Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


March 20, 2013

St. Augustine displays its rich, varied history



Three centuries of history just joined forces as St. Augustine, Fla. opened the gates to the Colonial Quarter.

“Think Epcot meets Williamsburg,” suggested the visionary entrepreneur behind the two-acre project, Pat Croce.

“Difference is the Colonial Quarter is not just about countries, but also centuries,” Croce said.

Old ones from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries with flags to show the countries swapping control of this land since 1545.

Look for the Spanish and British periods, with influences of Minorcan, African-American and Native American cultures too.

Previous visitors to St. Augustine’s historic district may recall a living history attraction focusing on life in the 1740s in a Spanish garrison town.

Today expect 25 buildings and structures with docent-guided tours at 11 a.m., 1, 2 and 4 p.m.. Solo wandering can happen any time.

Either style offers fact-based observations, Croce says, because of the hand-in-glove planning with University of Florida scholars, historians and archeologists.

“There is nothing you see on this property that is without scholarly research,” he said. “Everything is authentic.”

Even the 48 informational text signs along the paths of centuries are copyrighted because of the extent of the research. English and Spanish these signs are.

“Colonial Quarter may very well be a game changer in the art of historical interpretation,” said Ed Poppell, senior vice president of business development for the University of Florida.

“Good historic tourism was our goal, blending authenticity based on solid research with the Pat Croce ability to educate with entertainment,” Poppell said.

Entertainment will abound even more so when the Colonial Crew Revue stage opens this summer with performances in the town plaza, scripted with a Disney touch.

That living history style of learning today includes the blacksmith forging hooks of many sizes and shapes in the 17th century fortified Spanish town with demonstrations four times a day.

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