ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The Colonial Quarter is open for business in St. Augustine.
Pat Croce now runs the living history museum in the old city.
He and his crew took First Coast News on a tour of the renovated digs.
"So what you see now is four quadrants covering 300 years of St. Augustine history," Croce explained.
The two-acre museum with 25 buildings covers both Spanish and British colonial times in St. Augustine.
In the Spanish periods, there's a watch tower with a great view of the city, St. Augustine inlet and the lighthouse.
There is a gunsmith, a leathershop and a tavern with a restaurant.
In the British area, there's a print shop with a printing press, a British pub or public house.
"If you have a British St. Augustine, you have to have a pub," Croce said.
It also serves food.
There's a stage for the Colonial Review -- a show still in the works, a ship that's under construction, and there are re-enactors nearly around every corner.
"All of the re-enactors, all of the artisans are in first person," Croce explained. "That's the beauty of it."
The two-acre museum that sits in the shadow of the fort is owned by the state.
The City of St. Augustine ran it for years, then the labor intensive museum failed financially.
Croce said, "It didn't work. They loved it, but it didn't work."
The city just didn't have the money to keep it going.
So Croce -- the former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers -- who opened the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure museum next door, applied to renovate and run Colonial Quarter.
He admitted to putting $3 million dollars of his own money into the project.
"Why am I excited? It's taken years to do this! Do you know how many people have put blood, sweat and my money into doing this! It's fabulous," he laughed.
The museum now has 71 employees. That's more than three times the workforce compared to when the city was running it, according to city numbers.
A portion of the revenue will go to the University of Florida, according to Kari Cobham, who works for Croce.
School groups are already taking tours along with visitors. They're getting a look at a museum that is dear the people of St. Augustine.
As Croce looked at a school group interacting with a re-enactor, he said, "I love this because I'm a kid at heart and here I have the opportunity to watch kids and adults make memories."
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First Coast News