CITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE
MEMORANDUM o0 D /
TO: Jim Wilson, City Attorney
RE: Ponce de Leon Statue
The Ponce de Leon Statue that stands on Anderson Circle at the Bayfront is one of St.
Augustine's most significant public monuments, ranking in importance behind only the
The Ponce de Leon Statue is located within a circular green east of the Plaza, which is
the central feature of the Colonial City Historic District. From colonial times to the
present the Plaza has been the setting for the most prominent of St. Augustine's public
monuments and the focal point for public ceremonies.
The placement there in 1923 of the Ponce de Leon Statue formed a part of the post-
World War I expansion of the original Plaza and the Bayfront area east of it, a project
that culminated in 1927 with construction of the Bridge of Lions. It was part of a trend in
the early twentieth century called the "City Beautiful Movement" that consisted of
improvements to landscape and streetscape features. Among leaders in the local
movement was Dr. Andrew Anderson, physician, one-time mayor, and civic benefactor.
Beginning on Armistice Day, November 11, 1922, the City began development of the
new park east of the Plaza, between Charlotte Street and the Bayfront. The Ponce de
Leon Statue was to form the centerpiece of the newly created park space. Through the
United States Department of State, Dr. Anderson secured permission to have a cast
made of the original Ponce de Leon Statue, which stands near the explorer's grave in
San Juan, Puerto Rico. The original statue was cast in 1881 at the J.L. Mott foundry. Its
artist was C. Bupert. Dr. Anderson commissioned the authorized copy to be made by
the Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence, Rhode Island. The company sent
artisans to San Juan to make a plaster cast mould of the original for recasting in Rhode
Island. The base, consisting of an 11-foot tall pedestal of Dummerston granite, was
ordered from Georgia. It included carved garlands, festoons, dentils, and other classical
ornamentation. The height of the statue itself is 71 inches and the length of the sword
41 inches. The completed statue was presented to the City on November 11, 1923.
Returning the favor more than a half century later, the City of St. Augustine in 1987
permitted an artist from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to make measurements and
take photographs of its replicated statue, as to have well casts made of the sword. The
original statue, in San Juan, had suffered considerable deterioration due to exposure to
the ocean sprays and needed to be repaired.
In the spring of 2000, the City of St. Augustine undertook to have its own Statue of
Ponce de Leon thoroughly cleaned and polished, at a cost of some $6,000.
Estimating the value of the statue and pedestal in monetary terms is conjectural. On the
basis of my experience in both cleaning and reproducing such pieces, I would place the
cost of reproducing the original statue itself at approximately $250,000, assuming it
could still be done. Due to deterioration, the original may no longer be reproducible.
The cost of replacing the granite pedestal with all of its carvings and ornamentation is
likewise conjectural, though local companies that specialize in gravestones are able to
provide some guidelines. The cost of reproducing, transporting and installing a similar
stone piece would range from $275,000 to $325,000. That estimate is not based on a
visual observation of the monument, but on a verbal description of its size and
Monuments and works of art of this kind have, however, an intrinsic value that cannot
be measured in monetary terms. The Ponce de Leon Statue has become in the three-
quarters of a century it has stood at the Bayfront among of St. Augustine's most familiar
and recognizable works of art, one that resonates with the history of this city, the State
of Florida and the United States.
William R. Adams, Ph. D., Director
Department of Historic Preservation & Heritage Tourism