Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/USACH00009/00006
 Material Information
Title: Overview of Use and Residents
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: USACH00009:00006

Full Text

Overview of Usedand I

The site government House has een utilized or
governmental purposes since circa 1598. During the colonial era
the executive offices of the governor a as well as his
residence were located here, as reflected in the terms
simultaneously applied to the site: Government House (casa de
gobierno) and Governor's House (casa del gobernador). When J-'-
Government House was first located on this site, it was a capitol
with a jurisdiction thatextended north and west to yet-
uncontested limits. Control r-ouality continually contracted
over the deca.ds, despite Spain's anderg~-tersi.trial, legal
claims. Wth 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 States. 6 Cjlk L/

As the administrative seat under several regimes, the
Government House site was better maintaineand better documented

than most St. Augustine properties. Unlike other sites in the

town, it is possible to identify the occupants of the Government
House site for almost all of the historical period. Throughout
the colonial period Government House was the official residence,
although not always the actual domicile, of the governors. 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 Spanish governors. 1P 0-d oL

Governor Gonzalo M6ndez de Canzo relocated the governor's

house to this site in 1598, when he laid out the town according

to the 1573 ordinances. Prior to then the governors had lived in

a building on the waterfront--a most unhealthful location

according to Governor Ybarra--shown in a circa-1595 drawing of

St. Augustine.' Information about the excavation site prior to

the establishment of Government House is less detailed and site

specific There are several theories about the location of St.
V^^^);o .4^M^ r Augustine before Canto reconfigured the town. One perspective

indicates that thd "high scaffold for a watchman" (item N)Ushown

on the Baptiste Boazio map (figure **), which depicts Sir Francis

Drake's 1586 raid, might well have been located on or near the

Government House lot. The persistence until today of the

indentation of the shoreline shown on the Boazio map and the

existence of sixteenth-century burials on the north end of

present-day blocks 23 and 28, in conjunction with the church,

also shown on the Boazio map (item 0) suggests such a

possibility.2 Drake burned the town's structures during his

attack. j

Canzofpurchaseda house, its kitchen and a field for his

home on this site from the widowed Dofa Maria de Pomar. During

his occupancy Canzo almost doubled the size of the house. The

addition was better constructed than he purchased section and he

roofed the whole house with azotea, replacing the palm thatch on

the original part. The purchased kitchen, which had a roof of

this wooden planks or shingles (tejamanil), burned and Canzo

built a new, larger kitchen. Canzo claimed that the new kitchen

was worth as much as the dwe ling house when it was purchased.

The whole site was fenced with cedar paling.3 In 1604 the Crown

purchased Canzo's private house fo the governors' official


During the last one-third of the seventeenth century the

scope of activity in St. Augustine picked up in response to

English threats to Spanis interests in Florida and the Q
(CT^T^-- .--
Caribbean. In 1668 p vateer Robert Searles slipped into Lp at

night, sacked the town, captured the money in the counting house,

killed 60 persons, and carried off a number of residents-fmixed

parentage to be slaves. During the raid the governor his

house and took refuge in the fort. Searles did not, however,

burn the town.4 The raid reawakened the Spanish crown's interest

in Florida, evidenced by the appropriation of money, manpower and

material to construct a masonry fortress of local shellstone

rather than another one made of wood. )from outside of the

Florida colony arrived to man the garrison; locally born men

found themselves aan employment disadvantage in a military

town. In 1674 a hurricane and flood levelled half the town.

Sergeant Major Pedro de Aranda y Avellaneda bought a lot within

the compound of the government houses, near the Governor's House

circa 1678. The contentious Governor Marques Cabrera, arriving

in 1680, blocked Aranda's building on the lot, but ostensibly in

disgust at the "detrioiration of the neighborhood" Cabrera

turned the gubernatorial mansion into a public inn and

requisitioned for his own residence the house of Ana Ruiz, two

blocks from Government House abrera mi ht-a.csese-

opportunity for profit in renting his official residence in the

face of the arrival of proportionately so many new soldiers.

During Cabrera's term the 118 men who arrived equalled 37 percent

of the garrison's manpower.6 By 1687 the Governor's residence

was in such a state of disrepair that rain came in and the floors

had rotted. Oute e, the fences were also deteriorated. In 1690

local soldiers, military craftsman, Native American laborers, and

Crown-owned black slaves constructed anew 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) The coquina was

extracted from the royal quarries so no expenditure was necessary

to purchase the stone used for building material.

But the new masonry residence would endure for barely more

than a decade. In 1702 enemy English colonists from Carolina

laid siege to St. Augustine for fifty days. Upon the governor's

order the townspeople retreated to the shelter of Castillo de San

Marcos. The Engi\H invaders set up headquarters in the

Franciscan monastery on St. Francis Street at the south end of

the empty town. The English did not succeed in taking the

Castillo although they occupied the town. Before abandoning St.

Augustine the Carolinians set fire to the town's buildings,

probably as much an act of vengeful catharsis as military

strategy." The governor's house was torched with the rest of the


An appraisal submitted to the crown seven years after the

destruction valued the governor's house at 8000 pesos. The

evaluation was an gross estimate, not an itemized evaluation.

By 1713 the executive mansion had been rebuilt. It was reported

that in 171 s part of a royal coronation celebration, the

governor and his wife hosted the townfolk with sweets and drink

in the courtyard and from the balcony tossed coins to the

revellers. The report unfortunately offers only this limited

comment about the Governor's House.9

The British again assembled a force to lay to siege to St.

Augustine. The British colony of Georgia h4d been founded at

Savannah in 1733 and Frederica established in 1736, even closer [

to St. Au ustine. On ay20 1740, General James Oglethorpe with

from Georgia and South Carolina crossed into Florida and '

landed at the St. Johns River. On June 24, British artillery

opened fire on Castillo de San Marcos. Spanish residents took

refuge within the town walls, but the governor did not order the

populace into the fortress as had occurred in 1702. On July 21,

the Georgians retreated from St. Augustine, their artillery

having been retired four days earlier. Intermittent fire from

British guns on both side of the St. Augustine inlet and from

Spanish guns at Castillo de San Marcos had prevailed in the

interim.**(Arana chronology) Splinters from mortar shells fell

into the fortress, but most of the ammunition did no damage.

Governor Manuel de Montiano wrote on July 6 that despite the

shelling: "Glory be to God, we have received no corporal injury."

Castillo de San Marcos was the only crown property in town which

was mentioned in the correspondence as being damaged: "[British]

guns injured our parapets." Government House does notojL in

the documentation either as reinforced or damaged.10

In the middle of the eighteenth century Father Juan Jose de

Solana forwarded a report on conditions of St. Augustine. father

Solana's account was critical of the contemporary governor; the

correspondence implies Governor Lucas de Palacio's short term

brought more reward to the governor and his residence (han to the

security of ther-paine r the well-being of the inhabitants.

Solana complained that although the governor had at his command

more than a hundred laborers, he had neglected to use them for

maintenance of 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 stayed on his

estanciaa), seldom residing in Government House."

Although Governor Palacio directed his attention to the

amenities and decorations of his residence, he eschewed (to the

consternation of the priest) the religious motifs which the

carpenter incorporated onto the balcony of Government House.

Palacio ordered the crosses on the finials of the east and west

sides to be removed, saying they were better suited for the

church or the hospitals. Another incident of the Governor's

disregard for religion provided a little architectural

information. Solana reported that the governor was annoyed by

the religious procession which interrupted his card game as he

sat in front of the door of Government House facing the Plaza.12

Four years later the Spanish soldiery and citizenry of

Florida relocated to Cuba as British troops arrived to assume

control of the peninsula, lost through treaty arrangements to end

the Seven Years War. Pablo Castell6 inventoried the Spanish

governments properties in the face of imminent transfer to Great

Britain. In typical Spanish style Government House was appraised

by the value of its individual items of construction material.

Among the components of the compound, Castell6 noted the

existence of twelve stone wells, an observation tower, and a

stable. [do we want an appendix of the appraisal]???

S-- -------

Bernard Romans adjudged the Governor's house to be "a heavy

unsightly pile, but well contrived for the climate." He too

mentioned the tower on the northwest side of the building, whose

height had been increased by Governor Grant.13

William Gerard DeBrahm reported that the governor's

residence boasted piazzas on both sides: a double one to the

south, a single one to the north, a belvedere, and a "grand

portico decorated with dorick pillars and entablature."14

A change of sovereignty was always accompanied by the

complaints of arriving officials about the level of deterioration

of government facilities bequeathed by the departing nation. In

1785, two weeks after arriving, Governor anue Vicent de

Z6spedes complained that neither he nor God Had a decent house in

St. Augustine.15 Engineer Mariano de la Rocque's assessments,

cost estimates, and reports provide information about the

Government-House compound rather than just being limited to thq

main building itself The work in 1785 consisted mostly ofsmaa

wooden improvements: construction of a double fence of pine,

eight [Spanish] feet in height, on the back side of the house and

a new privy with interior partitions and wood-shingle roof.

Doors and windows were repaired. The south and north loggias

were enclosed and stairs were added to them: one on the south

loggia immediately adjacent to the kitchen connected to the

bedrooms and the other at the end of the north loggia led to the


The following year new floor boards were placed in the

north-facing loggia, over a surface four varas in width and 16

varas long. New floor boards were placed atop stringers or

sleepers (durmientes) in the governor's first-story office.

The room immediately adjacent to the governor's office was

partitioned by a masonry wall a tercia (one-third of a vara or

approx 11 inches) in thickness and a tabby floor was laid. Four

new windows with glass panes were made in the reception room

(sala de recibir) to afford a view of the garden. The

dilapidated wall of the main facade, running along St. George

Street, was demolished and replaced by a new one of coquina

blocks 18 inches thick. It was only two-thirds as tall as the

previous wall.

The engineer's reports noted modifications to the room

situated "to the left of the principal entrance." Th/e present

report assumes that the room was to the left of someone entering

the compound. The room would have been on the south side of the

entry and thus located in today's courtyard. In 1785 work

focused on doors, windows and ceilings. In 1786 three new

windows were opened to face the courtyard (patio). In the

bedroom above, an area 6h varas square was floored with boards

two inches in thickness. The following year, 1787, a new window

with glass panes was made onto the street. An interior partition

wall of wood was added as well as a new wood floor. In 1790

still more windows were added to the lower story. A tabby floor
.^ -- -. --^ K ~ ..-- -- *-_ -- --_- -_
was laid (perhaps in only a portion of the addition). A fence of

small, finished boards and posts was built in the courtyard in

front of the windows.

In 1819 the building was referred to as the "former

residence of the governor in a state of dilapidation and

decay, from age and inattention."16 James Grant Forbes observed

in 1821 that Government House was serving as a barrack of the

royal artillery. He also commented upon its architectural

features of galleries and balconies, which he considered to be

typically Spanish. Forbes noted the existence of several

irregular additions to the main building.17

East Florida became an American territory in July 1821.

Under American control the building's primary function changed

toward legal and judicial functions and remodeling was needed to

accommodate trials and jurors as well as serve American cultural

expectations. The building was enlarged from 19 feet in width to

40 by demolishing the entire north wall, 72 feet 3 inches in

length, and building a new one to achieve the dimensions. The

contractor exceeded the dimensions specified on the contract in

order to accommodate all offices. Fireplaces were added in the

south wing. The building was plastered inside and out, and the

exterior treatment marked with ashlar scoring ("pencilled and

marked off as stone"). The contract called for woodwork was to

be painted blue, including jurors' benches, railings along the

piazzas, mantels. The east and south walls of Government

remained intact, demolition and expansion being performed on the

north and west sides. There is no mention of any other

structures (except privies), specifically the "room to the left"

that had been situated in today's courtyard.18

1. Amy Bushnell, The King's Coffer: Proprietors of the Spanish
Florida. Treasury, 1565-1702 (Gainesville, 1981), 46; Map of the
Town, Fort and Channel of San Agustin, Florida, from the Town to
Channel of San Sebastian, 1595. Archivo general de Indias, Sevilla,
Spain, Indiferente 3743.

2. Baptiste Boazio, "St. Augustini pars et terrae Florida sub
latitudinas 30 gradora vera maritima humilior est, lancinata et
insulosa, 1588. Photostat in HSAPB library, from a reproduction,
in the British Museum (PS3/2893 G345).

3. See Papers relating to the sale of Governor's St. Augustine
house, which Gonzalo M6ndez de Canzo had bought from Maria de

Pomar. AGI Santo Domingo 82. Year of 1603-1604. From abstracts
at St. Augustine Foundation, Inc.

4. Amy Bushnell, "The Noble and Loyal City," in Jean Parker
Waterbury, ed., The Oldest City, St. Augustine: Saga of Survival,
(St. Augustine: St. Augustine Historical Society, 1983), 53.

5.Bushnell, King's Coffer, 47.

6. Luis R. Arana, "The Spanish Infantry: The Queen of Battles in
Florida, 1671-1702," M. A. Thesis, University of Florida, 1960,
78-84; Susan R. Parker, "In My Mother's. House: Female Property
Ownership in Spanish St. Augustine," Paper presented to Florida,
Historical Society, May 1992, 10.

7. Royals Officials to King, 1696 April 20, AGI 54-5-15/114, SC LI

8. Charles W. Arnade, The Siege of St. Augustine in 1702,
(Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1959), 24, 57.

9. Governor Francisco de C6rcoles to the Crown, 1709 August 13,
Appraisal of Ruined Houses, AGI 58-1-28/66 SC; ibid., 1713 August
25, AGI-58-1-28/109 SC.

10.Collections of the Georgia Historical Society VII, Part I,
"Letters of Montiano Siege of St. Augustine," (Savannah: Georgia
Historical Society, 1909), 56, 57, 62.

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

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

13.Bernard Romans (263)

14.DeBrahm? 293 or 256,

15. Z6spedes to Bernardo de Galvez, 1785 July 29, in Joseph Byrne
Lockey, East Florida, 1783-1785 (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1949), 571.

16. Anaonymous, 1819, 118.

17.Forbes, 86-7.

18. Report (No. 223) of the House Committee of Claims, 26th
Congress, 2nd Session.