It may seem silly to someone unfamiliar with St Augustine, or to someone who isn’t particularly interested in historic preservation or old houses, but one of my fears for the renovation of the old Colonial Spanish Quarter was that it wouldn’t smell the same afterward.
If you are an obsessive historic preservationist like me, you know exactly the smell I’m talking about. Sort of damp, not really musty, though; warm, kind of brown and a little dark. Sometimes I smell it in places other than St Augustine, and when I do, I am immediately catapulted back to my favorite town.
I was honored to be invited to a special media-only tour of the new Colonial Quarter on March 15, 2013, and when I got there, I decided almost immediately that I didn’t like it.
I love it.
I love the crispness of it, the new landscaping that shows off every element to perfection, the elements that were left alone (because how do you improve on perfection?) and the elements that got the help they needed to shine. I loved the newness of it, all the new things to see and do, and how the museum was treated with such care and respect. These two acres that have been the center of such controversy, fear, sense of loss, and to some, represent the very identity of St Augustine, have been transformed into a wonderful and interactive place to see and do so much that can’t be seen anywhere else in the city.
Thank you, City of St Augustine, for having the good sense to let someone who saw the potential lead the new Colonial Quarter to that potential.
Thank you, Ed Poppell, University of Florida, for your part in making this wonderful thing happen.
Thank you, Dr. Kathy Deagan, for everything you did to bring the Colonial Quarter to life the right way.
And thank you, Mr. Pat Croce, for handling our little piece of history as carefully and respectfully as you did, for making the best decisions for it that you could, and for surrounding yourself with people who shared your vision and were willing to roll up their sleeves and help make it happen.
It still smells like home. Thank you especially for that.