The Commanding Officer's Compound
This location was the center of one British and two Spanish forts between 1756 and 1821. Located just east of the T.T. Wentworth Florida State Museum, this archaeological site, which features six historical markers/interpretive signs, dates back to colonial times. It is known as the Commanding Officer's Compound and is believed to be the site where general and future president Andrew Jackson accepted the ceding of Florida to the United States July 1821 (the transfer ceremony took place on the grounds of the Plaza Ferdinand VII just down the street). The British built or perhaps rebuilt the compound's structures (which included an outdoor kitchen and a garden) after 1767. Spain would gain control of Florida in 1783 and hold on until 1821. This site was created in 1994. Bricks from the compound were likely used to build a masonic temple that once stood adjacent to the site., which is part of the Pensacola Colonial Archaeological Trail.
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.