City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt and Archaeological Technician MisCha Johns, are digging in the Plaza de la Constitution, again; this time, capitalizing on the opportunity to discover more about our history before the veteran’s war memorial covers its proposed new home in the Plaza’s northeast corner along Cathedral Place.
Halbirt says that he has already unearthed a series of archaeological deposits that date as far back as the early colonial period; late 1500’s to early 1600’s. Each new excavation provides new insights into the archaeological heritage buried in the plaza.
“The deposits unearthed in the Plaza include a surface zone associated with an 18th-century to early 19th-century customs house, a trash pit, and two post holes,” the City Archaeologist said. “The current Public Market is atop the remains of the customs house.”
According to Halbirt’s read of documents in the city’s archives, he believes that the two postholes are part of a structure, which may have been circular in shape. The trash pit was outside what was probably a pole and thatched building. Most of the items found within the trash pit were discarded oyster shell, although some broken pieces of European and Native American pottery, as well as deer bone, also were recovered.
This is not the first excavation undertaken by the City’s archeology program in the plaza. Excavations in 1996 and 2010 indicated the plaza contains numerous archaeological features dating from the late 16th century into the 19th century.
“What is interesting is that many of those features date to the 16th century, which suggests that today’s plaza had been a developed living area, later cleared and in 1598 formally established by the governor as a plaza.
Residents complained after learning that the war monument, originally commissioned by the St Augustine Pilot Club, is showing signs of decay and has been partially hidden from the public view since electrical panels were installed to control traffic lights in the area following reconstruction of the Bridge of Lions.
In order to protect a tree root system, volunteers assisting in the relocation of the monument say the new site must be further west of the originally planned site; which was directly opposite the Foot Soldiers Memorial.
Changes to the original plan will come before the Historic Architectural Review Board at their next regular meeting on April 17th. Approval is sought for a slightly different site location and for the 68-year-old memorial to be disassembled and reassembled on the new site.
Photo credits: © 2014 Historic City News staff photograph
Photo credits: © 2014 Historic City News contributed photograph by John Valdes
Photo credits: © 2014 Historic City News contributed photograph by Ron Berben