The Writing on the Wall
Special to Historic City News
When St. Augustine mason, Rick Hernandez, hired by the Lightner Museum to restore the plaster work on the walls of the fourth floor Alcazar Hotel staff bedrooms, he did not expect it to reveal secrets of an age past.
To prepare for the museum’s Downton Abbey themed Upstairs/Downstairs Tours, debuting in October with the arrival of the Dressing Downton exhibition, museum staff worked to clean and restore the upstairs bedrooms, and they found something unexpected: pencil writing on the walls.
“The staff wrote notes to themselves on the walls of the rooms marking restaurant hours and prices and even complaining about annoying customers,” Lightner Museum Curator Barry Myers said about the staff of the former Alcazar Hotel. “They were more polite than we are today, so the rudest comments described customers as a pain in the neck or a pain in the back.”
The pencil writings included the date 1917, exactly 100 years ago. Museum staff is currently working to translate them from Italian and Spanish.
Photo credits: © 2017 Historic City News contributed photograph by Lightner Museum
During the museum’s time as the Alcazar Hotel, from 1888 to 1932, the rooms served as part of the staff quarters. Today they provide storage space for the many items in the museum’s collection that Myers cannot squeeze into the displays on the floors below.
“This restoration project will allow historians to see a part of the building’s past that hasn’t been seen in 100 years,” Myers said.
The museum will also use the rooms for collection records and projects as well as spaces to accommodate the expanding staff. Hopefully 100 years from now, the writing will still be found on the wall, but with more stories to tell of the museum’s vibrant and successful future.
In 2018, the Alcazar Hotel will be celebrating its 130th anniversary and the Lightner Museum will be celebrating its 70th anniversary.