Seniors complete 16th-century boathouse


Former St Augustine mayor George Gardner announced to local Historic City News reporters that upon the completion of the thatched roof at Fuego del Mar, a replica 16th century boathouse at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the work crew, and their spouses, held a picnic celebrating their accomplishments.

“It was tough duty for us seniors, but it was a positive experience and a true example of teamwork,” Gordon Crossley, one of the 12 workers, told reporters. “The fronds had to be hammered in place by more than 10,000 nails.”

A dozen seniors put in 3,000 man-hours, gathering and installing 5,680 hand-laid palm fronds to cover the authentic 1800 square-foot replica; built using local lumber and period hand tools.

“Collecting and placing the palm fronds seemed like an impossible challenge,” volunteer Bob Wunchel added. “But, we worked as a team and suddenly we were done.”

Site manager, Alexander Cameron, a board member, offered his praise, saying, “The 12-man team did the near impossible, culminating in the construction of a 16th century museum building in six months.”

Gardner said that this celebration marks completion of the “first phase” of plans by the local nonprofit organization, St Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation, which will now move to construction of a 37-foot chalupa. According to Gardner, the keel is already laid in the boathouse and the frame markers are already set.

In the future, the Maritime Heritage Foundation envisions building a caravel, the workhorse tall ship of Columbus, Ponce de Leon and St Augustine founder Pedro Menendez; as part of a living 16th century shipbuilding exhibit at the park.

A fundraiser is being held July 29, from noon until 5:00 p.m., at Ann O’Malley’s on Orange Street in St Augustine; as the foundation seeks out the community support needed to acquire the necessary sections, planking, and hardware for the “second phase”. This week the group received some bad news when the St Augustine Port Waterway and Beach District refused a request for $5,000 in assistance for continued work on the project.

Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News contributed photograph by George Gardner

St Johns County residents may visit the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park and observe the work being done by at Fuego del Mar without charge; or for more information on the project visit