Place residence

Established in 1890, part of Cathedral Place is one of the newest streets in the city

Susan R. Parker holds a doctorate in colonial history.

St. Augustine has the oldest city streets in the United States. The streets south of the Plaza were laid out in the 1570s. The streets north of the plaza began to be laid out in the 1670s-1680s, shortly after the construction project for the Castillo de San Marcos began.

The layout of the streets of the oldest part of the city is in a grid. This model was required by Spanish laws. King Philip II of Spain signed the “Royal Ordinances for the Arrangement of New Towns, Towns or Villages” in July 1573. Copies of the ordinances were sent to St. Augustine as well as the rest of the Spanish Americas.

Our old streets have not developed organically. Our oldest streets don’t twist and turn, even though romantic travel descriptions call them “winding cobbled streets” or something similar. And they are not paved with cobblestones.

Post Office Park early 1900s postcard.

Suzanne Parker:Short Cathedral Place has been key to St. Augustine for years

A new section of street in the Colonial City is the part of Cathedral Place that runs between St. George and Cordova streets. This new road was opened in 1890. Yes, in Saint-Augustin, we consider a section of street created 135 years ago to be “new”.

For nearly three centuries, the new part of Cathedral Place was part of the backyard of the Governor’s House. A circa 1765 map of St. Augustine attributed to Thomas Jeffreys depicts trees occupying the future platform of Cathedral Place.

As the Spanish prepared to cede Florida and its capital, St. Augustine, to Britain in 1763, Spanish engineer Pablo Castelló inventoried and appraised the governor’s house, including his orchard. Castelló had 19 sweet orange trees and 95 sour orange trees. The other trees were lemons, peaches, pomegranates, figs, grapefruits, quinces, cherry trees and a vine.

Cathedral Square in St. Augustine in the 1930s.

Can you imagine the scents of fruit trees? The new British governor would take advantage of the garden left by his Spanish predecessors.

The United States received the Governor’s House in 1821 when the Floridas became a United States territory. The United States continued to use it as a government building. Was the orchard that now occupies Place de la Cathédrale still there in 1821 or had it suffered from hurricanes in the early 1800s?

In 1873, the Governor’s House was primarily used as the St. Augustine Post Office and US Customs House. In the late 1880s, the southwest corner (intersection of King and Cordova Streets) of the former site of the Governor’s House faced the new luxury hotels, the Ponce de Leon and the Alcazar, built by Henry Flagler.

Flagler pushed for improvements in the city to meet the expectations of the affluent clientele of his hotels. The Cathedral Place extension to the west provided an additional approach to Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel. In 1890, the U.S. government transferred the approximately 55 feet north of the Governor’s House lot to the city for roadway purposes.

Jefferson Theater at the corner of Cordova Street and Cathedral Place in St. Augustine.

Now Cathedral Street ran from St. George to Cordova Street. The space behind (west) the Governor’s House/Post Office became more accessible to the public and became known as Post Office Park. While some people have referred to this area as “West Plaza”, the space was never part of the plaza or a separate plaza, although the current layout may suggest so.

A fountain was built in the park of the post office. The fountain is still there. The other (north) side of the newly opened Cathedral Square provided locations for new buildings and businesses. Sanborn’s 1910 fire insurance map depicted several cigar factories in buildings along the new section of Cathedral Place.

St. Augustine was typical with its cigar factories. Cigar Aficionado magazine (January 31, 2019) claimed that at the start of the 20th century there were 42,000 cigar factories in the United States.

The Jefferson Theater Building occupied the corner of Cathedral and Cordova, where the now vacant Bank of America branch is located. Old cigar factories and small commercial spaces have given way to a parking lot.

Susan Parker

Susan R. Parker holds a doctorate in colonial history.