Randell Research Center
Backstory and Context
The Randell Research Center located in located on Pine Island in Pineland, Florida and is centered in the historic Ruby Gill house from the 1920’s. The Ruby Gill house is an appropriate headquarter for the Randell Research Center because it was such a crucial part of Pineland’s development and growth as a city. Ruby and her husband Percy Gill moved to Pineland in and built the now historic house in 1922 after purchasing acres of citrus groves. In 1925 Ruby became the town’s postmaster and had the post office built right next to her house. Gill, also having been a member of Lee County Electric Cooperative, was essential in having power get brought to Pineland, bringing the city to life.
The research center is a program from Florida’s Museum of Natural History and was officially established in 1996 after Donald and Patricia Randell graciously donated over fifty acres of the Pineland archaeological site to the Florida Museum of Natural History and the University of Florida. However, the University of Florida along with the museum has been working in Pineland and their archaeology sites as far back as 1988.
The Randell Research Center may be headquartered in a historic house, but the true reason to visit the center is for its outdoor activities. The center is notorious for its 0.7-mile trail where guides take you through the life and history of the Calusa. On the trail you will be able to walk through canals, mounds, and many other historic archaeological sites. You will not only learn about the Calusa’s culture, but also what life in south west Florida was like after the Calusa left. Visitors will even be able to climb to the top of the site’s largest shell mound on their viewing platform. The trail also offers the opportunity to hold real native artifacts and experience over 2000 years of preserved civilization.
For those wondering who the Calusa were and why they play such an important part in Florida’s History; they were a tribe of indigenous people date back well before Florida’s discovery by the Spanish. They resided mostly on Florida’s south west coast and were sedentary surviving mostly on a marine based diet. They were known for creating these giant trash mounds called middens, and would become known as “Florida’s mountains.” The Calusa even have the right to claim the arrow that eventually killed Juan Ponce De Leon.
The Randell Research Center also holds school tours and special events for visitors to consider and enjoy. For example, March 25 is Calusa heritage day so the center will host a massive event with guest speakers and exclusive new artifacts on site specifically for the event. Visitors will be able to taste some shell fish based sea food in the “Calusa’s Tastings” tent. You can also learn how to make baskets, twine, and more! Between certain hours there will be exclusive boat tours presented by Captiva Cruises.
If you are interested in visiting the Randell Research Center, the trails open for self -guided visits from sunup to sun down, however most buildings such as the gift shops and school is open from ten in the morning till four in the afternoon. Guided tours are offered in their peak season which is January through April, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at ten in the morning till one in the afternoon. If you are interested in a tour not through those specific times you can always call and schedule a guided tour at 239-283-2157.
The Randell Research Center offers a plethora of great opportunities to dive into the history of south Florida and get a firsthand experience of what life was like for the indigenous people in the area so many call their home. If the trails sound like something you might be interested in then perhaps you should look further into the Randell Research Center!
"About the RRC." Florida Museum of Natural History. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.
"Randell Research Center Acquires Five Additional Acres." Randell Research Center Acquires Five Additional Acres | Pine Island News. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.
Florida Museum of Natural History. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.