Friday, July 5, 2013

Located on the oldest street in the United States, Aviles Street in St. Augustine, is the Spanish Military Hospital Museum. It is on the site of a three building hospital complex used by the Spanish in the 2nd Spanish Period (1784-1821). There once was Hospital East and West, and an adjacent apothecary in the William Watson House. Aviles Street was called Hospital Street until the 1920's as it ran in the middle of the Spanish Hospital complex. Hospital East and West burned in the 1880's. The building which housed Hospital East, along with the Watson House, were historically reconstructed in 1965 based on archaeological excavation and Spanish archive research.

Tours are given upon arrival. They are a pet friendly museum too!

                                                  What:    Spanish Military Hospital Museum

                                                  Where:  3 Aviles Street, St. Augustine, Florida

                                                  Price:     Visit their website and Facebook
                                                                 page for discounts on admission.
                                                   Hours:   10 a.m. -6 p.m., Daily. 
                                                                 Plan to spend at least an hour for your visit. 

The note card says "Artifacts found on Aviles Street and Spanish Military Hospital Property".  Clockwise from left to right: "English Wedgewood Creamware (1762-1820)", "American, possibly English (late 1700-early 1800's)", "Pearlware (1775-1840)", "English Slipware (c. 1675-1770)", "Pipe stem (c. 1750's)", "Puebla Polychrome (1680-1725)", "Olivejar (1565-1800)". 

   Animal bone fragments on the left and 16th century glass bottles on the right.

The following pictures are of authentic medical materials on display at the museum from the time period that the hospital was in operation, but are not original to the site.

Metacarpal saws.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Bone handled bloodletting lancets.

There are many more historical medical instruments at the museum, along with demonstrations on the tour. I must admit, I got a little dizzy during the demonstration! 

The Apothecary, though originally in the William Watson House, was very important to the hospital. Since medicine shipments from Spain were lost, pirated, or otherwise delayed, homegrown remedies were a must for the patients.

The apothecary.

Items for grinding, boiling, and storing medicinal organics.

Herbs from the museum's own garden are drying in the apothecary as they did in the 18th century.

A list of the garden's offerings.

One of my favorite 18th century medical items on display. Medicines were combined with beeswax and then cut into pill form. The board on the left was used until the mechanical cutter was invented on the right. It's not that different from how it's done today, though it's machine automated now.

In the patient room. Each bed had a number. Everything, including linens and eating utensils that each patient used had the same number. The mattresses were filled with Spanish moss. Each time a new patient arrived, the mattress was cleaned by boiling and stuffed with fresh Spanish moss. The saying, "Sleep Tight!" is thought to have come about due to the ropes which held the mattress. A special tool was used to tighten them as they loosened. 

The chapel. Families were only able to visit their soldiers after they passed and only in this room.

The bells outside the chapel were rung when a patient died. 

                                                                                        The doctor's office.

The Spanish Military Museum was well worth visiting. The staff is very good at their demonstrations and friendly. The gift shop is has unique offerings perfect for locals and tourists. You will feel like you are in the 18th century for your entire tour of the museum! There are many more "secrets" found in the museum that I suggest you explore on your own.

A special thank you to the owner and staff for your wonderful welcome during my tour!

Text and pictures by Jen Knutson, FPAN Staff. Courtesy of the Spanish Military Hospital Museum.

For more information: 

The Spanish Military Hospital Museum website: 

If interested in historical hospitals, please see the blog post about Old St. Luke's Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida:

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