Spanish settlement was established in 1698
Story, photos by Bridgette Williams
Naval Air Station Pensacola Public Affair Office Intern
It has been 20 years since the original site of the Presidio Santa Maria de Galve, the first European settlement in Pensacola, joined the list of historic landmarks aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola (NASP).
A replica of a section of the Spanish military post sits on a hill on Slemmer Avenue west of the Walter L. Richardson Building (Bldg. 1500), which serves as headquarters for NASP.
It is just one of the historical sites overseen by Carrie Williams, cultural resources manager aboard NASP.
NASP’s rich history began with a
Spanish expedition led by Don Andrés de Arriola y Guzmán in 1698 to estab- lish a settlement on Pensacola Bay. The settlement was located on the “red cliffs” facing the entrance to the bay, east of present day Fort Barrancas. Of primary concern was fortification, and soon after arriving construction began on Fort San Carlos de Austria, Williams said.
The location of the settlement was discovered during an archaeological survey research project, and in 1995 Dr. Judith Bense, who is now the president of the University of West Florida (UWF), began a four-year study of the site, according to a Division of Anthro- pology and Archaeology report published on UWF’s website (http://uwf.edu). The information recovered from the site provided the first professional-level information on the early settlement. The archaeology research project was conducted by archaeologists, historians and students.
The archaeological investigation of the site gave the community a glimpse of what life was like during the early colonial occupation on Pensacola Bay. As described in “Santa Maria de Galve: A Story of Survival,” a book published in 1998 by the Pensacola Historical Society, conditions at the presidio included rotted posts, not enough building supplies, a lack of soldiers, in- sufficient armament, illnesses and more. The Spaniards quickly surrendered the presidio to the French in 1719, and it stayed in French hands until the Spaniards returned in 1722 and moved the presidio to Santa Rosa Island. It remained there for more than 30 years before being moved to the present day downtown area of Pensacola.
The replica of the northwest bastion of Fort San Carlos de Austria was constructed in 1998 just outside the original location of the fort walls. Signs detailing the history and archaeology of the presidio allow visitors to take a walk through history as they explore
Mounted on the fort replica are two of the three cannons that were found intentionally discarded or cached at the site. The third cannon is on display at the UWF Archaeology Institute Museum. A few of the artifacts from the excavation are on display at the T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum, thePensacola Lighthouse museum and the UWF Archaeology Institute museum.
“The remainder of the artifacts from this site are curated in a facility on base, as well as in the curation facility at UWF,” Williams said. Williams, one of the first archaeologists hired on a naval installation in the Southeast region, is hoping to team up with the
UWF Archaeology Institute on future projects. She manages sites on NASP associated with Native American, Spanish, French, British, Confederate and American occupations, as well as nearly 200 historic structures. She determines whether federally funded projects are likely to damage or destroy archaeological sites and/or historic buildings scheduled for repairs and renovations that are or may be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
To learn more about NASP’s rich history, go to https://www.cnic.navy. mil/regions/cnrse/installations/nas_ pensacola/about/history.html.