Group Title: Historic St. Augustine: Plaza: Constitution Monument
Title: Historical Report Constitution Monument
Full Citation
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 Material Information
Title: Historical Report Constitution Monument
Series Title: Historic St. Augustine: Plaza: Constitution Monument
Physical Description: Report
Language: English
Physical Location:
Box: 8
Divider: Plaza - General Info.
Folder: Plaza: Constitution Monument
Subject: Saint Augustine (Fla.)
Plaza de la Constitucion (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Constitution Plaza (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Saint Johns -- Saint Augustine
Coordinates: 29.892493 x -81.312335
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00095508
Volume ID: VID00003
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text


The Constitution Monument is St. Augustine's most

significant public monument. It is located in the Plaza area,

a central green with surrounding buildings on the bayfront.

The Plaza is the central feature of the Colonial City Historic

District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Plaza has been the setting for many of St. Augustine's most

prominent public monuments from colonial times to the present

and the focal point of public ceremonies, improvement drives,

and tree plantings. It has included many features over the

years, among them an alligator pond and an open bandstand

popular for music and political rallies. The original Plaza

area has been augmented by additional green spaces created

after World War I. The additional spaces consist of two small

parks east of the public market place and a third west of

government house. The Plaza has not only been a famous scenic

site for tourists, it is located at the center of the town's

commercial, religious, and governmental life.

The Constitution Monument is the oldest above surface

feature of the plaza. It is located at the west end of the

Plaza near St. George Street. Construction of the monument

occurred between 1812 and 1814. On August 14, 1812 a royal

decree was promulgated by the Spanish parliament naming all

plazas where the Spanish constitution was officially proclaimed

to be called Plazas de la Constitucion (Constitution Squares).

On January 4, 1813, the town council met to discuss the royal

order. Specifically, the order instructed all towns in the

kingdom where the promulgation of the constitution had been

celebrated to erect a tablet recognizing the constitution and

naming the plaza, Plaza of the Constitution. Fernando de la

Maza Arredondo, senior alderman, and Francisco Rovira, the town

attorney, were appointed to develop the plans and

specifications for the monument in order to determine its cost.

On January 19, 1813 the Governor of Florida informed the

local town council of the above decree and instructed them that

the naming of the Constitution Plaza should be inscribed on a

tablet (implication seems to be marble or tile from another

place since no suitable material was available in St.

Augustine). In May, 1813 the town council met to discuss the

erection of a monument designating the central plaza as the

Plaza of the Constitution. About that time the council

appointed a committee to oversee the project and on July 5

requested the mayor to allocate the funds for construction of

the monument. On July 27, Fernando de la Maza Arredondo

reported only about 150 pesos had been collected. He

subsequently resigned from the construction committee in

protest because the funds were not in proportion to

significance of the monument. He was replaced by Mayor

Geronimo Alvarez and Alderman Eusebio Gomez.

On August 2, the committee charged with the construction

of the monument presented a tentative design based on the funds

available. The monument was to be 30 feet in height. Mayor

Alvarez asked permission to use the coquina rubble from the

Palacio Episcopal which was located on the present site of

Trinity Episcopal Church. On December 24, 1813 the town council

received 151 pesos for construction of the monument.

Construction of the monument was completed the latter part of

January, 1814. On February 14, 1814, Alvarez and Gomez

presented their account for approval.

The principal materials used in the construction of the

monument were coquina and stucco. The stucco was prepared from

materials produced locally. Nine bushels of lime were

purchased from Mrs. Russell and another thirty-three from the

widow of Mr. (Jesse ?) Fish. Part of the coquina came from a

pallet of stone which had been set aside for the construction

of a bridge but not used. Other materials included spikes for

scaffolding, wood for form boards, a drop cloth, and an iron

bar to support the perilla or pear-shaped ball at the pinnacle

of the monument. Part of the coquina ruins of the Old Episcopal

Church located on the south side of the plaza was used due to

the scarcity of materials.

Local masons and laborers were responsible for the

construction of the monument. The master mason was named

Maron. Two apprentices and a black laborer assisted him. Two

black laborers using a wagon removed coquina at low tide for

the cornice. The cornice was apparently pre-fabricated because

there was a labor charge for setting it separately on the

monument. A mason named Benjamin Seguier (Segui) assisted with

the construction, and a master carpenter named Cercopoli did

minor carpentry work.

Construction of the monument lasted nearly three months.

The first week the master mason and the two apprentices

constructed the scaffolding and a trough for mixing mortar or

stucco. The materials used were a drop cloth, 30 feet of

planking for the scaffolding and trough, and a pound of nails.

No information is available regarding the second and third

weeks. During the fourth week construction was apparently well

under way as the apprentices were paid for their services.

Lime was also purchased probably for mortar. During the fifth

week the master mason, and two apprentices worked on the

project, and additional lime was also purchased. During the

sixth week the apprentices worked on the project for two and

one-half days. During the seventh and eighth weeks the

apprentices worked four and one-half and two and one-half days


During the ninth week the apprentices worked six days.

The base of the monument was apparently complete or nearing

complete at that time because the materials for the cornice

were delivered. The two black laborers removed large pieces of

coquina at low tide for the cornice. The stone must have come

from somewhere along the Matanzas Bay because no mention is

made of a boat. A cart was rented to transport the stone.

During the tenth week the cornice was constructed. The

apprentices worked two days, and a black helper worked one day

handling the coquina block. Three blacks worked half a day

handling and lifting the cornice into place. During the

eleventh week the monument was completed. The master mason and

the apprentices worked two days. One-half day was spent

assembling the scaffolding, apparently for construction of the

upper portion of the monument. Thirteen bushels of lime were

used, probably for the stucco finish that was applied to the

coquina. A brush was used apparently to wet the coquina in

preparation for the application of stucco.

After the monument was completed the constitutional

government of Spain was overthrown and the authority of the

King, Ferdinand VII was restored. On September 15, 1814 a

daily paper was received from Havana, and the city councilmen

read that similar tablets had been removed from monuments in

other towns and cities and been substituted with the

inscription "Plaza of Ferdinand VII." Alderman Francisco Pons

was ordered to remove the tablet from the plaza. On January

18, 1815 January 18, a royal order, dated July 20, 1814, was

received, declaring the dissolution of the constitutional

government and the local town council. On May 4, 1820 the

council was recreated as the result of the re-proclamation of

the 1812 constitution. On May 11, 1820 the tablet was once

again placed in the monument.

In 1953, the St. Augustine Historical Society had a

Herculite glass plate placed over the original marble tablet on

the east face of the monument. A replica of the original

tablet was placed on the west side and a bronze plaque, with

inscriptions in Spanish and English was installed on the base

in 1955. The origin of four smaller plaques on each side of

the base is unknown. They are written in Spanglish--Plaza de la

Constitution instead of Plaza de la Constitucion. There were

many English speaking subjects living in Spanish Florida at the

time the monument was erected. Perhaps one of them was

responsible for the engraving.

The Constitution Monument has international significance.

It is possibly the only one remaining of the hundreds which

were constructed at the time of the first Spanish constitution.

Most, if not all, of the others were destroyed at the time of

the restoration of the Spanish monarchy. An interesting aspect

of the tablet is the Masonic emblem engraved in the original

tablet. Masons were instrumental in the movement for

constitutional government in the British colonies, Spain, and

Spanish America. The Masonic symbol is therefore appropriate

on a tablet celebrating the Spanish constitution.

The information included above was obtained from records

at the St. Augustine Historical Society, the City of St.

Augustine, and the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board.

Sources included the Florida Master Site File, the St.

Augustine Record, Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and other

historic maps, and the East Florida Papers.

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