Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hey all! Since I'm all alone in the office this week, I decided to punch up my work schedule with some local adventures. For the next three days I'm taking front door fieldtrips, visiting authentic historic and archaeological sites that are close enough to reach on foot from my office in downtown St. Augustine. Some of my very favorite parts of this old town are really easy to miss and completely free.

I started with one of my favorite mini-walking tours of downtown, tracing the Cubo and Rosario lines. These earthen walls were constructed by the citizens of St. Augustine in the early 18th century as a response to repeated attacks by the British.

The Cubo Line was built in 1704-1705, extending from the Castillo de San Marcos all the way to the San Sebastian River. It consisted of an earthen berm (or manmade ridge) fortified with palm logs, and had a moat on the north side. Believe it or not, St. Augustine's Archaeology Division has excavated parts of the Line at least seven times!

By excavating the Cubo Line, City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt has learned about the structure of the defensive berm itself and how it was treated after it was no longer needed. Digging near the Visitors' Information Center, Halbirt uncovered the remains of the Santo Domingo Redoubt, a defensive outpost along the line where the Spanish could spot and fire on approaching enemies.

Over the years he's also discovered that in the late 1800s, people weren't using the Line for defensive purposes anymore, so it became a dump. He's found a sewing machine, dozens of different kinds of bottles, a toilet from the 1880s, and even part of a book!

From the Santo Domingo Redoubt, I crossed Orange Street and walked south on Cordova, tracing the Rosario Line. The Rosario Line was built shortly after the Cubo Line, but did not have palm logs supporting it. Instead, it was a simple earthen berm covered in spiny plants called yucca (or sometimes called Spanish Bayonet). Like the Cubo line, people certainly could cross it if they were determined--and didn't get caught--but they sure wouldn't like it.

The Rosario Line has been excavated many times, too. City Archaeology has found traces of it along various parts of Cordova Street, but we're still not sure exactly where all of it is. At some point in the south end of St. Augustine, the Rosario Line turned east and ran all the way back to the water, protecting the city's southern border.

Even though we don't know where it turns, Halbirt has discovered a structure related to the Rosario Line below San Salvador Street, just outside the National Cemetery. A few years ago he excavated parts of the street and found a mysterious coquina feature. It had two low coquina walls that were spaced about 2 feet apart. The ground between them was perfectly flat and lined with bricks, and the feature ran all the way down the street. City Archaeology has some theories, but it never was perfectly clear why the structure was there, or what it was meant to do. Here is a picture of me inside the walls taking a picture. Do you have any idea what it is?

2 Responses so far.

  1. possibly part of the San Francisco Redoubt. There were 3 redoubts along the Rosario wall that were made of masonry stone aka coquina. The San Francisco redoubt was at the South East of the Rosario wall and faced the water. It is known, thanks to maps that San Salvador road was the southern most part of the Rosario wall.
    SO the Rosario wall ran from Cordova street down to San Salvador, and went to the bay. San Francisco redoubt was at the end of the wall, made of coquina.

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