The redesign project for the block from King Street to Artillery Lane provides the opportunity for City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt, Research Assistant Melissa Dezendorf, and their volunteer team to find out if Aviles Street is North America’s oldest continuously used street.
As the city will be lifting the current brick surface to replace utility lines and expand the west sidewalk to provide outdoor dining, the dig is made possible.
Two test areas have been excavated. The first was near the corner of Aviles Street and King Street, across from the Heritage House, which sits atop Los Remedios. That area uncovered a series of earthen street deposits under which was a gas utility line installed in the late 1880s. Aviles Street was paved with brick in the early 1900s. Artifacts recovered from the earthen streets included an assortment of bullet casings, a broach with inlaid garnet stones and a complete boot spur.
The second area was near the intersection of Aviles Street and Artillery Lane which is adjacent to an area identified as containing archaeological deposits associated with the 1572 town. A total of 13 distinct street surfaces have been documented that date from the early 1600s to the present.
The earliest surfaces consisted of earthen deposits, with the upper portion consisting of compacted soil.
Only toward the end of the First Spanish Period (ca. 1750) was the street paved with oyster shells over which a compacted soil deposit of clay and silt was laid. Numerous artifacts have been recovered from this area which enables the different soil zones to be dated. One of the artifacts is a ceramic figure that was atop the lid to a vessel.
Among initial findings: in the area of Artillery Lane, at least 13 distinct road surfaces dating from the early 1600s have been uncovered, while at the north end, Henry Flagler’s road improvements of the late 1800s have been revealed.
Aviles Street was part of our original town plan, laid out by Spanish royal ordinance in 1573.
Photo credit: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer