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As a landmark, St. Augustine’s Constitution Monument has been a favorite subject of paintings, photographs and postcards for nearly two hundred years, and now it is quickly on its way to gaining additional and quite significant status with its inclusion in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. The monument, a white obelisk, stands in the Plaza de la Constitución in the center of St. Augustine.
After reviewing the city’s application to have the monument recognized, the Florida National Register Review Board, the state level body charged with considering applications, voted to forward the city’s application to the National Park Service with a recommendation that the monument be added to the Register. All that remains is a final review and approval by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places and the monument will join other St. Augustine sites which have been so recognized. (See list below.)
Attending the meeting of the review board in Tallahassee on Wednesday were Paul Weaver, historic preservation consultant and long time member of the city’s Historic Architectural Review Board who volunteered his professional services to develop the application, and Jennifer Wolfe, the city’s Historic Preservation and Special Projects Planner.
Another application from St. Augustine was also approved. The Father Lopez Statue on the grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios was also reviewed by the board and it too was forwarded to the National Park Service with a positive recommendation. The St. Augustine City Commission, during its February 27 meeting, approved resolutions in support of both nominations.
Many find it fitting that the application met this important threshold within days of the bicentennial anniversary of the Spanish Constitution, whose enactment was the reason for the monument construction and the naming of the Plaza. To mark the anniversary, commemorations that included the King and Queen of Spain were held on March 19 in Cadiz, Spain, the date and site of the constitution’s adoption in 1812.
Completing the application to have the monument nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places requires a significant amount of research, often more than has ever been conducted in the past. Weaver’s extensive research for the Constitution Monument’s nomination includes the physical description of the monument and details regarding the building materials and process, but goes further with accounts of political and financial challenges that had to be overcome to see the project to its completion. The complete application may be viewed here.
Even though the Constitution was adopted in March of 1812, Spanish subjects in St. Augustine did not receive news of the event until six months later. It was still another year before the town council approved a design for the new monument, and it was completed in January 1814.
Most Spanish colonial towns had not gone to the expense and effort to erect such an elaborate monument to commemorate the constitution, choosing instead to meet the minimum requirements from Spain that a central plaza simply be recognized with plaques.
But, the constitution itself was short lived. Just six months after completing the monument and upon learning that other colonial towns were removing their public recognitions of the now revoked constitution, the city council ordered the plaques noting “Plaza de la Constitución" be removed from the monument. But the Council did not order the removal of the obelisk itself and thus saved what is today possibly the only original monument in the Western Hemisphere built in commemoration of the Spanish Constitution of 1812.
The Constitution Monument’s landmark status, so long ago affirmed by the attention given to it by the public, is certainly to be enhanced by the additional credentials it can claim when included in the National Register of Historic Places.
• To read more about the city’s ties with Cadiz, Spain made possible because of the Spanish Constitution’s Bicentennial Commemoration, click here.
• To see a wide collection of depictions of the Constitution Monument, including paintings, engravings, photographs and stereoscopic pictures spanning the 19th and 20th centuries, visit the presentation developed by the Saint Augustine Historical Society entitled Images of the Monument to the Spanish Constitution of 1812.
Following is a list of archaeological sites, historic districts, buildings, structures, and objects located in St. Augustine and included in the National Register of Historic Places.