St. Augustine’s Historic Gardens

A color photograph of a stone well underneath an arbor with grape vines. The well and arbor are located in a grass yard.

The first day of spring may be four weeks away, but it definitely is already feeling like spring here in St. Augustine. The temperatures are increasing every day, the flowers are blooming again, and the lizards are back: a true sign of warm weather in Florida. If you’ve been reading our blog, you already know a little bit about the restoration and reconstruction work of the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board. But did you know that the Preservation Board also created and maintained several gardens within the historic district?

A color photograph taken from a backyard of a two-story building. A grape arbor covers a patio and a citrus tree's branch can be seen.

The Preservation Board’s gardens served to complement the historic interpretation at San Agustin Antiguo, the outdoor living history museum space on St. George Street. Many of the gardens were working gardens that produced the food used in their daily cooking demonstrations; for example, corn, peppers, onions, greens, and spices could be found at the Arrivas and Gallegos houses’ gardens. They also grew fruits such as oranges, grapes, figs, and pears throughout the restoration area. These gardens were based on historic descriptions of St. Augustine’s agriculture throughout the 18th and 19th century. The Preservation Board’s best resource was a 1765 account of St. Augustine by botanist John Bartram. His detailed descriptions of the plants that were grown and used during the First Spanish Period gave great inspiration to the planning and planting of San Agustin Antiguo’s gardens.

A hand-drawn map of Gallegos Garden created on 3/26/82 showing where vegetable crops and herbs will be planted.

In addition to these working gardens, the Preservation Board also designed two more formal garden spaces. The first was a large garden on the north end of St. George Street by the Ribera House. It was planned in collaboration with the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and modeled after a garden plan drawn by Thomas Jeffreys in the 18th century. It included several varieties of flowers and a large arbor to grow grape vines. It was completed in 1966 and dedicated in 1968, but unfortunately fell into disrepair and no longer exists.

The second formal garden is the Hispanic Garden, adjacent to the Pan American Center on the corner of St. George Street and Hypolita Street. The garden was built on the site of a colonial orchard and was completed in preparation for the Quadricentennial Celebration of St. Augustine in 1965. It represents a significant moment in women’s history for Florida. Elizabeth Towers, the only female member of the Preservation Board at that time, spearheaded the project. She assembled an entirely female committee known as the Hispanic Garden Committee of Florida to help raise funds, and selected Drusilla P. Gjoerloff and Lee W. Schmoll to design the garden. At the time, they were the only two female landscape architects practicing in Florida. Anna Hyatt Huntington was chosen to design the centerpiece, a sculpture of Queen Isabella of Spain. The garden was dedicated in 1965 and completed in 1967, and still stands today as an example of a Spanish ornamental garden.

Photos used in this post (in order of appearance):


5 thoughts on “St. Augustine’s Historic Gardens

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