Oldest Wooden School House Museum & Gardens
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The Oldest Wooden School House is a wooden building that served as a school house for St. Augustine as far back as 1788. It is a great place to take pictures and see a real piece of long-standing history. Visitors can enjoy a tour and see what a day at school was like in the late 1700s. There are copies of old textbooks and school supplies from the time on display. In the garden out back you can see where the kitchen was, as well as a fruitful pecan tree that's estimated to be around 250 years old. The outside area is especially a great place to relax and reflect.
The wooden school house shows up on tax records for the city in the year 1716. At this point in time, Florida was under Spanish rule, and no other wooden buildings made before 1702 stand because the city was burned by the British that year. This gives a 14 year estimation of its construction and completion. The Oldest Wooden School House stood in what was called the “Minorcan Quarter” near the Old City Gate, an area populated by Minorcan immigrants. The building was originally a home for the Genoply family that was later re-purposed to be a school house.
The homestead was one story and composed of a single large room. It had no electricity or plumbing, and its kitchen was kept separate from the house. This was done in order to prevent a fire hazard, but also to keep the building cool during the hot summer months. A privy was also made away from the main house with a wall built around it to ensure privacy, and a well nearby was used to draw water. The exterior of the house was made out of bald cypress and red cedar trees, bound together by wood pins and iron spikes, all made by hand. The second story of the house wasn’t created until later.
Besides being the original homeowner, Juan Genoply also served as the school's first teacher. The house was sufficient to house Juan alone, but when he married and transformed the house into the first co-ed school in 1788, one room was not enough to separate his private and public life. The second story was added in order to provide Juan and his family with the seclusion they needed. While his classes were taught downstairs, his family occupied the comfortable living space of the upstairs.
Noticeable right away is a large chain that wraps itself around the house. This chain was positioned in 1937 in order to hold the house in place in case high winds and hurricane weather threatened it. So far, it has held up well. It’s billed as the Oldest Wooden School House in the United States.
The Oldest Wooden School House is located on the north end of St. George Street near the City Gates.
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