Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/USACH00009/00005
 Material Information
Title: Government House, Background Information
Series Title: Government House Archaeological Excavation Documents
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Publisher: City of St. Augustine Archaeological Program
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: West Plaza Lot
System ID: USACH00009:00005

Full Text

The site of Government House has been utilized for

governmental purposes since circa 1598. When Government House

was first located on this site, it was a capitol with a

jurisdiction that extended north and west to yet-uncontested

limits. That jurisdiction continually contracted in actuality

over the decades, despite grander territorial claims. With the

transfer of Florida to Great Britain in 1763, Florida was divided

into two colonies--East and West Florida. With borders defined

by the Treaty of Paris: the St. Marys River on the north and the

Apalachicola River on the west, East Florida continued to be

administered from this site during the British Period (1763-

1784) and during the subsequent second period of Spanish rule

(1784-1821). In 1821 Spain ceded East Florida to the United


As the seat of government, the Government House site was

better documented and better maintained than most of St.

Augustine properties. Unlike other sites in the town, it is

possible to identify the occupants of the site for almost of all

of the historical period. The Spanish governors and their

families and servants were usually natives of the Iberian

peninsula. The governors themselves could often boast of service

to the Spanish king in African outposts, Flanders, or Cuba.

Service in South America, however, was not common among Florida's


By 1687 the Governor's residence was in such a state of

disrepair that rains came in and the floors and fences had

rotted. In 1690 local soldiers, military craftsman, Native

American laborers, and Crown-owned black slaves constructed a new

Governor's House of locally quarried stone--coquina. Indian

axemen cut wood in nearby forests for the pales, beams, boards,

shingles and cross members. Indian carpenters planed and

finished boards for the roof and fences. New nails and hardware,

forged in St. Augustine, was used for the roof, doors, windows

and fences. Seven hundred seventy pounds of used iron was

purchased at the price of one real per pound and re-worked into

ordinary nails. Other hardware included locks, hinges, and iron

bands encircling the tops and bottoms of columns (armillas).1

The coquina was extracted from the royal quarries so no

expenditure was necessary for the stone building material.

At face value Father Solana's correspondence suggests that

Governor Palacio's short term brought more reward to the governor

and his residence than to the security of the province or the

well-being of the residents. Solana complained that although the

governor had at his command more than a hundred laborers, he had

not used them to maintain or repair fortifications but diverted

their efforts to making a "spacious garden" at Government House,

which consumede] more than 1500 fence posts and 1200 stones.

Despite this improvement, according to Solana, the governor

seldom left his ranch estanciaa) rather than residing in

Government House.2

Although Governor Palacios directed his attention to the

amenities and decorations of his residence, he eschewed the

religious motifs which the carpenter incorporated onto the

balcony of Government House. He ordered the crosses on the

finials of the east and west facades removed, saying they were

better suited for the church or the hospitals. Another incident

of the Governor's disrespect for religion provides a little

architectural information. Solana reported that the governor was

annoyed by the religious procession which interrupted his card

as he sat in front of the door facing the Plaza.3
Royals Officials to King, 1696 April 20, AGI 54-5-15/114, SC

2. Juan Jos6 Solana, 1760 August 12, AGI 86-7-21/94, SC 52.

3.Juan Jos6 Solana to Julian de Arriaga, 1760 April 9, AGI 86-7-
21/41 SC

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