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Saint Augustine, Northeast Florida
Going public with archaeology for outreach, assistance to local governments, and service to the citizens and state of Florida. Visit our website at: http://flpublicarchaeology.org/nerc/
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Archive for January 2013

The Hotel Ponce de Leon Turns 125 and Opens Again to the Public

Saturday, January 12, 2013 dawned sunny and beautiful in the City of St. Augustine, exactly 125 years after Henry Flagler opened his new hotel to the citizens of St. Augustine in 1888.  Throngs of today's citizens and tourists packed the street and courtyard just as they had done on January 12, 1888.  And Henry Flagler himself (interpreted by John Stavely) warmly welcomed them into his hotel.

Henry Flagler then

John Stavely as Henry Flagler now

Guests from the Gilded Age had already arrived for the winter season and directed citizens to the beautifully decorated domed rotunda, Tiffany glassed dining room, and elegant Flagler sitting rooms.

Today the Hotel Ponce de Leon is the landmark center piece of the Flagler College campus.  Womens' dorms occupy the former guest rooms but the elaborately decorated public areas are still maintained by the college in their gilded age splendor. Some of these areas, now occupied by the President's office and Flagler college administrative offices, were opened to the public on Saturday.  This was a rare treat for our local citizens and tourists as these areas are usually open only to college personel. 

Original china place settings and silver serving pieces from the hotel's high seasons were displayed in the Tiffany dining room.

And of course, the beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows glowed beautifully in the sunshine of this lovely January Saturday.

Music, as it was played on the original opening day, was heard again in the rooms and verandas of the hotel.

Flagler College student guides answered questions and told stories to eager visitors about the glory days of the grand hotel.

The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum opened a gallery exhibit of some of the original blueprints and architectural drawings prepared by the firm of Carrera and Hastings.  The hotel was designed in the Spanish Renaissance Revival style by this pair of young New York City architects selected by Henry Flagler early in their careers. And what a magnificent hotel was produced for our City by these young but talented architects!  The Hotel Ponce de Leon has lasted 125 years with many more years to come as the adaptively reused women's dorm on the the Flagler College campus.

Original Blueprint

Architectural Rendering

This public opening event and gallery opening is only the beginning of Flagler College's year of festivities celebrating the legacy of this beautiful old hotel. Check out the web site for future events at www.PONCE125.com.

Text and photos by Toni Wallace, FPAN - NE

Viva Florida Plays the Lottery

This month the Florida Lottery launched a new $3 scratch off Florida's Treasure Hunt.  The ticket features the Viva Florida 500 logo and is supported by the statewide effort to promote Ponce de Leon's sighting and subsequent naming of our state in 1513.  Looking up information on the program I easily found the Viva Florida 500's page dedicated to official details on the ticket with history of the project, information on Viva Florida 500, and information about Florida Lottery.

Treasure Map Key.
As an archaeologist I obviously have mixed feelings.  The scratch off itself features a treasure map with a code key related to gold bars, coins, and a pick.  These are the very symbols we have worked against for years.  No 16th century shipwreck has been identified off Florida's Atlantic coast* and no pirate ship ever confirmed from any era.  If you're confused by my reaction to treasure, check out this link to the American Council of Underwater Archaeology's blog post on ethics, it's a good one. 

Moving on...my husband and I got our penny ready and started on square A1.  With every scratch you get direction to the next square to "excavate" and more often than not a symbol from the key is awarded.  Receive three of any symbol and you get a prize up to $50,000.  Scratch off three skulls and your hunt is over.  So my first positive thing to say- at the very least players get a chance to brush up on grid coordinates.


Three skulls, and you're out!

My rants on archaeology ethics and treasure hunting became muted when we entered the second chance drawing.  If you get a ticket, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE enter the drawing and spend time on the Discovery website.  You have to go through several steps to get there, including entering private information subject to the sunshine laws, but once through the interactive map features information on 300 bonafide historical sites and I did love the ship and artifact graphic from the Viva Florida poster, which I had not seen before.  The footer also promotes Next Exit history apps for android and iPhone.  Next Exit is a really great program and does promote historic sites as you drive across the state.

I searched today to see if you could navigate the interactive map without purchasing the ticket- and so far the official Viva Florida website has a tab for a clickable map, but it is not yet live.  I'll keep checking back and will post it to our Facebook page when it does.

If the goal of the ticket was to raise awareness of Florida's 500th commemoration, it will be successful.  I can applaud the efforts of Viva Florida 500 for finding new audiences, and they achieved something elevated and statewide that the archaeology community could not have done on its own.  I hope the Department of State will continue after the Florida 500 to consider other ways of promoting cultural resources.  For example, the Bureau of Archaeological Research has launched its new Panhandle Shipwreck Trail.  I could see a similar scratch off map and icons with the wrecks being a positive way to raise awareness of the trail and sites it promotes.  In the future, however, I hope they move away from the treasure and object themes and find a way to entice the Lottery audience without compromising archaeological ethics.

Now it's your turn!  What do you think?  If you're not a fan, be proactive and help us brainstorm other themes that would be conducive to a scratch off format.

* The Emanuel Point Shipwrecks I & II are the only 16th century wrecks I'm aware of in Florida waters and they are located off shore of Pensacola.  For more information on the wrecks, join us for the next SAAA lecture by Della Scott Ireton, February 5th, 2013 at Flagler College.

Text and images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff

2013 Promises to be a Great Year for Archaeology in St. Augustine

Happy New Year 2013
Happy New Year St. Augustine! The year 2013 is here and we St. Augustinians have survived the dawn of a new epoch in Maya time, the beginning or seating of the 14th Bak'tun. A Bak'tun is 144,000 days, almost 400 years, a long time.  The Maya started the beginning of their calendar count in 3114 B.C., the day of creation.  The 13th Bak'tun ended on December 21, 2012 and some people thought this portended the end of the world.  But we are still here, alive and well, and looking forward to another fascinating year for archaeology in St. Augustine, Florida.  The 14th Bak'tum is actually said to be the start of a very favorable epoch in history.  And the year holds many promises. 

St. Augustine Archaeological Association
This is the year that the Florida Anthropological Society (FAS) will hold its annual conference in St. Augustine, "From Ponce to the Ponce"  hosted by the St. Augustine Archaeological Association (SAAA).  The conference will be held at Flagler College's Ringhaver Student Center, May 9 through 12, 2013.  In addition to a full day of academic papers and posters on Florida archaeology, we will be treated to archaeology tours on a trolley, a boat and on foot along the streets of the old City.  A banquet in the style of Henry Flagler's 1888 opening day dinner will be served in Flagler College's Tiffany Dining Room in the Ponce Hotel.  Workshops and meetings hosted by the major archaeology organizations in the State will be offered.  www.fasweb.org/meeting.htm    

The old City of St. Augustine in colonial times
The next weekend (5/16-5/18), the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation will host its annual statewide preservation conference, at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine.  This conference is entitled "Rediscovering La Florida:  New Experiences in the Oldest City".  www.floridatrust.org

A week later (5/24-5/26), the Florida Historical Society will hold its annual meeting and symposium on board the Carnival Sensation cruise ship which will leave on a three day chartered cruise to the Bahamas.  This is entitled "500 Years of La Florida:  Sailing the Path of Discovery".   Papers and workshops will be scheduled on board as well as a tour of the town of Nassau on shore.  http://myfloridahistory.org

The spires of the Ponce Hotel, Flagler College
But 2013 holds even more experiences in and around St. Augustine.  Two very significant and interesting anniversaries will be commemorated.  This year will see the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Ponce Hotel by Henry Flagler in 1888.  The Ponce Hotel is now the landmark center piece of the Flagler College campus.  The college plans a full year of events, exhibitions, lectures and banquets to celebrate this significant anniversary.  Flagler College's kickoff event in the Discover First America series will be a program entitled "Hotel Ponce de Leon Turns 125" to be held on January 9, 2013 at 7:00pm in the Lewis (Flagler College) Auditorium.  The following Saturday, January 12th, at 9:30am, Flagler College will recreate the grand opening of the Ponce Hotel, with free public tours guided by Henry Flagler himself and other Gilded Age hotel guests and staff. www.ponce125.com

And who can overlook the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de Leon sighting and naming La Florida.  No one knows for sure where Ponce de Leon first stepped ashore in 1513.  But that controversy has not prevented communities up and down Florida's East Coast from claiming the honor and scheduling events including another program in the Discover First America series sponsored by the Fountain of Youth Archaeology Park, "Juan Ponce de Leon Finds Florida" at 7:00pm, January 23, 2013 in the Lewis Auditorium.  www.staugustine-450.com

City of St. Augustine Archaeological Lab
But are there any actual archaeological digs this year?  Just last year the City of St. Augustine celebrated the 25th anniversary of the passage of its Archaeological Ordinance (See the blog article of 12/21/2012 for a description of the Ordinance).  City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt, has a full schedule of City digs planned for this year as mandated by the Ordinance.  One of the most interesting will be at the site of the proposed Flagler College Communications Building on the corner of Cordova and Cuna Streets.  This dig on an archaeologically sensitive area at the inner edge of the Rosario Line (old city wall), will possibly last six months and should prove to reveal some very interesting new information on the history of the ancient city.  www.digstaug.org

A City Dig

Carl Halbirt, City Archaeologist

So St. Augustinians, friends and visitors, prepare yourself for a fascinating year of meetings, lectures, banquets, commemorations and digs.  The year 2013 should prove to be one of the best years ever exploring archaeology in our old city.

An Interview with Carl Halbirt, Part 3

Here it is: the last part of my interview with Carl Halbirt, the City of St. Augustine's archaeologist.  If you missed the previous entries, get the rest of the story with parts One and Two. This closing piece reflects on what the job of City Archaeologist itself and what it's like to hold this unique position. 

One of the City's more recent earth-shattering discoveries--Carl and a volunteer examine a feature associated with a 16th-century structure near the Castillo de San Marcos.  This large structure may have been a Spanish fort predating the Castillo.

How has 20+ years as City Archaeologist informed your overall understanding of the City’s past?  

Like anyone who has been in one location for 20+ years you gain an appreciation and understanding of the environment in which you work.  As the city archaeologist since April, 1990, I have learned a lot about the history and archaeology of this unique city.  More importantly, my learning curve is still growing exponentially.   This curve is not limited to just the archaeological resources, but also integrating that information into a format that can be shared with the public (be it through speaking engagements, displays, cooperation with other organizations, etc.)  The position of city archaeologist is not restricted to just doing archaeology, but involves community outreach.

Carl speaks frequently to share his discoveries with the public.  In this photo from last year, he even shares his new office,  offering a reception and tour of the Sue Middleton Archaeology Lab, during its grand opening.

 What are the greatest challenges you face as the City Archaeologist? 

As city archaeologist you are not just involved with excavating sites and preparing reports.  The
position is actually four or five distinct positions wrapped into one job title.  These include archaeologist, volunteer coordinator, lab supervisor responsible for the analysis and curation of artifacts, public outreach, and program administrator.  

Carl checks in on volunteers washing artifacts. Photo courtesy of the City of St. Augustine Archaeology Division.

As such, scheduling and allocation of tasks is the biggest challenge faced in this position.  You have to decide what is important during the period of concern and respond accordingly.

Volunteers sort bags of artifacts by provenience. Photo courtesy of the City of St. Augustine Archaeology Division.

What’s your favorite thing about being St. Augustine’s City Archaeologist? 

There are so many aspects associated with of this position that it is difficult to decide what is my favorite.  Discovering and interpreting archaeological deposits that shed new information about St. Augustine’s cultural heritage (as represented in the archaeological record) is a definite.  Undertaking activities to create an archaeological lab, such as establishing a comparative collection of faunal remains to aid in the identification of animal bones recovered from archaeological sites is another. 

Carl adds to his faunal collection.  So...one of the stinkiest, grossest days of my archaeology career was probably one of his favorites?!?

Developing programs to present to the public is always engaging and rewarding.  Establishing a volunteers corps to aid in the excavation of archaeological sites, analysis and curation of artifacts in the lab, and assisting with public programs is something I enjoy.  

Carl's dedication to his work and volunteers has paid off not only in a wealth of knowledge, but by enriching lives.  Here he is with many of his volunteers, past and present, on the SAAA's "Dress Like Carl" night.

Finally, helping students who are interested in archaeology or pursuing archaeology as a career is something I believe all professional archaeologists should embrace.  These are just a few of the things I enjoy as the city archaeologist.   

Carl works with Sarah Bennett (center alum and current graduate intern at FPAN Northwest) on her independent study project.  Photo courtesy of the City of St. Augustine Archaeology Division

Those were  my questions for our legendary and beloved City Archaeologist.  Anything you still wonder about?  What would you ask him?  Post questions in the comments, or to our facebook or twitter accounts!

If you'd like to learn more about the City's Archaeology Division, visit their website.  To become a volunteer, or keep up with the City's current and ongoing archaeology activities, check out the St. Augustine Archaeological Association.

Unless otherwise noted, photos are courtesy of the Florida Public Archaeology Network.

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