The oldest wooden schoolhouse in the United States dates back to the early
18th century. Located near the Old City Gates in the area that was known as
the "Minorcan Quarter,"
the house was originally a homestead belonging to Juan Genoply. The building
is constructed of red cedar and cypress. Everything was made by hand, even
the nails. Wooden pegs keep the timbers in place.
The house appears on the tax rolls for the year 1716, but more than likely
it existed years before then. Government moved slowly in colonial days and
communication between the Spanish Crown and the little garrison town took a
long time before taxes were assessed.
Comforts and Conveniences
The building had no electricity, no running water, no privy and no kitchen.
The customs of the day dictated that the kitchen be housed in separate
quarters because of the risk from fire and to eliminate excess heat in the
long, hot summers. The privy was dug away from the main building and a small
building was constructed around it for privacy. Drinking water was drawn
from the well.
Becoming a School
When Juan Genoply was a bachelor the small one-room house was sufficient to
his needs. But when he married and the house become a school, an addition
was needed to allow privacy and separate functions. The schoolmaster and his
family had their living quarters upstairs. The downstairs was used as the
classroom. The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse was also the first co-ed school, as
it educated both girls and boys together beginning in 1788.
When you enter the small, one-room schoolhouse you are greeted by
Disney-style animatronic figures dressed in period attire. Listen as the
schoolmaster and the children tell you about themselves and describe a
typical day in the classroom and items in it. Copies of the textbooks used
by students, along with related school artifacts are on display in the
schoolhouse along with several cooking utensils of the time.
The Gardens and Grounds
After touring the schoolhouse visitors may walk through the garden and see
the kitchen, the privy and the well. Be sure to notice the old pecan tree.
The tree has been authenticated to be at least 250 years old and still bears
The patio and grounds are a typical green garden with tropical plants such
as hibiscus and bird-of-paradise, including one not-so-typical white
bird-of-paradise. Plenty of shade trees and comfortable benches offer a cozy
spot for a moment of rest and reflection.
The Giant Chain
Most people immediately notice the enormous chain that wraps around the
schoolhouse and is tied to an anchor. The anchor and chain were added back
in 1937 when a hurricane threatened St. Augustine and an attempt was made to
secure the oldest schoolhouse so the historic gem of a building would not be
lost. So far, so good.
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Daily - Group Discounts Available
St. George Street - St. Augustine, FL 32084