UF Historic St. Augustine Inc.: Government House

Government House

By Janet Snyder Matthews Ph.D.

Photo: Linda Dixon, December 2010 Government House
dominates the west end of the Town Plaza, a unique Spanish land use component lying within a National
Historic Landmark District. Spain’s 1573 Law of the Indies, Leyes
de los Indies, specified that colonial
town plans set aside such a plaza for government, church and public use. Along coasts, plazas were to
begin at the waterfront – to see and to be seen. Since 1598, a government building has stood on this site
with a view of the harbor landing, accommodating administrative headquarters and residences of colonial
governors appointed by the Crowns of Spain, then Britain, then Spain again. After Spain ceded Florida
to the United States in 1821, this current Government House served as a courthouse and briefly as a
Capitol of the new Territory of Florida. In 1836, the building’s crenellated five-story tower and

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