East Ridge resident Robert, “Bob” Ridley, is an ardent collector. He recently shared his collection with his neighbors when he held an open house at his residence. People were amazed by his extensive collection of Florida artifacts and dubbed his home, “Ridley’s Natural Science Museum”.
His son, Mark, has helped him arrange and catalog the collection that overflows in bookcases, on tabletops and other furniture including folding tables on his screened porch.
Bob has been collecting since he was 16, growing up in Miami Beach. His hobby isn’t discerning. He says he has collected everything from shells, coral, tortoise shells and fossils to bottles, bones and bird feathers. His collecting stories are as entertaining as the objects he has amassed.
Some of his early treasures were found when contractors were starting new construction and were clearing the home sites in Miami. He’d hunt around for fossils and interesting rocks after the sites were unearthed and before the buildings were started.
He frequently went hunting with his son and would find vertebrae in the woods and shells and rocks in rivers and creeks in Florida. He recalled one trip when he spotted a dead alligator off I-75. They buried it and then returned several months later to collect the skull which he still has.
Deer and hog skulls were also treasures collected from hunting at the Lucky L Ranch near Yeehaw Junction. He camped around Horse Creek which feeds into the Peace River and found old bottles and shells there too.
One of his favorite family pastimes was fossil hunting on Florida’s west coast and especially on Venice Beach, looking for shark teeth and other fossils. The family including his wife Millie, Mark and daughter Kim joined him on these trips hunting for shark teeth which now fill bowls.
At age 50, Bob retired from the City of Miami as a purchasing agent which afforded him the luxury of time to pursue these interests. When he moved to East Ridge in 2014, he downsized some of his collection including many of the hundreds of bottles he had found. His favorites are displayed in a lighted cabinet that he enjoys.
One of his most unique fossils is a mastodon bone that a friend found off Venice Beach. A university confirmed the fossil and that it could be 130,000 years old.
Additionally, Bob collects Florida art and owns several watercolor prints by Phil Capen which are reminiscent of the scenes he remembers from hunting and fishing. He also has Ben Isenberg’s prints of Coconut Grove.