Located near the City Gates, The Old School House is a surviving expression of another time.
Built over 200 years ago, while Florida was under the rule of Imperial Spain, it was constructed of red cedar and cypress and put together with wooden pegs and handmade nails.
The schoolmaster and his wife lived upstairs, above the small classroom. Their kitchen was separated from the main building, because of the threat of fire and to spare the house of any excess heat during the long summers. Several of the cooking utensils used in those days are displayed here for the visitor. In the schoolhouse, related artifacts and copies of the books the pupils studied from are exhibited.
The schoolhouse was one of the first buildings constructed by the settlers of the United States.
At first glance, this ramshackle building near St. Augustine’s historic city gates may look like a movie set. Surely no house could be that weathered and still stand! But records suggest that the tiny house may be the oldest surviving wooden school building in the United States.
The house must have been constructed before it first appeared on the local 1716 tax rolls. And a Spanish map from 1788 noted that the building was only “in fair condition.” Yet it still stood.
It’s thought that the Saint Augustine Schoolhouse was originally a small homestead belonging to Juan Genoply. After Genoply married, he added on and eventually the house became a school. The schoolmaster lived upstairs with his family and used the first floor as a classroom. Boys and girls shared the same classroom, making the St. Augustine school one of the first in the young nation to go “co-ed,” although it likely was not racially integrated.
Today, the schoolhouse resembles a theme park attraction. Mechanized figures dressed in 18th century attire greet visitors and describe a typical school day. Children can receive make-believe diplomas. But America’s “oldest wooden schoolhouse” is not all fun and games. The building has seen very little changes in the past three hundred years.
By examining its construction, you can see how buildings were made in America’s colonies. Although it might have an architectural style similar to the log cabins found in America’s frontier, this St. Augustine landmark has a facade of rough hewn timber.
The style is more Colonial New England than Spanish Colonial typically found on the east coast of Florida.
If you look closely, you may notice an enormous anchor secured to the house with a long chain. These are not a part of the original construction. Worried that a hurricane might whisk the little schoolhouse away, townspeople added the anchor in 1937.
Today, a garden with hibiscus, bird-of-paradise, and other tropical plants offer fragrant aromas and soothing shade to the visiting tourists. As part of St. Augustine’s history, the Colonial building has also become part of the city’s economy. source