City Manager John Regan has received support from the St. Augustine City Commission and Mayor setting the tenor at the last meeting attended by Historic City News; where he has proposed an operational mode “to do great things.
“Your city staff is excited that this is an opportunity for us to make lasting, positive changes for our community,” he said, and commissioners responded to a new energy in executing four years of commemorations.
• 2012 – The 200th anniversary of the 1812 Constitution of Spain, recognized by the monument in the Plaza de la Constitución, believed to be the only surviving monument after citizens refused orders by King Ferdinand, who regained the throne in1814, to destroy all such monuments.
• 2013 – The 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of new lands he thought were the rumored Island of Bimini, named La Florida for the abundance of foliage and for the Easter season, and claimed for Spain.
• 2014 – The 50th anniversary of St. Augustine’s most recent event to “change America and inspire the world,” the civil rights movement of 1963-64 which led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
• 2015 – The 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied European city in America.
Currently four major players are in the field, having developed over the past several years for both the commemoration period and as legacies for St. Augustine’s future:
• The 450 Community Corps – A 501.c.3 non-profit originated in 2007 to encourage a formal start to planning the commemorations, to develop program and project ideas, enroll volunteers, and assist community organizations in producing programs and projects. Its website is www.oldcity450.com.
• The St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation – A 501.c.3 non-profit evolved from a 450 Corps Ship Committee created to build a 16th century Caravel tall ship, now expanded to all water-related activities. Ship-building will be at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.
• Romanza, Where the Arts Embrace the Sea – A 501.c.3 non-profit dedicated to “cultural offerings that enhance both the quality of life for residents and the lasting impression of The Nation’s Oldest City for visitors.” Its website is http://www.romanzafl.org/
• First America Foundation – Designated by the City Commission in August, 2010, to manage the four commemoration periods.
Each organization welcomes volunteers: the 450 Corps to continue engaging the community in developing programs and projects; the Maritime Heritage Foundation for its expanded role from ship-building to other maritime activities, Romanza to draw together the music, arts, and culture of St. Augustine, and First America Foundation for commemoration program development.
Each is pledged to cooperate with other initiatives which may have been started or are planned.
One event at a time
City Manager Regan said major events should be planned one event at a time. He offered two examples:
2012 – This will celebrate the Spanish Constitution of 1812, but embrace such constitutions worldwide: the United States, France, and others recognizing the rights to liberty and its freedoms. “A Hispanic fashion show is being developed, and would fit well into this period, demonstrating the freedom of choice only possible through constitutional guarantees.”
2013 – “University of St. Augustine President Stanley Paris is preparing to launch a state-of-the-art yacht to sail around the world in 2013,” Regan said. “He plans to make it in the fastest time – 110 days – and perhaps be the oldest mariner to do it. Stanley is a local resident. Here’s an opportunity to negotiate recognition of the city to an international audience.”
Exhibit space for commemorations
The City Commission decided retrofitting existing spaces for exhibits would make more sense than building new venues. Consultants looked at familiar areas, praising particularly the Visitor Information Center, Government House and Lightner Museum.
City Commissioner Bill Leary pointed out that several potential venues were left out. Among them, the fourth floor of the Visitor Center parking facility, the former Bozard Ford lot on US 1, the Ice House on Riberia Street, and the former CVS location on San Marco Avenue.
Former Mayor George Gardner has also suggested the former Firestone Tire building on San Marco at Locust Street. “Owners of private properties for sale could consider beneficial publicity through their property’s exposure,” Gardner wrote in his weekly newsletter, “The St. Augustine Report”.
Two exhibits have been suggested so far: a Pablo Picasso exhibit discussed with Cadiz Spain officials during a visit by Commissioner Errol Jones, and the Kinsey Collection of African-Americana promoted by Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline after seeing it in Tallahassee last spring.
Most traveling exhibits require specific climate control and security, add-on costs that make use of existing properties at a good rent practical.
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer