Tides of Change

Jean Babich in Spanish Gardens

Jean Babich looks off camera to look at the Spanish Gardens, seated on the fountain in her uniform she would have worn while working at the Pan American Center. Her face looks uncertain, almost worried, leaving a suspended air of tension.

Pan Americanism was an influential wave on the culture of St. Augustine and the nation in the 1960s-1970s, but it cannot be denied that one far more domestic issue was confronting the American people at this time: the Civil Rights Movement.

Although not as recognizable as the cities of Selma or Mobile, St. Augustine was an extremely important center for the Civil Rights Movement. Due to the negative perception of St. Augustine that had come as a result of the turbulent demonstrations of Civil Rights activists that were at times curbed by conservative inhabitants, many people in St. Augustine feared that it would distract from their economic potential in this period of reconstruction that they had invested so much time and money in.

As tourism slowed in St. Augustine after the momentum in the growth of tourism ended following the 400th Anniversary in the late 1960s, visitation to the Pan American Center also closed. Picking up briefly in 1976 during the celebration of the Bicentennial, it was clear to the citizens of St. Augustine that their dream to make St. Augustine another Williamsburg would never manifest.

Whether such a decrease in revenue actually occurred has yet to be proven in the case of the Pan American Center, however, the Pan American Center continued to operate successfully until 1978. Towards the end of its run, a catalogue of all of the items in the permanent collection was made by Robert Harper, and his records are those that allow us to know much of the only historical information known about the collection and its contents.



Tides of Change