Human bones found only feet below the surface of Charlotte Street

By: Raphael Cosme

Special to Historic City News

Historic City News reporter Raphael Cosme checked in with City of St Augustine archeologist Carl Halbirt who started a month-long dig today that, when it is over, will excavate a large portion of one of the city’s oldest streets.

With low temperatures and clear skies, archaeologists have already uncovered a variety of human bone samples beneath the bricks of historic Charlotte Street in Old Town; that, according to Halbirt, date back to the 16th century.

“Unfortunately, most of the excavation area has been disturbed by a trench of utility work, but I am hopeful for an 18-inch undisturbed area where we can still get a lot of information,” Halbirt told Cosme this morning. “Our excavation has also identified a great layer of charcoal that was likely deposited from one of the biggest tragedies in St Augustine history.”

In 1887 a fire, believed to have started in the paint room of C. F. Hamblen’s store, swept through St. Augustine and destroyed many of the city’s landmark buildings.

Destroyed in the fire was the Edwards Hotel, the County court house, the First National Bank, Planter’s house and the Florida house annex, the Basilica Cathedral, Sinclair block, Chamberlin’s store, Mr. Scott’s residence and Wetter’s hotel.

Even the fire department was burned out. Later accounts said the fire really started in the laundry of the St. Augustine hotel, but no clear records are available that prove that claim.

“Some of these trenches were made over 100 years ago when there were no regulations for historic preservation,” Halbirt told us.

At tonight’s City Commission meeting, a resolution opposing the State of Florida reinstating limited excavation permits for private citizens, was passed on a 5-0 vote and with support from many in the archeological community who spoke during public comments.

© 2016 Raphael Cosme for Historic City News

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