Hidden Treasures: Secret novelties hidden in museums in St. Augustine

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By Matt Sowell

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With a new school year right around the corner, everyone is beginning to get in a more academic state of mind. Living in a place like St Augustine, it’s hard not to be a little bit of a history buff. The local museums are filled with artifacts, both historical and a bit bizarre, that capture the imaginations of visitors daily. We set out to find our 5 favorite hidden treasures around the Oldest City for you to visit before going back to the classroom. Have some favorites of your own? Tweet us pictures at @staugrecord.

1. Louis Bonaparte’s desk

Seated on the second floor of the Lightner Museum, Louis Bonaparte’s desk has over 200 drawers and cabinets all hidden behind secret panels that can all be unlocked with a single key; it’s a writer’s dream desk. Carved to resemble a pipe organ, the piece has a whimsical feel and is beautifully detailed. Bonaparte was the appointed King of Holland in 1806 and the brother of the more infamous Napoleon Bonaparte.

Where to find it:

The Lightner Museum

Address: 75 King St.

Phone: 824-2874

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

2. The walls of Villa Zorayda

The elaborate Villa Zorayda is a work of art in itself. The walls, made of crushed alabaster and plaster, were made in Spain using the same molds carved by the Moors in the 12th Century for the walls of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. A stroll through this museum is like taking a walk through another country.

Where to find it:

Villa Zorayda

Address: 83 King St.

Phone: 829-9887

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

3. A Haunting Replica

In a dark corner of Potter’s Wax Museum is a particularly gruesome replication of the infamous pirate Andrew Ranson. As the story goes, Ranson was captured and sentenced to a public death. At his execution, the garrote rope was tightened further and further until eventually, it snapped. The town’s friar rushed to the gallows only to find that the pirate was still alive. It was seen as divine intervention, and Ranson was sentenced to help finish the Castillo de San Marcos.

Where to find it:

Potter’s Wax Museum

Address: 31 Orange St.

Phone: 829-9056

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

4. The Last Treasure Chest

The Pirate and Treasure museum has numerous bits of pirate memorabilia, but perhaps the most impressive thing is the world’s last remaining treasure chest. Originally belonging to Thomas Tew, a pirate who made an enormous fortune raiding ships, the elaborate trunk features mermaids etched into the designs, and a small case in which Tew kept particularly valuable items.

Where to find it:

The Pirate and Treasure Museum

Address: 12 S. Castillo Drive

Phone: 877-467-5863

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

5. Marie Laveau’s ring

Inside the “Voodoo Room” of Wolf’s Museum of Mystery sits one of Marie Laveau’s rings. Laveau, who is considered a figure-head of Voodoo, was born a free black woman in 1794. She lived in New Orleans where she was both a practicing Catholic and Voodoo priestess. Angela Basset portrayed her in 2013 on the popular TV show, “American Horror Story.”

Where to find it:

Wolf’s Museum of Mystery

Address: 46 Charlotte St.

Phone: 342-8377

Hours: 2 to 10 p.m. daily