Fla. museum construction turns up artifacts

Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010 6:38 AM
Last updated 6:39 AM
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- There was buried booty outside St. Augustine's new Pirate and Treasure Museum.

MAGGIE FITZROY/ Morris News Service
St. Augustine city archaeologist Carl Halbirt holds a piece of an old cup handle — among the artifacts found just outside St. Augustine’s new Pirate and Treasure Museum.

Workers digging Monday to install a handicapped-accessible ramp found historic artifacts from the nation's oldest city. Once it's cataloged and researched, museum spokeswoman Kari Cobham said a new exhibit will be added, aptly called "Buried Beneath Your Feet" for the new discovery.

"We couldn't have planned it better ourselves," Cobham admitted. "I am looking at a box of them and it is stunning. I see a bottle, a rusty compass, a tooth - it's a pretty big tooth - and some glassware as well."

St. Augustine city archaeologist Carl Halbirt said the artifacts range from commonplace to unusual. That includes the hilt and guard of a British soldier's dress uniform sword dating back to the 1750s, with hanger intact, as well as a 1780s-1820s button and a man's knee buckle used to close the seams of his breeches. It may have come from a British garrison camp site that once occupied the greens between the walls of the Castillo and the British-occupied city.

"This is the first time I have found a hanger. I have found sword hilts, but is it rare? Probably not," Halbirt said.

"It tells us how the property developed over time. ... Finding an artifact that is representative of what the military would have used, the learning experience for me is exciting as it is for the visitors because it gives them something tangible."

Moved from Key West

The pirate museum had operated in Key West since 2004, but owner Pat Croce moved it to St. Augustine, taking over the former Teepee Town and Christmas Shop at 12 S. Castillo Drive across from Castillo de San Marcos.

In a February Times-Union interview, Croce said he decided to move the museum to a "place that honors its history and heritage" that had also been attacked by pirates. Exhibits will include items Croce has collected like Capt. Kidd's 1699 journal for his last voyage. Interactive exhibits include a ship's deck that rocks with the movement of the captain's wheel. Croce is the former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers.


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