Alligators in the Plaza

In the Plaza de la Constitución there has been a bandstand since 1917. What is not commonly known is that before the bandstand there was a fountain that contained alligators for the amusement of tourists. On the east side of the bandstand is a flower bed enclosed by a half circle of concrete. This may be the remains of the original fountain and alligator basin.

Very little is known about the alligator basin other than a few small newspaper articles, several photos and some reminisces. In the May 23rd 1907 edition of the St. Augustine Evening Record reported on a new pet in the plaza. Joe T. Pacetti and others had captured some alligators. There was excitement as the gator was moved from the rear of Pacetti’s store to the park fountain. The gator sank to the bottom of the fountain and remained there. A two-foot garfish was also placed on the pool but the gator chose to remain at the bottom of the fountain. The July 27th 1916 edition of the St. Augustine Evening Record reported that “Old Joe” the pet and pride of city officials had died after a long and strenuous career. He measured 9 feet 8inches in length. The paper reported that “He lorded it over the basin on the Plaza for a number of years and never complained of illness. It is believed that his death was due to worry over the city beautification plans which he thought meant exile for him as he was not a beauty.”  Three smaller alligators replaced “Old Joe”. Was “Old Joe” the alligator placed into the fountain by Mr. Pacetti 10 years earlier? We don’t know as the newspapers are silent on the issue. By 1917 the fountain was gone replaced by the bandstand and there is no mention of what happened to the alligators. Was the alligator basin removed because of beautification issues or another reason? One story has it that a wealthy winter visitor’s poodle got into the basin and became a snack for the alligators. We will never know the real reason but I favor the poodle story.