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Historical Find: 18th Century Water Works


1700s water system believed to be the first public works project in Florida

Carl Halbirt, St. Augustine’s archaeologist, has discovered a 1700s water system believed to be the first public works project in the state since European settlement. “The discovery was totally unexpected,” says Halbirt, who unearthed the system while digging around the recently discovered Rosario Line, a military defense line that circled colonial St. Augustine. The water-diversion system is a trench lined with more than 100 coquina blocks weighing 150 to 300 pounds each. Brick paving at the base makes clear the builders wanted to keep water in the structure. But Halbirt can’t say whether it was meant to supply freshwater, get rid of storm water or some other use. “There are some historic military engineering books that may provide clues,” he says.