The state of Florida owns the land, the University of Florida manages the property, but entrepreneur Pat Croce anted up to $3 million to fund the reconstruction of the two-acre Colonial Quarter in downtown St. Augustine.
Instead of focusing only on the Spanish period, (as did the formerly named Spanish Quarter), St. Augustine’s Colonial Quarter now encompasses three centuries of Florida history. To do so, the area is broken into four quadrants. The Spanish area includes the 16th century First City, 17th century Fortified Town and 18th century Spanish Garrison Town. The 18th century British area is called The 14th Colony and features a print shop, candle maker and Public House, a pub like restaurant.
The watchtower, one of the Quarter’s highlights, allows visitors to climb the 35-foot high structure earning themselves a fabulous view over the Castillo de San Marcos (fort) and waterfront. The tower is similar to one the earliest settlers would have built for defensive purposes.
During my tour, the blacksmith bantered with guests as he forged away on a “J” hook, forming it from red-hot iron. The gunsmith caught attention by firing a musket, but the boatwright proved to be the most interesting. Craftsman Gary Kennedy is actually building a 55-foot ship, called a caravel, just like the ship Don Pedro Menendez used to sail into St. Augustine. It’s a long process; in fact, one he feels could take several years.
Pat Croce said the area was designed as “Epcot meets Williamsburg; the difference being instead of countries it’s centuries.” He also said the goal was to allow visitors an opportunity to make memories.
Also memorable are the influx of costumed employees I see walking to work and overall adding to the ambiance of the city.
However, I was dismayed at the plastic plates, forks and knives offered diners in the two restaurants. When I questioned Mr. Croce, he informed me there was no room or nor permission for dishwashers. Sad fact. I regret this situation (and I certainly hope the problem gets solved soon), but the use of plastic is just wrong.
Dishes and utensils aside, I equally questioned the menu selections. The British Bull & Crown Public House offers paninis and kettle chips layered with bleu cheese dressing topped with a balsamic glaze. They taste fantastic, but I can’t imagine them as a dish in colonial days. Hats off for offering Gato’ d’ Ametlla or Minorcan almond cake.
Yes, I am being harsh but with the University of Florida involved, I expected more.
Now, just so you don’t think I am overly critical of Pat Croce, I adore his Pirate Museum which sits adjacent to the Colonial Quarter. The attraction offers Smithsonian quality artifacts in an entertaining atmosphere.
Okay, I’ll give Croce and St. Augustine’s Colonial Quarter a little more time to get up to grade. And, I’ll return when they add a Colonial Revue this summer and hope to give it grand reviews.
For information: www.ColonialQuarter.com.