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tv   St. Augustines Oldest Home  CSPAN  July 2, 2015 2:10am-2:21am EDT

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one man and an arm off the other. in those days, basically garbage. so they got tossed in there as well. when the siege is over, the city's been burned to the grouped. it's more important to rebuild the city than it is to dig all that garbage out. so they sealed off the doorway and forgot about it. in the intervening years, the next room in, they decide we don't need it anymore. they seal up the top and seal up the dar way and forget about it. so for a long period of time, the only rooms that anybody knows about are this one and the one we were in before, the day room and the governor's living quarters during the time we had the vaulted arches put in. time goes on time goes on, the americans come, and in 1832, they're putting new, bigger guns upstairs on top of the gun deck. and they start hearing cracking from the ground below the gun. the crew backs away from it and the cannon falls through the gun
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deck in the ground below. they figure no problem, pull the cannon out, fix the floor later on. they get down here in this room and there's no hole in the ceiling. where's the gun-- where'd the gun go? then they started thinking, old spanish fort secret rooms, early retirement. so the post got gold fever and the lieutenant command had to take it upon himself to get lowered on a rope to find that gun. he got down there and found that doorway roughly sealed in and that's when he got gold fever and he literally kicked his way through the ceiling of the old doorway. got into there and he found this huge black mound he was going to dig into it and find his gold. when the army breaks through
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this doorway and they dig that room out they find the head of -- or find the bones of over 100 head of long horn cattle got only knows how many goats pigs, and chicken and the bones of the human hand and arm and human leg and foot that were taken by the doctors back in 1702 and tossed in there. believe it or not, the human bones and all those other bones are the little seed of truth that all the people about being sealed up in the walls of the fort there being a dungeon inside of the fort, it all comes from that history all the way back in 1702. there's a lot more to this fort being a military fortification. because this fort was built to protect the community. later on, as you go through the history of the city, this fortification is a primary target of henry flagler. he would like it gone. this is prime real estate. great place to build a hotel,
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but the city keeps this fortification. it becomes an entrenched part of the city's fabric of history. the grounds around this fort are where people had their picknics, easter celebrations. all sorts of things. the two have been tied together for so long, it's really hard to pull the two apart. >> we're standing in what we call in st. augustine, the oldest house, it's formal name is the gonzalez alvarez house it's reached that level of importance under the national park service. it's the oldest house in florida, not the oldest in the united states, but i believe from my research that it probably is oldest spanish-built residence in the u.s. people used it as a residence
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for 200 years, and about 100 years ago, it became a full time house museum. it was built in the 1720s. there had been residences on this property before but in 1702, there was an invasion by the english from south carolina. they occupied st. augustine for 52 days. everyone went inside the castillo de san marcos -- all the residents went inside the castillo de san marcos for safety, and the english occupied the town. they were not successful however, in taking the town. the spanish reinforcements came from cuba and scared off the english. and before they left they burned just about all the houses in town. so the house that had been here was burned in the early 1700s and this was at least one of replacements. but this was built in about 1725. of the local shell stone of
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which the castillo de san marcos is constructed as well. it's a shell stone made of small little shells, compressed together over the millennia. it appears very close to the surface. water level is very high here, so it's in a watery environment, and it's really soft. when you dig down and find it in the ground, but when you take it out, it starts to harden. and this has been hardening for 300 years. the original building was probably -- we know it was just the downstairs. the second story was added later. as to whether or not it was two rooms as it is today, i don't know that we're so certain about that. it could have been just one large room. and this was where the family lived. i mean they all slept in here at night. a lot of the cooking would have been done outside. and people lived outside a great deal at that time. we think the places are small but they weren't inside most of the time. the family that was here in the 1720s was the family of thomas gonzalez.
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he was a soldier with the spanish army as were almost all the men in town. st. augustine was a spanish military outpost, paid for by the crown funds of spain and most everybody here, male, was a soldier, or did something in a support position for the army. st. augustine and what is now the state of florida was governed in the 1700s and had been since the middle of the 1500s, by spain. spain had claimed a lot more territory early on but as the english moved into carolina they took over some territory. st. augustine was under the spanish government got most of its instruction about what to do with its money through havana. when you look at it it actually seems rather modern as to how the communications went and how the budget was distributed. the treaty of paris of 1763 had
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a huge impact on st. augustine, because spanish florida was traded to great britain and that meant spanish st. augustine was traded to great britain. and so all of the residents that were spanish departed st. augustine by early 1764. almost all of them went to havana or the area around havana. a few went to mexico. so st. augustine became a british town. the spanish left. there was some overlap. so you had a spanish town and with british soldiers here, and they didn't care much for spanish architecture and of course they had been enemies for years. so we have reports of them taking down some of the spanish wooden houses to use for firewood. that was easier than going out and cutting firewood. and a lot of complaints one was
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that the spanish consulted convenience more than design in their buildings. the person that moved into this house was maria evans. she came here and her husband with whom she came during the british period died and she remarried major peevit, and they did very well. she was a midwife, so she had her own income, and he was the pay master for the british soldiers. right across the street, right out that window, had been the fran sisk an monastery for florida. the british turned it into a barracks for soldiers. and so mary and her husband opened up a tavern over here. what a great location for a tavern. and i don't know the half of it since he was the pay master. i'm sure he made sure he was paid if anybody ran a tab. [ laughter ] and they made enough money probably both to enlarge, but
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also just because they had the money, they added the second floor on the building. the second floor is made of wood. so this build is cokeena on the bottom floor and wood on the top floor. and they would have lived upstairs and had the tavern downstairs. she lived here longer than he did. he died. she married again, and she was in her early 50s and she married a man in his mid 20s. she was wealthy by then. she also had a plantation outside of st. augustine. and he liked to drink and gamble. and she ended up selling the house in bankruptcy. so she moved out and by then actually the spanish had returned. so while all this was going on mary peevit-hudson was now in the spanish period because the spanish came back to st. augustine after the end of the
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american revolution. spain had sided with the american revolutionaries in the war, so they were on the right side of the treaty table, another treaty made near paris. one of the awards for being on the right side of that war, the winning side of that war was that great britain abandoned, or left florida and the spanish came back and took it over. and were here for another almost 40 years, until it became a u.s. territory in 1821. in the second spanish period, the house was purchased by a man named alvarez. the second half of the gonzalez alvarez name. he was from northwest spain, and he was a baker but he did very well. he lived here, became the first elected mayor of st. augustine. and upon his death his son -- or his family continued to live here until after the civil -- they owned it until after the civil war. most florida

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