ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The first of 22 historic cannons will be returned to the Castillo de San Marcos on Monday after extensive restoration at Texas A&M University. For that reason, the Castillo de San Marcos will be closed to visitors Monday but is scheduled to be back open Tuesday.
Visitors like Quinn Vinson love seeing the Castillo and agree that proper restoration is key to keeping history alive.
“It’s pretty cool! I love it when history comes back to our communities,” Vinson said. “History is important. That’s what built us to who we are today.”
The visitors aren’t the only ones excited. Steven Roberts is chief of Interpretation, Education, and Visitor Services at the National Park Service for the Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monuments. He says the cannon has been at Texas A&M since 2018. They were supposed to be back sooner, but delays got in the way.
“As I think all of our community can understand, the pandemic has definitely slowed down the process by more than a year,” Roberts said.
Roberts says, at Texas A&M’s Conservation Research Laboratory, the cannons received what he calls their “spa treatment.”
“We’ve been removing all of their salts, taking off all the old paint, removing all the corrosion, and then putting on new barriers to protect them and repainting them,” Roberts said. “We’re just glad to have them finally coming back.”
Roberts says that’s not all. Some of the cannons required special care. For instance, he says some weren’t very stable and needed more in-depth treatments.
“Some of the cannons were filled with concrete and all that had to be removed,” Roberts said.
The cannons are expected to be returned by both truck and barge. Roberts says the first eight cannons will arrive around 8:30 a.m. Monday and will be delivered to the area immediately east of the Castillo. He says that spot is known as the “water battery”.
The remaining 14 will be returned to the gun deck, which is the upstairs portion.
“So, those are coming by barge, we expect the barge to arrive in the afternoon,” Roberts said. “And one by one, the crane on the barge will lift them to the gun deck to the waiting team to receive them.”
The process is expected to last throughout the day. While it’s a long time coming, knowing these precious artifacts will be in tip-top shape is everything.
“It truly is the cornerstone of the defenses,” Roberts said. “And these cannons, to show people these authentic historic pieces in a condition that they will be around for generations and generations to come, really is what all of us in the National Park Service live for.”
The entire project cost about $400,000. Roberts says it was paid for entirely by visitor admissions.