Overview of Use and Residents


Material Information

Overview of Use and Residents
Series Title:
Government House Archaeological Excavation Documents
Physical Description:
Mixed Material
City of St. Augustine Archaeological Program

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
West Plaza Lot
System ID:

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Overview of Use and
The site verment House has been utilized or

governmental purposes since circa 1598. During the colonial era the executive offices of the governor a4as 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 E k Government House was first located on this site, it was a capitol with a jurisdiction that endednor and west to yetuncontested limits. Control iia~ i continually contracted over the cq s, despite Spain's a e et: ial, legal claims. With te ransfer 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. PVvI C L0/

As the administrative seat under several regimes, the

Government House site was better maintaine~and 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. /&6/"2o 6

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. The e everal heories about the location of St. Augustine before Canto recnfigured the town. One pprs ective indicates that thd "high scaffold for a watchman" (item N) shown 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 persistance until today of the indentation of the shoreline shown on the Boazio map and the existience 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.

Canzospurchaseda house, its kitchen and a field for his

home on this site from the widowed Doia Maria de Pomar. During his occupancy Canzo almost doubled the size of the house. The

addition was better constructed than he urchased section and he roofed the whole house with azotea,r placing the palm thatch on the original part. The purchased kitchen, which had a roof of this wooden planks or shingles (teiamanil), burned and Canzo built a new, larger kitchen. Canzo claimed that thp new kitchen was worth as much as the (weling house when it was purchased. The whole site was fenced with cedar paling.3 In 1604 the Crown purchased Canzo's private house fx the governors' official residence.

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 Caribbean. In 1668pL vateer Robert Searles slipped into tpwElat night, sacked the town, captured the money in the counting house, killed 60 persons, and carried off a number of residents- mixed 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. fromm outside of the Florida colony arrived to man the garrison; locally born men found themnselves 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 "detrio ration of the neighborhood" Cabrera turned the gubernatorial mansion into a public inn and requisitione for his own reside e th- house of Ana Ruiz, two blocks from Government House e area mrghte-raL s th 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. Outre, the fences were also deteriorated. In 1690 local soldiers, military craftsman, Native American laborers, and Crown-owned black slaves constructed anewGovernor'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 to speople re ted to the shelter of Castillo de San Marcos. The Eng\li 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 buildings.

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 va t By 1713 the eective mansion had been rebuilt. It was reported that in 1713 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 h d been founded at Savannah in 1733 and Frederica establishe in 1736, even close to St. Austine. On a 20, 17 0, General James Oglethorpewit ro Georgia and South, rom 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 not4 rin the documentation either as reinforced or damaged.0

In the middle of the eighteenth century Father Juan Jos6 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 the-p ino 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 "consum[ed] more than 1500 fence posts and 1200 stones." Despite this improvement according to Solana, the governor stayed on his

(estancia), 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]???

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.5 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 itseF The work in 1785 consisted mostly of sa tu 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 garden.

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? iches) 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 focussed on doors, windows and ceilings. In 1786 three new windows were opened to face the courtyard (patio). In the bedroom above, an area 6 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 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 accomodate 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 buiding a new one to achieve the dimensions. The contractor exceeded the dimensions ospecified on the contract in order to accomodate all offices. Fireplaces were added in the south wing. The buiding 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 O 24.

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 86-721/41 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.