The Commanding Officer's Compound
The Commanding Officer’s Compound interpretation showing what archaeologists found belowground.
The area where archaeologists found a First Spanish barrel well and British brick ovens.
Maps overlaid to show today’s street grid with the First Spanish, British, Second Spanish, and American period buildings. Picture from Colonial Archaeology Trail signage.
Backstory and Context
Look around and you’ll see buildings surrounding you, but you might not notice the foundations and layers of history below your feet. Here at the Commanding Officer’s Compound, color-coded outlines represent the places people gathered hundreds of years ago.
A 1763 map shows Spanish Captain of the Cavalry, don Luis Joseph de Ullate, owned a two-story house, kitchen, and other buildings in this location. His home was part of the Spanish colonial Fort San Miguel de Panzacola (1756-1763). At meals and social events, Spanish colonists ate meat, vegetables, and wine kept in a cold storage pit. Archaeologists found the pit while excavating in 2005.
The British renovated Captain Ullate’s home into officer’s barracks, a courtyard, an outbuilding (possible kitchen), and a garden after taking Florida at the end of the French and Indian War (1754–1763). Many British loyalists found refuge in the Fort of Pensacola (1763-1781) during the American Revolution.
The Commanding Officer might have hosted dinner parties for those loyalists. Inside the Commanding Officer’s Compound, meals were cooked in a wood-burning brick oven and over hearths found by archaeologists in 1993. Food was served in porcelain and English earthenware bowls alongside wine in decorated glassware.
After a months-long siege by Spanish General Bernardo de Gálvez, the British surrendered Pensacola to Spain on May 10, 1781. Spanish colonists made the Commanding Officer’s Compound into their Government District. Archaeologists found evidence of frequent Spanish dinner parties layered on top of the earlier British and Spanish occupations. They found many ceramic and glass artifacts indicating dinner parties were a frequent activity in the Government District. Look around at the Colonial Archaeology Trail signs for more information on Pensacola’s history.
Benchley, Elizabeth D. “Archaeology of Old Pensacola: 2005 Investigations at the Commanding Officer’s Compound (8ES1150).” Report of Investigations, No.152, University of West Florida Archaeology Institute, 2007.
Bense, Judith A. Unearthing Pensacola. Pensacola: University of West Florida Foundation, Inc., 2006-2007.
Bense, Judith A. Archaeology of Colonial Pensacola. Pensacola: University Press of Florida, 1999.