Group Title: Historic St. Augustine: Exhibits - Spanish Military Hospital
Title: Spanish Military Hospital
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 Material Information
Title: Spanish Military Hospital
Series Title: Historic St. Augustine: Exhibits - Spanish Military Hospital
Physical Description: Report
Language: English
Physical Location:
Box: 7
Divider: Block 28 Lot 2 (Spanish Military Hospital)
Folder: Exhibits - Spanish Military Hospital
Subject: Saint Augustine (Fla.)
3 Aviles Street (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Spanish Military Hospital (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Saint Johns -- Saint Augustine -- 3 Aviles Street
Coordinates: 29.891837 x -81.311598
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00094846
Volume ID: VID00012
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: B28-L2

Full Text


On the south side of St. Augustine's main plaza, on Aviles Street,

there stood during the mid-eighteenth century a Spanish government hos-

pital. During the British occupation of the city from 1763 to 1783 a

Scottish-born carpenter and builder named William Watson purchased and

remodeled into a dwelling some stables which were located across from

the hospital on the east side of the street. Several years thereafter he

built a new house a few steps to the southeast, and his former residence

was converted into a convalescent home. Soon after the Spanish retook

possession of the town a fire destroyed the 61d hospital. In 1791 the

government purchased the convalescent center and modified it for use as a

military hospital. The building continued to function as such for a few

years after Florida's acquisition by the United States.

Early in 1966 the St. Augustine Historical Restoration and Preservation

Commission reconstructed on its original foundations the Spanish Military

Hospital as it appeared in the 1790's. Antique furnishings were installed

where possible; replicas were produced in the Commission's shops when

originals were not available. Six rooms and a large loggia comprise the

ground floor area, which served as the hospital proper; upstairs rooms

housed medical service personnel in the 18th century but presently are


Entrance from Aviles Street is into a large square room, half of which

functioned as a waiting-room, the remainder being brille-enclosed for use

as the pharmacy with its rows of apothecary jars, drying.herbs, and equip-

ment for filling prescriptions. Three doors open from this area. On the

left may be seen the morgue with its uniformed "corpse" in the antique

mortuary bed, before which sorrowing relatives burnt candles and prayed

during the 24-hour watch period. The center doorway provides access to the

doctor's office, wherein surgery was also performed by the light of a

hanging oil lamp. To the right the third exit is to the officers' ward,

otI Ix

which has typical roped beds with straw mattresses and is slightly larger

and airier than the enlisted men's room beyond it. The latter has, in

addition to similar beds for non-commissioned officers, a long shelf

covered with reed mats to accommodate four lowly privates(eight in an

emergency). A small isolation ward for patients with contagious diseases

is at the rear of the building. All wards have access doors to the loggia

for sun and air. Posted on the waiting-room walls are Spanish Royal

Army Hospital regulations as well as the daily menu, which list consisted

mostly of beef, beans, and bread prepared in unimaginative ways.

In the fall of 1966 a proposal was made by Dr. William M. Straight,

historian of the Florida Medical Association, that the building's

facilities be expanded into a Museum of Florida Medical History. The idea

was enthusiastically received by the Restoration Commission and plans

were accordingly drawn. A local coordinating committee, headed by Dr.

James DeVito, was appointed, and funds sought from the Medical Association's

membership beginning in 1967. By the end of 1968 donations from the

organization's Executive Board plus five county medical societies and

a few individual members were sufficient to complete preparation of the

ground floor for public viewing; this included purchase of small accessory

items to supplement the Commission's furniture and the addition of twelve

costumed mannequins-a doctor, a pharmacist, a ward attendant, and nine

patients in various positions and attitudes. Doors were opened to visitors

in July of 1969, with an appropriately costumed guide in attendance.

Financing of the refurbishing of the hospital's second floor in

museum style is now under way. Here will be installed exhibit cases to

house antique surgical instruments and medical equipment, occupying the

center of a large room originally designed as a dormitory for medical

attendants. A smaller room at the north end is under consideration as a

lounge, a library, or an additional exhibition area for the future.

Present plans call for a series of twelve mural paintings on 4'x6' panels

along the side walls of the main area, depicting the most significant events


in Florida's medical history. It is hoped that these may eventually be

replaced by dioramas, the paintings then becoming a circulating exhibit

for display in schools around the state. Either way the series should

present an exciting story including Indians, early surgery methods,

yellow fever epidemics, and the first successful ice-making machine, in-

vented by Dr. John Gorrie to treat fever in 1860.

When completed the Museum will be the only one of its kind in the

country, and will provide St. Augustine with another "first" among its

many historical and educational attractions.

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