pumped up the pedestal and empties into the pond giving action and movement, constantly regenerating. The walkway around the reflection pond is 35’ by 35’ and completes the memorial design.

Ensuring the highest level of respect for the individuals who are buried in this cemetery and their descendants has been a top priority for the district since the day we were notified of the possibility. District leaders are grateful for the members of the Historical Response Committee, a group of local community representatives who were brought together back in 2019 by the district to discuss proper ways to memorialize the individuals at Ridgewood Cemetery.