A Black neighborhood in central Pinellas County that is undergoing a revitalization now has an historic marker so it can always remember its roots.
The marker is the latest effort to maintain the historically Black community’s identity and celebrate its history, a news release from Pinellas County said.
Dansville is a 68-acre community in the Ridgecrest area in unincorporated Largo. It is an example of early 20th century migration of African Americans who left behind oppression and enslavement in southern states to seek new opportunities. Brothers Dan and Lloyd Henry played a major role in establishing this community. Lloyd Henry was a pioneer in the ownership and development of property by African Americans in the Dansville-Baskin area. Dan Henry bought 80 acres of land from which smaller lots were created to build single-family homes.
Many of the homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado in 1992. Since then, Pinellas County has spent millions of dollars building infrastructure, buying land and planning for new housing and amenities in the community, while Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco has built dozens of new homes in Dansville and the surrounding Ridgecrest area.
The marker was dedicated Saturday by the Dansville Neighborhood Development Corporation and Pinellas County Historic Preservation Board. Several Pinellas County Commissioners attended and spoke at the event, including Chairman Dave Eggers and Vice Chairman Charlie Justice, who is chairman of the Historic Preservation Board. Wanda McCawthan from Friends of Ridgecrest also spoke, and David Baldwin, grandson of Dan Henry, recalled the history of the community.
The marker is near the corner of Wilcox Road and Pine Street. Here’s the full text included on the marker:
“This vicinity is historically known as Dansville, so named for one of its forefathers, Dan Henry. The 12th of 15 children, he moved here from Dawson, Georgia, with his brother Lloyd’s family in the early 1920s. At the time, citrus groves covered the sandy ridges of the county and the brothers found employment loading citrus at freight stations on the Seaboard Airline Railroad. Lloyd was the first to purchase property of his own building a house and starting a grove in nearby Baskin in 1928. Dan followed suit purchasing two 40-acre tracts at this location by 1946. Although not suitable for citrus farming, he built a house for his family and soon invited other African-American families to settle on the property. Smaller lots were created from the master tract by “stepping off” an area large enough to accommodate the new home. Eventually, the tight-knit, self-sufficient community consisted of about 80 houses, Mt. Olive Baptist Church, and a store. Much changed on October 3, 1992, when a tornado swept through the area destroying 26 homes and damaging many others. As part of recovery, Pinellas County assisted residents in rebuilding and documented the community’s history through an award-winning oral history project.”
More about the Dansville neighborhood revitalization is here.