Thursday, April 4, 2013

OLDusa- Day One in St. Augustine FL

Recently I visited yet another Florida location that was a first for me. The oldest town in the United States of America, St. Augustine Fl. The historic district is now quite a tourist attraction and is geared to maximize the popular culture appeal of stuff like ghosts and pirates but there are many unusual rabbit holes to explore. Everything we passed as we walked from our hotel room on the first day had the word   "old" in it- oldest town store, oldest school house, and the old jail.

In front of the old jail is a sculpture of a chain gang which is amazing in how well it reads considering the crudeness of the plaster it is made from.

At sunset we arrived at the Castillo de San Marcos. This was one of the major sites in St. Augustine that I was interested in because of the construction materials and history. It was not a disappointment!
The castle is the oldest masonry building in the continental US- construction was started in 1672.
The actual town or settlement was established 107 years prior to the beginning of the fort's construction.

The structure is amazing. The fort is built with local shell infused limestone that, by it's nature, became one of the greatest engineering triumphs of it's time. By chance, the materials available were the exact prescription for an impenetrable fortress.

View of exterior mote wall
Detail of the Coquina "rock" used in the fort's construction.
The coquina masonry of the walls literally absorbed cannon fire into itself rather than cracking. This is evident on the bayside of the fort where the holes are plain to see. Years ago I became interested in this fort after reading about it's construction materials and came up with an idea for a sculptural installation called "Punching Bag for the Englishman with the Iron Fists" which would consist of a cast coquina punching bag suspended from the ceiling and two cast iron fists on the floor. I tracked down the sketch book drawing of this dated 6/12/2000.

I noticed an abundance of architectural phalluses at the site and all over St. Augustine in the older buildings. Each corner of the fort has a dick-like rampart tower. Around town there are numerous free standing structures like this that seem to serve no purpose or are connected to walls. 

The only structure in the fort that was made of cast concrete is an addition by the United States military when it controlled the fort. It is an oven for heating canon balls till they are red hot so that when fired they would start fires on the wooden vessels they struck. It is a very interesting structure resembling a kiln with a chimney and open end at both front and back.

Across from the oven is a wall that the US soldiers obviously used to try out their firearms.

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