Government House, St. Augustine, Florida : a historical study


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Government House, St. Augustine, Florida : a historical study
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Knott, Lawson B.
Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board
Place of Publication:
St. Augustine, Fla.
Publication Date:


29.892392 x -81.313527

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University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location:
University of Florida
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Author retains all rights.
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Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board

Government House

St. Augustine, Florida

S A Historical Study


-J ~1$

Ed; ,

Historic St Augustine Preservation Board






Chapter -.,

Exchange of Flags
Military vs Civil
Government House
Neither Small nor Ordinary
Appeal to Jackson
"The Residence of the Governors".
The Fever and a Court Martial
The General and the President

No Longer a Residence
The Capitol and the Future,

Chapter 2. 1833-1834: The Mills Faca

The First U.S. Remodeling'
In the Spanish Inventory
Rivalry in Design
SInfluence of the Mills Plan
Frontier Embellishments
Courthouse and the Athenaeum
Boundary Streets--Then and N

SChapter 3. 1367-1868: Reconstruction

The Courts Come Back .
Dockray and Foster-'
The Secretary Steps In
'The Repairs of 1868

'4 Chapter ., 1873: Second Reo~odeling

Riddle of the Remodeling
Florida's Future
-The-: 1833 Design
Perpetuating a Fiction. .
The 1873 Design
New Home for the Post Office

Chapter. 5. 1880s: Comnunity Center

Rertfree Tenants:
"*i;.'.;1""-.A Resort Community
A Goal: Rental Income
The East Balcony



1821: Transfer to the United States



hapter 6. :Traditions in Conflict

p ,laque Makes History'.
,.' e Canzo's TIrelling, 1597-1603
-A Challenge to Tradition
T radiationn on the Record

Appendix A: ,'.Sources

SAppendix BI Exhibits


2 2

2 2


7 6 ''* .* 1

Chapter 1.

' i, P.
? -4 j i '
" i .. " -

!ft ft

1821: Transfer to the United States


ft .ft ft


The Exchange of Flags

Even fine weather contributed to the buoyant spirits with which Colonel

Robert' Butler of the 'Fourth Regiment, U.S. Infantry, took part in the ex-

change of flags in the Plaza at St. Augustine. The ceremony culminated in.

East Florida the treaty of cession which Secretary of State John Quincy Adams

negotiated two years earlier in Washington with the Spanish minister.

An adjutant proclaimed the Act of Transfer to the assembly--soldiers in

,.-formation, clustered townspeople, and a knot of city officials, whose ano-

Snymity contrasts with the luster of the proceedings honoring them as the

."illustrious Ayuntamiento." For the occasion the Spanish governor, Jose

Coppinger, and Butler, as the commissioner representing General Andrew

Jackson, wrote the act, with its grandiloquent title, by which the province

came to the United States precisely at 4 o'clock in the afternoon of July 10,

1821.. Government House, chief among the "Public Edifices," one of the major

items in the transfer, overlooked the Plaza from the west, but there is no

record that Butler' s eye caught the narrow front of the two-story building.

But his pulse must have quickened at the ceremonial exchange of colors

: .as "the Star Spangled Banner," Jackson's favorite name for the U.S. flag,

took the place of the deeply hued Spanish standard. The adjutant took up.

the. next document, and the American commander listened with even deeper

,. satisfaction to the proclamation by. which Jackson, as Commissioner and

Governor; declared the sovereignty of the United States in the provinces of

..,..the Floridas. Only that morning an express from Pensacola delivered copies

of the proclamation. Butler marveled at "the remarkable coincidence," as he

Swrote Adams, that Jackson had set the same day for the transfer of West .

FPlorid. 'Actually the exchange in the western province took place a week

later. But the Colonel was then on his way to Pensacola unaware that he had

accomplished his mission ahead of his chief.

.His few remaining days in St. Augustine were given to the paperwork of

official business. As the civil officers of the new government, with the

'exception of U.S. Marshal James G. Forbes, had yet to come on the scene,

:Butler turned affairs over to the. senior Army officer, Captain John R. Bell,

a youthful artilleryman and commander of one of the two artillery companies

'ordered to St. Augustine as the frontier garrison at Fort St. Marks, soon

renamed Fort Marion. For some weeks Bell would sign letters and orders as

'the Provisional Secretary of East Florida, acting as Jackson's deputy in the

'eastern province., The pleasure of a successful mission still glows in

..-Butler's dispatches to Washington reporting the transfer and surrounding-

events. His description of the flag exchange carries a commentary, rare in

such letters, on the auspicious weather. His reassuring message to Secretary

Sof War' John C. Calhoun noted that "the preconcerted arrangements were hand-

S'"somely executed, and nothing occurred to disturb the tranquility of the

,.Inhabitants." For weeks Coppinger and Butler had worked together over their'

"plans, and their correspondence, as well as the language of the Act of Transfer,

* attest the harmony..- Even in disagreement--for example, whether the Spaniards

',could take fortress ordnance from the Castillo de San Marcos, the fort's

panoplied name in earlier Spanish days, as well as wheeled guns--they dis-

-played mutual respect for each other's refusal to compromise.
Jackson's commissioner began the fatiguing journey to Pensacola with no

",fear that disturbances would soon shatter the tranquility. His only dark-

ening premonition was the probability that, as a career soldier, he faced a

Disagreeable choice growing out of the reduction of the Army in 1821. This

had returned Jackson to civil life as the first territorial governor of

Florida.* For Butler it 'led to a resignation rather than accepting a lieu-

tenant colonelcy in the First Infantry. Like many officers who left the

Arny at .the time he took service in the territorial government, soon becoming

SFlorida's Surveyor General. IWhen he rode into the West Florida capital three

Seeks after leaving St. Augustine, he was well satisfied with the work he

had done, but tired from the long road stretching 750 miles, curving through

*: Georgia 'and Alabama, and crossing the Creek nation. By then a storm he

could:not- have foreseen had' gathered in the city he had left, and Govern-

'nent House was at the very heart of the fury.

Military va Civil

By mid-August the mounting furor arrayed the official family at

St.- Augustine into two warring factions.. For the next three months there

Swas a. spate of protesting and complaining letters, charges and countercharges,Y

angry quarrels, violent gestures, and even the use of force. In question

;were the use and occupancy of the public buildings, chiefly Government House,

once'the residence of the Spanish governors. The issue separated the new

,, civil 'officialdom from, in Bell's romantic words, "all persons wearing the

,cloth of a Soldier."' The quarrel even spread to the tranquil inhabitants

when .the artillerymen ousted the City Council from the Council Room and

dumped-its furniture outdoors.

Altogether 30-odd letters and documents preserved in the National

'Archives, illuinate the controversy.. They appear in volume XXII of The. .

territorial Papers of the United States, published in 1956. A few papers

apparently escaped .compilation--notably a private letter from Jackson to

Lieutenant Cclonel Abraham Eustis, who succeeded Bell in command of the gar-

rison on October 1. v'Another missing item is Bell's letter of September 27

to. the Council, touching off a burst of letters and resolutions and lifting .
4 313

~- $ I ,. ,
K'the quarrel to a crescendo, all on the same day. Running from July 17 to

January 2,. 1822, the papers detail the strife in the tones of those who took

..part--unctuous self-righteousness,, choleric indignation, dispassionate ob- :

servation, blunt anger, and even magnanimity.

SShortly after Butler's departure on July 14 Bell took the first step : : ":

1 ^"by lodging the officers of. the garrison in the public buildings. The record : !:

.is silent on.when the noncommissioned officers with families took residence -

;Jil the same buildings, but it was probably at this time. Only the unmarried

soldiers remained a while in St. Marks at the northern end of the town. In

a letter to Calhoun on July 17 Bell reviewed recent events for the Secretary

Sand noted: .-

Theort and public buildings are in a rapid state of delapidation (sic), to
-;:arrest the hand of ruin and to occupy some of them, I have given orders to.
_Lieut. Washburn to immediately cause a coat of cement to be laid on the
Terrace of the fort which will prevent the water from washing through the
:masonry, into the Barrack rooms and stores; to furnish lime sufficient for .
whilterashing the walls inside and out, and to furnish materials for laying -.:,
..floors and making bunks; also to have temporarily repaired the Government
-house for officers quarters, there being none suitable for that purpose in
the fort . i ..

The letter apparently did not strike Calhoun as out of the ordinary. :He '

:approved the repairs,: and the accompanying reminder that the quartermaster's,: i

funds were low has the familiar ring of governmental routine. Perhaps the,,

absence of. any comment on quartering troops in public buildings led Bell to'

:readit as a tacit endorsement of the course.he adopted. .
'' The structure of the quarrel became visible as soon as John Rodman of

New, York City, the, first American Collector of Customs at:St. Augustine,

arrived; on August-11. -The newcomer was to remain many years in the city,

becoming, one of its active citizens. ', In a varlegatd career he had been a

Merchant, an accountant, and a lawyer, serving as District Attorney of New .

:York:City.' This is the way Gulian C. Verplanck, a notable literary,


Theological, and political figure of the day, described him in a letter

_:. endorsing Rodman to President Monroe for 'the appointment. He had resigned

'as District Attorney for a European business venture. Its failure impaired

Ships health, and Verplanck, believing the Florida climate would favor its.

':.recovery, vouched.for his familiarity with "continental law," his profi-

nciency in foreign languages, and his character.. Rodman found the public

_lulldings filled with soldiers. In particular he wanted to set up his office

e-and probably live in the Spanish customhouse, flanking the Plaza on the north

a rat Charlotte Street. was two or perhaps three integrated .

structures, including the former residence of the Spanish Treasurer. But'

Bell denied' him the building.- .

U unfortunately Rodman can no longer speak for himself on the quarrel.

S'Anlmost certainly he wrote Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford

.;about a his plight. But the Territorial Papers have no letters from Rod-an on

his exclusion from the customhouse. The mostreasonable explanation is that

they were destroyed In the Treasury Departiaent fire of 1833. Rodman' s

partisanship, however, is vividly apparent in Bell's letters.

'odman's sharp resentment at the news that he was without a place to.

: live or to work- is evident in a letter which Bell sent Calhoun on August 14. ,

Although it was an omnibus letter on recent happenings, ranging from military;

stores to the;restiveness of the Seminoles, Bell dwelled at length on the :

Sr public buildings., He presented himself in the role of a vigilant guardian ..

.of public property against an undescribed indisposition of the townspeople,.

w ho appear as partisans for the first time, and the "mistaken ideas of Civil

O.:- cers.. : Apparently this was a thrust at Rodman, for Bell added inmedi-

.atrely'. ; .. ..... ... .


:II: I




i ."t '

g^ i

*. The Collector arrived here on the llth inst. and was ffS torn impression
'that'he was to occupy the dwelling adjoining the Custom-house. .. which I am
occupying at present as it is the only building which is in a fit state for
Officers Quarters, and I intend to hold possession of it for that purpose un-.
til ordered otherwise. ... .

In a matter-of-fact vein Bell told of his plans to take all the troops out of

Sthe fort in spite of the minor repairs reported a month ago. He explained to

Calhoun that Fort St. Marks lacked fireplaces and "the rooms. . fare~ so

daBymp that the men are beginning to be attacked with rheumatism. .." Bell's
.seeming inconsistency is given a different and perhaps more favorable focus by

reports from Butler, a veteran of Jackson's Indian campaigns in Florida, and

iPForbes, a native of St.-Augustine, that northern Florida endured unusually

heavy rains that season. 'The Captain concluded by assuring the Secretary

that he would continue to hold the property subject to instructions from the
Quartermaster General;i"or your order." .At this time only one building, the :

Council Chamber, remained unoccupied by the soldiery.

Government House.

'.In the meantime William G. D. Worthington of Baltimore arrived to take

ip-the duties of the chief civil official on August 20.* He was Jackson's

deputy under the imposing title of Secretary of East Florida and Acting

FGovernor. Although Bell turned over at once the reins of authority and the'

accumulated papers, Worthington was plainly distressed, like Rodman, at the

Denial of an office or a dwelling for. his family. The next day the new magis-

trate began a series of letters and maneuvers directed at dislodging the mili-

tary forces from the public buildings. The first letter went to Calhoun.
Probably Worthington assumed that the civilian head of the War Department was
theproper place to appeal. The document is the first American account of ..

Government House. -orthington was simple and to the point, although the de-

scription possibly out of motivation, may have done the building less than


Sir--On my arrival here having no house for myself & family, I requested to
Shave the occupancy of what is called the Government house for civil office

SIt is an ordinary building & only sufficient for a small family--The officers
: of the Army being here first, think it should be appropriated to them--It
seems to be the general impression that the civil officers of the Government
' should also have some small accommodation (sic)--and I with great pleasure
will your decision in this affair, which seems necessary to avoid'
any unpleasant clashing on this subject. :

.With distinguished Consideration, &c. .
['. *W.-G. D. Worthington.
The Honble J. C., Calhoun
'- The clashing, however, rose to a climax before Calhoun took action. And

then he merely passed the quarrel to the President on'October 1 with a brief

note enclosing letters from which, Calhoun observed in a notable understate-

m'ent, it would seemni .that some difficulty has occurred at St., Augustinel .

between the Civil and Military officers in relation to the occupancy of the

Spublick buildings." Calhoun noted for Monroe's attention the accompanying .

opinions of. Major Trueman'Cross of the Quartermaster General's office and

s.eassued the President that they would enable him to understand the 'contro- .-

'.versy., The Secretary concluded by asking for his "instructions as to the

Orders. to be given to Capt. Bell." In sending the dispute to the President's

House, Calhoun ignored Cross's pointed observation that, "as all the property

Is. in the possession of the.Military, the Sec'y of War appears perfectly

-. Conrpetent" to distribute the the civil and military branches.' :

*'Neither Smal Nor Ordinary
C .' ross'scommentary. was distinguished by disinterestedness. He proposed

a distribution aimed at a better balance between the civil and military at. ';,'

..St. Au.ustine. The first American officer to enter the city in the spring, ,:

he could speak from firsthand"familiarity with the scene. -As a special

: representative of the Quartermaster General, he arranged for sailing vessels -;

f* 8

to take the Spanish troops and their families to Havana and the provisions for

the voyage. A two-month stay enabled the observant officer to attain an

unusual grasp of the local situation. He drew on this knowledge to write on

the back'of Worthington's first letter a statement setting Government House

in a new perspective. Cross's endorsement, in fact, differed materially

..from Worthington' s slighting description:

.The old Government House . should in my view be devoted exclusively to
offices for the civil departments--This I think would be very appropriate--
It is not customary I believe, for the Government to provide House accommo-
dations for Civil Officers--it seems to be expected however, by Mr. W's
reference to his family's accommodation--The house is by no means small,
Snor is it ordinary, though at present in bad repair--

- In Government House Cross correctly foresaw a primary center for civil activ-

Sities .in the city. The building's "6 Spacious Rooms on two floors," he
;.-,* *'.*- ------------- *- --
added, would suffice for "office accommodation for the civil authorities

. as wvl as for holding the County Court which will meet there." He

also suggested that space in the Spanish customhouse should be allotted to

the Collector for an office and to receive merchandise. Aside from question-

.'ing the use of the buildings as residences for civil officials, Cross judi-

Sciously refrained from commenting on the merits of either side. But he was

'eanphatic in urging Calhoun to make the distribution at once.

Affairs worsened in St. Augustine while Worthington waited with no out-

Swardi sign of impatience for an answer to his appeals. Undoubtedly slow and

Irregular mail service at the frontier outpost was one of the chief reasons

That the dispute ran on for weeks. A letter spent 30 days on the way to

Pensacola and apparently required about three weeks to travel to Washington.

But the passing time without a solution must have nagged at Worthington.

In any event a week after writing Calhoun the Acting Governor turned for help

in' succession to Jackson, his immediate chief, and Adams, whose Department of

Yi- : '.'
^ ; ' **"* *. ' ,' ** 9

State then.supervised territorial affairs. Worthington also tried to draw

the City Council into the quarrel by a rather transparent strategem.

An: eal to Jackson

The appeal to Jackson invited his attention in carefully couched lan-

guage. Apparently Worthington was aware of the ruthless military reputation

:which Jackson had acquired in the Floridas and which his enemies would employ

Sto tarnish his character in Presidential campaigns later on. Perhaps

.Worthington's approach was designed to disarm such a man. Certainly the style

of the letter to Jackson was the opposite of the simple, factual, and almost

off-hand request to Calhoun. After reviewing the routine of business and

:noting the names.of absentee officials, Worthington launched into a fervent

,- discussion which succeeded in revealing the depth of feeling by the very

obscurity of the references to acrimonious quarreling--probably between Rodman

'.and Bell.- Worthington began on a high. note:

,I feel a perfect confidence that as the orb of our civil government rises
Sand sheds its benign influence . all its functions will be performed
,with the utmost harmony.--The civil and military spheres do not without
Sviolence,interfere with each other I know this friendship and good
will between the Citizen Soldier, and the soldier citizen in our Republic
is what the President and yourself and every good and reflecting man in our
:; Country rejoices to see. I am led to these remarks from having understood
"that before I arrived here there was considerable feeling excited in this
i city., As on occasions of this sort, generally both parties are more or less
i-n the wrong. I did not allude to it in my last letter . and I have
declined knowing anything of the particulars, but have left them to sleep
Sin the tomb of the Capulets. I know that you and the General Government
must dislike being uselessly troubled with such little party bickerings.

S This was W orthington's strain as he brought up his own troubles. The

,-passage has a dissembling tone. But he did not, in fact, veil his ambition

a.:to live in Government House as he enclosed a copy of the earlier letter to

;alhn This time, however, there was a note of self-deprecation: '

S:^ *.0

SI don't know that I have any right to claim a house to keep my office in, I
have therefore not made a demand, altho' I think the old government house
might have been assigned for that purpose, and as a Lieutenant and Surgeon
,oof the troops were in it, and I understand could not give it up without an
order from the Secretary of War, I wrote him the short closede~ note on
Sthe subject.. .

Turning to Rodman's problem, Worthington summed up the whole situation,

noting that the entire garrison, then two companies.of artillery, occupied

the public buildings, ignoring the council chamber. Bell went unmentioned

by name, but the Acting Governor suggested that the scattering of officers

in the more desirable buildings was a device for hanging on to them until

Sthe new post commander, Lieutenant Colonel Abraham Eustis, could arrive to

.-take his pick. Perhaps Worthington's emotions led him into a long and

Iinvolute sentence. But he made the point.' At least in his view the mili-

-tary's right to'occupy the buildings was a question unworthy of debate.

T,.Whether not only . [Government/ house but the house occupied formerly by
the Spanish/ Collector of the Customs, and some others for aught I know, are
,Ito be held by one or two persons placed in each, 'till Col. Eustis, or anyone
.else comes on to make his choice, and a half dozen other public buildings are
. to be kept 'till the troops shall want them--and all this military establish-
m ent, to accommodate only 120 men, with a requisite number of officers, is the disposition of those public buildings, I should suppose does not even
afford a question; my own opinion is, that the Fort and its appendages .
.ought to be the only exclusive Military establishment.

He closed with a tribute to the Governor in the unabashed style of the day,

appealing to his devotion to "civil constitutional government"--implicit

i recognition that Jackson was, by profession, a lawyer, not a soldier. A

Desire to lead Jackson to identify himself with the civil officials also was

^evident in Worthington's comment that his superior was now exchanging "the

Character of a victorious general for that of one of our principal civil


WJ orthington's strategy also embraced Adams.. Thus the question came in

o,-one form or another to the attention of three men who successively occupied

the President's House--Monroe, Adams, and Jackson. But the Acting Governor

contented himself with keeping the Secretary informed, sending him copies of

.letters to others,' especially Calhoun and Jackson. At no time did Worthington

ask Adams to act, perhaps because the chain of command went through the

SGovernor to the Secretary. Probably this explains the apparent absence of

evidence that Adams concerned himself with the military preemption.

'"The Residence of the Governors", .

Early in September the City Council drew up the first inventory of public

property under 'the Americans.. Worthington asked for it at the time he wrote

J":.ackson. .Probably he expected an excoriation of the military, and his speci- .

-fications were an open invitation for such criticism. He asked not only for

a list of the properties but also for a detailing of their former, present,

Sand recommended uses. Perhaps Worthington had not foreseen that the topics

_could stir painful memories of Spanish days which ended only two months

before. The Council,. itself a carryover from the old regime, took an evident

zest in reporting that the military occupation was a familiar story.. The

rreport'recalled in an introductory note that

.. the /Spanish/ Governor . assuming as a general maxim that whatever
.did not appertain to an Individual necessarily fell to the King, and regard-
S.less of the Rights of the City as a Corporate Body, crowded every public
building with idle Soldiery till crumbling in ruins over thier (sic) heads
: they were forced to abandon them. ...

-Worthingtor could take small comfort from the Spanish precedent, and there

was only a little more to his liking in the description of

No. 6. Government House. This Building was always (sic) occupied as the
residence of the Governors of this Province until falling into decay it
was considered only fit to have the habitable Rooms appropriated for Sol-
d ers quarters; but the late Governor (presumably Coppinger) had not long
Ssince,'began (sic) to make considerable repairs to it, and had entertained
; the intention of moving into it had not the Evacuation of the Province taken

12 .

place: The Committee (on Public Property) have estimated the Sum of $2000
as necessary to complete the repairs and make this building suitable for a
Town-Hall and City Offices; or as a State-House for Territorial purposes,
or for the accommodation (sic) of Public Officers: At present it affords
quarters to five Officers of the United States Troops. The lot being very i
spacious other Buildings might be Erected.there as required.

'In fact the Council's committee begged the question of residential use. The

nearest to a direct reference appeared in the description of the Spanish

- customhouse. The committee confessed itself "unable to say" whether the

:,,soldiers--described with Latin courtesy as "the small peace Establishment"--

needed the building. The. report quickly added that "all the other public

buildings are so completely ruinous that in the event of the arrival of the

SChief Magistrate this would be .... the only one immediately tenantable."

This seems to disclose the Council's semisecret aspiration to welcome Jackson

:to St. Augustine as a potential capital of Florida. There is no indication

whether .the'allusion discomfited Worthington, the ranking provincial magis-

Strate, in'fact, and already on the scene, but houseless.

T;-'- he inventory accorded a.brief mention to the Council Chamber, soon to

be at the' center of the controversy. The building appeared under the heading, .

S"the National School," a name for which no satisfactory definition is in

"evidence, although it was often commonly' called the Council Chamber. This'

:was sufficiently confusing to mislead Monroe, who concluded that these names,

appearing in different listings, identified separate buildings. The contro-

versy erupted to its highest pitch on September 27 in a frenzy of activity

in which the Council lined up with the civil arm.

The Fever and a Court Martial

;.', The day's events sharpened into focus for the first time the impact on

,the community of a serious outbreak of a disease described then as a

'malignant fever. The malady apparently had a high mortality rate and created
:r^ ' e-*lvr . The ma ad ap an created ''"" '*' * ^ *

anxieties which'put tempers on edge and contributed to the intensity of the

'dispute. Insofar as the events can be reconstructed, the day opened with

independent action on both sides. Convening as the Board of Health, the

Council adopted a resolution recommending the removal of the hospital from

a building near the Plaza. The Board considered its central location a

'source of contagion and a continuing threat to health, proposing a reloca-

:tion to a building known as the flour store on the southern outskirts. Both '

buildings were in the hands of Bell's troops, and the hospital was primarily

for the soldiers although civilians were treated.

--: .'.At the same time Bell wrote a letter, of which the text is missing,

notifying the Council-that the military needed its building. The Council

responded at once with another resolution announcing a unanimous intention

to resign unless it could "remain peaceably in . .the said House, or some

.other adequate Building. .... "

The resolutions were delivered seriatim to Worthington, who sent them on

one by one. A note of desperation appeared in the letter with the second

resolution and betrayed how close his patience had come to breaking. He

spelled out his belief that persistence in accommodating troops to the exclu-

'- sion of the civil authorities was turning the city into "a Military Garrison--

in time of profound peace. . This would compel him, he declared, to

'appeal from such a cource (sic).. to the President of the United States.

*. "' It was Worthington's first threat.

.. .' Inst"a.d of sending them to Bell, the Acting Governor addressed the

letters ,to Eustis, who had only then reached St. Augustine. Apparently he

s and his family were settling in the customhouse, dislodging Bell, who moved .

:to Government House. Obviously Worthington was unaware that the Lieutenant

,Colonel had arranged for the Captain to retain command until October 1.

Eustis relayed the communications together to Bell where their impact was


Everything about the communications offended Bell, particularly as he

saw in the resolutions a pervasive hostility to the military, arising out of

'his letter notifying the'Council that it faced eviction. Even sending them

:,,/to Eustis was a disturbing slur which impugned his honor,.as he was quick to

Declaree; Te first resolution was to Bell plainly an act of retaliation.

The second was an attempt at intimidation which Worthington compounded by.

declaring his intention to call on the President for help. Bell's gift for

-the bombastic reached a high point in his reply, also dated the same day, in

which he declared:

S:And I assure you, altho' I have been styled a "young officer" that Such a
C; threat does not alarm one, who has served his Country from the Burning
::sands of Louisiana to the frozen Banks of the St. Lawrence within the last
twelve years.

':Bell's retort was not a matter of idle words. He refused to let the Army

:' hospital receive any more civilian patients, and he sent soldiers to the

; Council Chamber to carry out the furniture. Worthington limited himself to

: a polite but stilted note to Bell terminating their correspondence on the

-subject, and the Acting Governor held to this resolution until the affair

; took another turn more than a month later. He also implored the Council to'

j withhold its mass resignation.

: In the meantime Bell may have had second thoughts. In a long account of

:-'.the dispute, which he sent to Jackson on October 8, Bell presented a defense.

But in doing so the high-spirited officer did not gloss over his role. Perhaps

i' the-best short account is a passage from this letter:


*. The repeated representations of the Army Surgeon against our occupying
the fort and the increased numbers on the Sick report, induced me to remove
'the Troops in town, one company to occupy the "School House" which was then.
(by my permission) occupied by the City Council, and the other company to
-occupy the "Flour Store"--I did not take possession of the School House,
,until I had first made formal application to Forbes the Mayor, who submitted
-the letter to his Council, who addressed a letter to Mr. Worthington threatn-
ing (sic) to resign their commissions if the building was to be occupied by
Sthe Troops at the same time passed a resolution ordering our hospital to be
removed out of town; which letter and resolution Mr. Worthington enclosed to
Col. Eustis, with not only a compliance with the council in their views, but
a threat of reporting the circumstances to the President of the United States.
--Col. Eustis not being in command delivered the letters to me, to which I
Replied, in a manner calculated to convince the gentlemen that I was not to
be intimidated by threats; after which, I ordered the Troops to occupy the
School house and turn the Council furniture out . .Rodman has not
: forgotten the tea thrown in his face and consequently dislikes all persons
wearing the cloth of a Soldier.

It is worth noting that the young soldier was not stigmatized by unpopularity.

:;' This was apparent when the impetuous officer stood a court martial involving

i.matters unrelated to the dispute. Rodman prosecuted the action, and Bell

: saw in this an animus arising out of being denied the customhouse. The

court martial went against Bell, but the townspeople took up a collection in

SDecember to pay a fine levied on him. He also was suspended from duty for a

Year at half pay. Bell rushed to Washington where he soon succeeded in having

:this part of the penalty remitted. He was restored to duty in April, report-

ing to a new station. Both Jackson and Eustis were outspoken in Bell's favor,

Sand even Worthington, his opponent, displayed a high regard for Bell. The

*: Acting Governor appealed to Calhoun to appoint the soldier Indian Agent

.while the coirt martial was pending.

The General and the President

S'- Jackson had taken the first step to settle the dispute on October 1,

;^'the very day. on which he received Worthington's appeal of August 28. But

SJackson's letter took longer than usual to reach its destination, arriving

November 7. The solution was to the point. Although it concerned only


Government House, Jackson wrote a thorough and broad endorsement of

.Worthington's views with these words:

'rThe military authority is subordinate to the civil, and bound upon your
Srequisition . to carry your orders into full execution . .
You, whilst acting as the executive of East Florida, have a right to
occupy the Government house, and the military must be supplied with quarters
Sin the Forts or Town, or other Public Buildings ...
I cannot too highly approve the propriety of your sentiments expressed'
on that harmony that ought to exist between the civil and military author-
ities. . .

..*.,Calhoun sent the controversy to Monroe for settlement on October 1 also,

'making it a day of noteworthy coincidence. In less than two weeks the Presi-

'dent replied unaware that-a future President already had decided the main

question. There is a basic significance in the way in which their solutions

".dovetailed. Monroe informed Calhoun:

-:I have made a note as to the'public buildings at St. Augustine, which you
. will execute in the best manner you can. Perhaps it may not be necessary,
to have any formal communication with either Mr Adams or Mr FSecretary of -
;the Treasury William H.7 Crairford on the subject. The military ought to
-:-yieldevery accommodation (sic). in their power, to the civil .

'But not until November 30 did Calhoun dispatch to Eustis- the distribution

:that Monroe had prescribed.

In: n the meantime Worthington notified Eustis of Jackson's views as soon

as the belated letter reached St. Augustine.. Interestingly, the Governor

4 enclosed sealed orders to Eustis, probably relating to the dispute, which

,/Worthington sent along with a.note quoting a pertinent extract on Government .

House. Worthington's intention to live as well as work in the building was

.u1nistakable.. He wrote Eustis:

So soon as it will suit your convenience and that of such of the officers
-and troops as may occupy the Govt House and premises to give me and my family
Possession under this opinion of General Jackson, it will much oblige me, as
1 wish to move my- furniture and Servants in it this week and bring my family
:lin the beginning of next. .

'1 17._:" '

'IThere was a note of courtesy in the assurance of a desire "to act .. .

:. wth the utmost delicacy and friendship" toward Eustis and the soldiers

whose eviction notice carried the weight of military orders. Worthington

was not inclined to brag over the victory. A few days later he reported to

Adams that "the dispute . .has been handsomely settled by Lt. Col. Eustis.

.. :". But Worthington's relocation to Government House was delayed until .

7' December 1,:partly because of sickness and partly because of some minor

repairs costing $267.26. He collected for the expense in August 1822, after :-

he had left Florida.

.-Eustis respondedthe next day, November 8, with a gracious letter saying

he wouJld accede "without delay.". The letter offers insights into the in-

-terior'of Government House; the situation in St. Augustine, and life in the

S.S. Army 'on fan-early frontier:,

SThe Kitchen and two rooms on the first floor are now vacant and your Servants
Sand Furniture may be sent there as soon as you think proper.--The third Base-
ment room is at present occupied by the family of a Serjeant of Captain Bell's
SCompany. He and his Wife's Sister are now very sick with Yellow Fever, but
'they shall be removed as soon as practicable either to the Grave or to other
quarters.--I have ordered Doctor /Charles Nm7 McCoskry (the military surgeon
.uhose name appeared elsewhere as McCrosky) and Captain Bell to vacate the
rooms occupied by them before Monday next. One half of the Garden has
bee tilled and a portion of it planted by the Soldiers. Be pleased to
Sinfoz' me whether they may continue to cultivate and reap the Crop. I fear i
that without very considerable expence (sic) you will not be able to make -
this Building comfortable for your family..

In conclusion the Lieutenant Colonel offered assurances of good will accented-

with fervor and pledged the assistance of his command to the provincial govern-

' ment. He also indulged'iA pardonable fiction by hoping "that the harmony.

, which has hitherto existed between the Civil and Military Departments. .

'. "ay continue undisturbed. . Eustis's reference to yellow fever, it

. should be noted, applied to the malignant fever and was an early diagnosis


.. employing a term from the present day medical lexicon. The existence of a

kitchen in Government House helps to confirm the inventory's description of

:-;it as the former residence of the Spanish governors.

In spite of the protestations of friendship, the quarrel may have gone

'on simmering near the surface., Apparently.the discord was discernible to

W' illiam P. DuVal of Kentucky, the first Federal District Court Judge in East

Florida, hou would succeed Jackson as territorial governor in 1822.. One of .

thel.ast officials-on the scene, DuVal arrived shortly after the settlement.,

In a'letter to' Adams on November 29, DuVal asserted "that nothing less than

,'the timely interposition of Congress can restore harmony and order. .' "

Possibly, of course, DuVal had heard only echoes of the dispute; Certainly-

thereafter the correspondence of.the principals indicated that the contro- i

versy'had been buried, if not forgotten. ,

In any event Eustis reported to Calhoun on December 18 in a prompt

..reply to the letter conveying Monroe's apportionment that the Acting Gov- .

, ernor had had Government House for more than a month. The soldier noted, ,

.too, that Rodman already was in park. of the customhouse and would receive

Virtually all the rest as soon as Eustis found a place for his family. He

coupled his assurance that the distribution would be applied with a pointed

S obser;.ation, lacking the accent of a request, that the quartermaster was in -

need of:funds for rent restore dilapidated buildings which had fallen ,

Sto the'military's lot. He pointed out that'the Council Room and the National

School, .the first assigned to the civil armr and the second to the military,

Severe really one building, presently the quarters of Bell's company. He said.,

that they would be-vacated as soon as another buildi( n could be found for the

"soldiers;. Worthington closed the quarrel in a formal notification to the.

. iayor and the Council early in January that it could soon return to its old.

o quarters. By an'.odd twist the Council had resigned by, then--not because of

Bll's- preem tion of its chambers, but because the Aldermen, all Spanish,

had refused- with one exception to take an oath of-allegiance to the United

'.States Constitution. And 'or'thinrtGon was struggling with the election of a

Snew council to assemble in the .room Eustis would soon give back.

,TIo LcLnger a Residence

". In' spite of its neglected and dilapidated condition Government House had

a preeminent position in St. Augustine. This was clear not only from its ,

divisive role in the quarrel, but also in occasional references in official

Scorrespondence. -Perhaps the most eloquent testimony came in a letter of -

.Jul 8,.1822, to Adams.. Its author was Alexander Hamilton, second son of '

'the first Secretary of the Treasury and Federalist leader. Hamilton had .

_::come to East Florida in a dual role, as one of a trio of land commissioners

;: an as the U.S. Attorney for East Florida. He described Government House as

T. The only public building, adapted to the acccmmodation of the Superior .
i aCodrt, and other public offices, and this disposition of it is, the more
-'oimportant, as the inhabitants are predisposed, to form their estimate of the
value of public institutions, by their ostensible respectability.]_7 The
SCourt, the Clerk of the same, the Alcaldes Office and Jurors and witnesses
could all be- accommodated.. .

Hamilton's concluding request that Adams present the proposal to the President

suggests that Government House was at the time exclusively Worthington's

residence.l, The latter was, in fact, planning shortly to sail for Baltimore

With his family and to return to private life.. If Hamilton's ambition was to

.see Government House .truly what:its name implied he blunted his appeal with

an ambiguous postscript asking for ."permission to occupy the front room."

SGovernment House was indeed a residence and remained one for a few..

months after Worthington left. Hamilton also broached to him the desire to"
ij'. \, -
'1 t*'

live in the building, but Worthington passed over the request with an expla-

nation to'Adams that he had already "put it into the possession of the Mayor,

Col. Forbes," once the territory's U.S. marshal. Worthington betrayed a low

opinion of his associates in St. Augustine when he enclosed for the Secre-

- tary's eye the letters Forbes and Worthington had exchanged, "even, lest,"

as the letter warned, "this little matter, might possibly not be correctly'

represented." 'Apparently Forbes's trusteeship would be temporary, awaiting'. i

Sthe disposition of DuVal, who had been elevated to territorial governor,

In October Forbes, too, left Florida. -Certainly then, but possibly

.earlier, he surrendered the building to DuVal, whose executive headquarters

were at Pensacola, the temporary capital. The October date seems more

:likely because Forbes's departure coincided with the arrival of Joseph L.

Smith, the new Federal judge, whose stormy personality would embroil him .

in numerous incidents in succeeding years., The people of the territory

Should display a capacity for bitterly assailing and for hotly defending '

Shim, aliTays with almost equal vehemence.' A high-handed former colonel,

SSmith had enjoyed a legal training and was practicing law in Connecticut.':

when the War -of 1812 induced him to take up.the military profession. The

Army reduction of 1821 brought him the next year to St. Augustine where'

his son, Edmind Kirby Smith, destined to be an eminent Confederate general, :.

'was born ,in 1824.-: Smith apparently, found Government House suitable for a

courthousee for DuVal was to note that "the only habitable room in the

SGovernors (sic) old'mansion .: has beenrendered so by Judge Smith, for .i

.the purpose of holding his Courts."',' DuVal'made this observation in May

. 1823 when S',. Augustine became briefly the territorial capital, and DuVal

. returned to. the eastern city. Thus three Americans apparently made minor

'repairs to the building--Washburn, Worthington, and Smith, within a year of

T: the exchange of flags.

SThe Capitol and the Future

'-Smith's improvements not only enjoyed approval; they also were put to

use. The courtroom was adaptable to the needs of the Legislative Council.

.,.:Its meetings there in the'weeks of the spring of 1823 when the Council sat

In St. Augustine mean that Government House-w.s, however briefly, once the

.Capitol of Florida. By early in the next year the territorial government

.:'has settled at Tallahassee as the permanent seat.

D: Tuning the temporary sojourn in St. Augustine DuVal was pained at the

; necessity of renting an office for $15 a month. The chief difficulty for ,

i'the Governor was Rodman, and finally DuValappealed in a letter of August 23 '

to Adams:

SThis renting ought not to be done, when the United States have buildingS_.7
of their .own in this city that will answer every purpose.
i 1- Mr. John Rodman the collector of this port has taken possession of a
."'public building adjoing (sic) the custom house which he has occupied in
defiance of my order for some time, with his family, saying he has some
;':order from-the Treasury department, which authorizes him to do so, I have
:never seen or heard of such an order, land I do not believe any such was
ever given.. .

IDVal expressed the hope that the President would direct him to take posses-

sion of the building and told Adams that the Government could save "several

hundred Dollars annually." Unfortunately Adams's reply, if there one,

has, not been found. Every indication suggests that soon thereafter the

practice of providing living quarters for civil officials camo to an end in

.St. Augustine. Possibly the Treasury Department dispossessed Rordman. If so,

Sthe fire 'of 1833 would account for, the disappearance of the eviction notice.

In the same letter the Governor set forth his plans for Government House for

SAdams's information. DuVal tied his views tightly to a trenchant exposition

of the policy he 'favored. Perhaps he desired to stimulate swift retribution

for the recalcitrant Rodman. At least DuVal was unmistakably clear and vig-

.-orous'. His, declaration, closing the first years of American occupancy, out-

"lined, with the gift of prophecy, the history of Government House for the.

,'next few generations: .

-I do not occupy any Public Building myself and have directed that the Govern-
ment house should be appropriated to the use of the courts./7 Legislative
;counsel-(sic) and Land conmissions7 j7 their Secretary & clerks. It is
. improper, that any officer of the Government should retain for his private
convenience any national property, that the Public interest requires for its
Services. . .



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1833-1834: The Mils Facade



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Chapter 2.

First U.S. Remodeling

Apparently the public buildings inherited from the Spaniards continued

.to sink toward;ruins, at least until 1833. The little evidence at hand sug-

gests that some buildings,,especially in Pensacola, became so dilapidated

and untenantable that they were razed, and the Federal Government rented '

houses for local activities. Possibly, of course, there were minor repairs.

,At ost. they were so inconsequential that they fell outside the identifiable

" record. -.The first step toward improvements beyond any improvised patching

was the adoption of a resolution in the House of Representatives on Janu-

-*ary 10, 1832, advising the Committee on Public Lands to examine how well

Florida was equipped with public buildings. Possibly, the resolution sug-

tested, the, sale of public holdings in St. Augustine and Pensacola, partic-'

'ularly vacant lots, could yield revenue for repairing and building court-

:.houses, customhouses, and jails and for the support of public schools--an

S'. interesting-contemporary itemization of Florida frontier requirements.

SThe sale of public property for such a purpose was far from a novel idea.

-As early as 1821 it had been broached, at least in St. Augustine, and.

Adams turned down a request for permission to sell public property for these

purposes. .In a brusque noncommittal reply the Secretary of State noted that

.congressioral- authorization was needed and there was none.

.A decade later the proposal was before Congress. According to Clarence

E dwin-Carter, editor of the Territorial Papers of the United States, the

Resolution was in the handwriting of Joseph M. White, Florida's territorial

Delegate from 1825 to 1837. Jackson, then the occupant of the President's

SHouse, approved the resulting legislation. It went beyond White's self-

financing suggestion and appropriated $5,000 for any existing public buildings

which the Secretary of the Treasury selected for continued Federal use. .;ith


the sum they were to be "refitted and repaired fit for use, . the better

,to preserve them from ruin and dilapidation." In the end the money was spent

Entirely on Government House in St. Augustine--apparently the only building of

SSpanish origin retained by the United States after 1832.

'In the Spanish Inventory.

S The building was in reality three, articulated structures. These were the

long and narrow main building, a one-story service wing to the south, and a

over at the west end. A draw ng of the integrated structures apparently was

among the plats and plans which Coppinger turned over to Butler in 1821. An .

inventory of public property, which the Spanish Governor gave the American Corn-

nissioner at the same time, contained a description of Government House keyed

*": to one or perhaps two drawings. Butler carried the pltts and drawings to

.Jackson, who sent them to Adams. Those that survived are an unpublished part

of the Territorial Papers of the United States. Unfortunately it seems that

,the Government House drawings became separated from the others. At least,

these particular drawings do not appear in the existing set. Butler left

with Bell a copy of the inventory whose author is identified in the document

as Don.Ramon de la.Cruz, an engineer of the Regiment of Malta. He wrote in

Spanish, of. course. The artilleryman managed to get a to translate

it and later sent a copy to Calhoun, and it is preserved among the War Depart-

ment. records. The. English version appears to be a free translation at sight,

lacking the nuances and subtleties that idiomatic and technical expressions

often demand.- There is a possibility of genuine errors in places. The obvious

translation of the Spanish vara as the English yard is an apparent short-

coming. Unfortunately the Spanish original appears not to have survived for

comparison. Nevertheless the passage on Government House presents the most/. --:

'* nmprehensive'and understandable portrait of, the building before 1833: '.

This building is Situated on the public square, square No. 20, and occupies
Lot No. 155, measuring on its South front' 74 yards; on the West front 76-y
'-yards; depth to the South 97 yards, and to the North 134 yards, making a
trapesiut as the spot indicates in the general plan. The remaining build-
ings are that part marked with the letter A being three con-
i tiguous halls, measuring together 23 yards in length, by seven in width;
the second floor has apartments-of Similar dimensions except the space or *
vacancy between the cieling (sic) of the Second floor and the roof which
Ss a pitch or gable; there is also a tower of 2 stories, united to the body '
I.''f the house, 14- yards wide by 6,- yards long. The other places designated
by the aforesaid letter A, are the Staircase, Corridor, & piazza covering
Sa passage leading to the Kitchen and another room used as a pantry all on
.:the same level, above which is a flat terrace roof, One half covered with
S -cement and the rest laid with strong new planks; in the six mentioned rooms
Above and below there are 13 Serviceable doors with an equipment of hinges
'and.latches, four with keys and all serviceable; nine windows all with
frames, and four with shutters and an equipment of hinges, bars &c. and one
'-: of them with window sashes and glazed.

Rivalry in Design

A hiatus in the records leaves the preliminary steps under White's

legislation in a haze of uncertainty. Perhaps the larger part of the gap

was due to the Treasury fire of March 30, 1833, but some of the obviously

missing items may merely have strayed. The first pertinent correspondence

after the fire discloses, in fact, that there were two plans for the alter-

ation of Government House.' The rival schemes were the work of Elias Wallen

of St. Augustine, who was essentially a builder, and Robert Mills of

SWashington, D.C., whose design of the Treasury building three years later

would rank him in the forefront of the Greek Revivalists.

.MThis is implicit in the letter which Secretary of the Treasury William

- J. Duane wrote June 22 to Thomas Douglas, U.S. Attorney for East Florida.

According to Duane's straightforward account, Wallen had prepared a'design

.. on his own and sent it to the Department with an offer to do the work for

$5,000.' Somewhat casually Duane introduced Mills as "a skilful architect"

'who.had been "consulted on the merits" of Walln' s plan, implying that Mills

was a private architect. Actually he had been employed in the Department

since 1830, although he did not assume the title of Architect of Public

-J <


;.,-, '%~"

i: '

"' Buildings until 1836--the year in which he won the competition for the

Design of the Washington Monument. For the St. Augustine building, coming

.to be known as the courthouse, although Duane called it interchangeably the

"old court house" and "Government House," Mills had suggested what he con-

'sidered a more economical design. He assured Duane, so the Secretary quoted

him, -that it would improve the architecture without sacrificing accommoda-

tions. The Secretary enclosed explanatory details with the plan and asked

SDouglas to examine them in collaboration with Wallen'and Judge Robert R.

. Reid of the U.S. District Court, a recent successor to Smith. If the Mills

".P:'plan met their approval, Duane told Douglas, they were to go ahead with

,,proposals to carry it out.

S-About a month later LDane got an answer--from Wallen, not Douglas.

The builder-took exception-to the design and challenged its convenience for

the public, adaptation t tthe climate, and costliness. He asserted that

the plan could not be carried out for less than $12,000. In Wallen's eyes

.it "would render the present walls of little or no use," and he apparently

attached-the criticism on cost to this aspect. It is interesting to note,

i*,in view of the obligation accepted in October, that Wallen insisted that

'.. Indeed it would be impossible to rebuild the house for the sum speci-
Sfied in my proposals, were it not that I contemplated to make use of as
;: much of the present walls, as practicable. . .

S Another aspect of the Mills design drew even more vivid criticism. Possibly

Mills intended to reconstruct in the altered building the watch tower which

S the Spaniards had built adjoining the house, surely at its western end.

SPerhaps the tower gave Spanish sentries a view of western land approaches,

I and it may have been a relay point for messages signaled from the military

,' tower on St. Anastasia Island, across the harbor, which overlooked the the city. Any idea of retaining such a structure, in whatever

form, prompted Wallen to say with the emphasis of disarranged syntax:

.The belfry is a misshapen Spanish concern the lower part of which is of
stone and the upper of wood and would completely ruin the appearance of any
building, is neither ornamental or useful and is decayed, and is an unneces-
sary appendage which ought to be removed and which if to be rebuilt would
Sadd very considerable to the expense of the building.

possibly Mills had in mind no more than an ornamental cupola, but the exist-

ence of the proposal in the Mills plan prompts the question of whether he was

aware of: the Spanish tower. Possibly the Treasury architect borrowed the mis-

:i .sing Spanish drawings fran State Department. It seems that Wallen rushed to

his conclusion from only a cursory view of Mills's plan. At least Wallen de-

-clared that Douglas withheld the explanation and only let the builder glance

;' at the drawing. Neither Mills's plan, text and drawing, nor Wallen's original

: .proposal has'been found, and they cannot be compared objectively today.

S An acceptable remodeling plan continued to elude Duane. He gave Mills an-i

opportunity to revise his plan in the light of the comments from St. Augus-

i.. -.tine. --Early in August the Treasury architect reported that he had "obviated"

"Wallen s criticisms.. Perhaps the Secretary was not wholly convinced. He

rote Douglas on August 7, sending both plans and committing "the whole sub-

ject to the discretion and management" of Reid and himself. In their dis-

.cretion ,they could adopt either plan or parts of both and contract for the

work; But they declined the responsibility for reasons not wholly clear today.

According to Duane, "a difference of opinion . induced /them/ . to

decline t-he trust." A letter rac MHills to the Secretary on September 18 sug-

r gests, however, that Douglas preferred- to be instructed to employ one plan or

the other and favored Mills's revised design. Perhaps the turn of events

vexed .Duane. In any event he turned for assistance on the same day to Rodmian,

'ho was still the collector in St. Augustine. But Duane greatly limited the

.. collector's discretion:
a;* *. *** .

I have concluded to adopt the plan submitted by Mr. Wallen subject to such
-, modification as you may think judiciary. Accordingly, I have to request
that you will obtain from Messrs. Reid & Douglas . all papers relating
to the subject . and . enter into a written contract in behalf of the
SUnited States for the immediate execution of the work . with Mr. Wallen
or any other competent workman . It is to be understood . that the
whole expense . .is not to exceed . $5,000.

Execution of a contract on October 12 consumnnated Rodman's negotiations with

'Wallen. By then Duane had left Treasury--removed by Jackson in a new chapter the clash with the Bank of the United States. Perhaps Rodman did not

;share the late Secretary's preference for the Wallen plan. ,This conclusion

can be drawn from a close examination of the contract provisions, 25 in all,

: detailing Wallen's obligation "to repair and increase the present courthouse

Sand appurtenances. "

-,Influence of the Mills Plan

S Among the more persuasiveis the very first article. It required "the

court house .to be made according to the facade of Robert Mills of the City

of Waehington." The Treasury architect's name appeared also in the 24th

article. Here the prescription for "a belfry to correspond with Mr. Mills

of wood and with blinds" may have an awkward ring imparted by an apparent

omission of a few words, but it indicates that Wallen's resistance to a

belfry had been overcome. These provisions suggest, of course, an adherence

to a Mills-designed exterior, but the second and third articles strengthen

Sthe supposition that the, ills planning predominated in the contract. In

spite of Wallen's earlier insistence on using "as much of the present walls, -

as practicable," .these articles called for razing two of the four coquina

valls of the main building. Their reconstruction would enable Wallen, in

the contract's unusual phrasing, "to . increase the building." The

articles obliged Wallen to: .

'Article 2. .To take down the entire west end of the main building, make an"
Addition to the length of it of sixteen feet-nine inches.
SArticle 3. To take down the entire north wall of the main building 72 feet
3 inches in length and add to the width of the bhildin l14 feet 6 inches.

S According to measurements in the contract, the building's westward

Extension of 16 feet 9 inches brought the overall length to 89 feet. The

" reconstruction of the elongated north wall 14 feet 6 inches to the north

Apparently widened the main building from about 25 feet 6 inches to about

.40 feet.- In the fourth article the contract called for a substantial in-

c' crease in the building's height, by adding 6 feet to the walls. This would

' raise them from 18 to 24 feet, measuring from the ground to the plate which

;: would carry the weight of the new roof. Wallen is credited with excelling

the contract-by building the walls to a 25-foot height. Another phase of

the contract at least doubled the space in the wing. Originally a one-story

affair, it apparently was connected to the main building by the piazza which

skirted the south side. The contract requirements added a second story and

ran the two-level veranda to the end of the wing. The gallery connected -

all therooms on each floor and eliminated the'need for corridors, although.

an entry and inside staircase were necessary. The two-story ell matched the

height of the main building, with which it shared common walls. The wing's

vest wall, in fact, was an-extension of the new west wall of the main section,

which enclosed the area where the tower apparently had risen. From these

alterations emerged an L-shaped structure of uniform height whose roof of

cypress shingles on yellow pine scantlings measured 138 feet long.

The virtue of the preceding figures is their common source in the

contract and related papers. In this sensethe figures are uniform. But

there is no certainty that they are the precise dimensions, even though

they must be considered reasonably accurate approximations, with possibly

some exaggeration in the frontier tradition. This is noted because the his-

torical investigation of the St. Augustine building o yielded data with discern-

ible variations. The length of the main building, as it was completed in 18314

under Wallen's contract, is given in these assorted figures: 90, 89, 87.4,

and 86.6.feet. The first and second are derived from contract documents. The

_third is from a territorial survey plat drawn under Butler's direction at al-

nmost the same time. The last is 'taken from a drawing apparently made between

S186 and a remodeling in 1873.

frontierr Embellishments

There is no wholly satisfactory accounting for every last one of these

Sand similar differences. But there is a reasonable probability that Rcdman

:anfd Wallen contributed to the discrepancies by what may have been a calcu-

-lated effort to exaggerate the way in which the latter fulfilled the contract.

I An exaile was their use of.exterior dimensions of the main courtroom, 60 by

40 feet, for the interior. Later measurements, apparently made independently,

virtually agree that the interior of the room was 56 or 56 feet 2 inches by

S36 feet.- If Rodman and Wallen were motivated by a desire for a larger pay-

m: ent'for the contractor, their effort failed.. Probably their ingenuity in

] presenting.the building in the most favorable light was nothing more than the

,frontier practice of extolling every imaginable community advantage with a

View to bringing in new settlers. The way in which Rodman succeeded in im-

;,-planting the idea that Wallen performed so well that St. Augustine got

"virtually a new building--not at all an unfactual distortion--is clearly

,*i' ..visible today. In a report to Secretary of the Treasury Roger B. Taney,

.Duane,'s successor, Rodman observed on May 27, 1834, that "lf'by this repair

....almost an- entire new building camne to be erected . . When the

Superior Court, as the chief territorial court was known, convened for the

-first time in its refurbished quarters:a few days later, The Florida Herald

of St. Augustine went a step further. In the edition of June 5 the local

editor praised "the building recently erected by the United States under the

superintendence of Elias Wallen, Esq., . This planted the seed of a

controversy that flamed off and on through the 1920s and 1930s in the belief

That. a new .building had replaced the original Government House.

T he occupancy of the courtroom early in June from a start in Noverrber

suggests that Wallen was rushing the work to completion. This would have

been understandable because the contract provided for only one payment, the

Full sum at the end. As a matter of fact he was not paid until the next

e.I'e-December. There is no explanation of the dawdling and certainly no sign

Sthalt :,allen 's friendship with Rodman was at all uneasy. The latter's few

S;Jletters mentioning the project speak with enthusiasm of the work. After

W: allen gave it the finishing strokes in November Rodman had no apparent

"' difficulty in getting tw.o citizens to certify the completion. These were

,;'John Drysdale, a .former mayor with whom Rodman shared a law practice, and

:Dr. William I. Sinmons, a local physician. For some reason Rodman prepared

..two statements--at least both appear to be in his handwriting. The men,

whom Rodman described as "gentlemen of high respectability, knowledge, and

.-judgment,. signed both. 'The first was a single paragraph. It attested

Wallen's faithful performance and noted that the plan had benefited from im-

.prover..erQks introduced by the contractor who also had done extra work.

T The second and longer statement was intended as an exhibit of the ways

in which Wallen'surpassed the terms of the contract. As a documentary, the

farrago of fact and fiction raises puzzling questions in the light of other

I .. i

data about the building. The opening assertion, for example, declared:

He has made the entire house one foot higher/-J one foot longer/ f 7 and six
and a half feet wider than his contract calls for-- 7

But the independent evidence is contradictory. Other measurements leave room,

in fact, for a conclusion that, instead of going a foot beyond the required

. length, Wallen pay have fallen short by as much as 2 feet. The contrary evi-

dence,on. the width from Wallen himself impeaches the farfetched contention

That. he widened the building by 21 feet, exceeding his obligation by nearly

50 percent.' In the letter to Duane in which the contractor criticized Mills's

plan' in' July.of the previous year Wallen took exception to the magnitude of -

the design, noting specifically the proposed 40-foot breadth. Perhaps Rodman

only took advantage of a glaring silence on the width in the contract. It

omitted both the original and proposed dimensions. All this leaves the impres-

S'sion that Government House was hardly 19 feet wide when the Spaniards built it.

. But Wallen knew better,. In the 1833 letter there is his estimate, admittedly

loose, putting the front at "say 23 feet." It was probably nearer 25 feet.

An unwitting and perhaps unintended modesty is visible in the conclusion that

the larger dimensions enabled Wallen to provide additional two rooms. Actu-

ally, '6 feet of greater width on a building 90 feet long would have meant

5 85 square feet more on each floor--nearly 1,170 square feet on both floors.

....This'would have exceeded the area of any two offices in the building and was

morethan half the size of the large courtroom which took up much of the

second floor.

S'The enumeration of Wallen's other improvements suggests that Rodman

stretched every possible point to the contractor's advantage. Drysdale and

:-Simmons certified that batten doors, a plank door common in cabins and out-

Sbuidings,; could have satisfied the contract's specification of "substantial

*doors" upstairs and down. Th' refce as they noted, the hanging of six-

1:.Ied doors excelled requirements. Anong the other noted extras were three

utters, an iron weathervane, and the windows in the belfry. Fallen instal-

led four 'frakes of 18 lights each, making, clear that it was essentially an

ornamental cupola of simple design. There is no record of a staircase to it.

He also was credited with having "colored the entire outside of the building,"

:to which Wallen had applied a double coat of mortar penciled off as stone.

"Probably.the coloring meant .whitewashing. If so the newly remodeled building

w ith bright blue doors, windows, and other wood trim must have presented a

CI zli tening and eye-filling image in the Florida sun.

.The statement stopped short of asking for additional money for Wallen.

.But a suggestion that reimbursement was due the contractor 'was implicit in

the statement that he had

been largely a loser by the very complete and public spirited manner in which
She has executed the foregoing work[.7

:In a letter to Treasury at the.same time Reid struck the same note, "fearfinr7

Mr. Fallen had sunk a considerable sum. . "But there record of

,' a.dtional compensation; nor any sign that-it was considered at the Treasury

or in Congress.

:;;.Courthouse and the Athenaeum

E* -- ven before Wallen finished this work the building, primarily a court-

house, began to- take on a community aspect. This was to prove the building's

'indelible hallmark throughout the 19th century and, indeed, would outlast the

SFdxral court tenure. An assignment list, concluding the Drysdale and Sinmons

-statement, discloses that nine; of the 15 rooms were associated with the courts.

SIn addltior, to the large,courtroom there was a smaller one (34 feet 9 inches

by 14 feet) in the second floor wing. Here the St. John County Court met,

.and the clerk shared a nearby room with' the record office. Perhaps Florida's

territorial status gave the county court a different status, but under ordi-

nary conditions county and other local courts do not sit in Federal buildings,

especially as a continuing arrangement., The judge, district attorney, marshal,

and clerks of both courts had offices assigned them, and there were separate

Srooms in which the grand jury and petit juries deliberated. Of the other six

Rooms five were in Federal uses--three for the Land Office, one for the

.,receiver of revenue, and one for the Post Office. This assignment reveals

that the Post Office was in the building in 1834. Evidence of subsequent

-years suggests that the Post Office remained there in an occupancy that ap-

parently lengthened to more than 130 years. The last and 15th room furnished

space for an organization identified only as the Athenaeum. The list offered

Sno. other information. The Athenaeum could have been a society dedicated to

intellectuall pursuits, literary or scientific, in the style established by

thel London Athenaeum founded in 1824. But the Athenaeum, especially if it

was modeled on the distinguished body in Boston, may well have been a library.

If so it marked the beginning of the long association of the St. Augustine

library with the building.

Bounday Streets--Then and Now

: The courthouse,'as it was coming to be known, stood on a lot which has

Shown a wide variance in dimensions over the years. There is no consistent

Explanation for the different measurements, except, of course, where docu-

m ented street changes on the north and west sides diminished the effective

'size of the lot as a site and gave it a moreregular shape. In a plat

datrig from 1880 there is more than a hint of a redrawing of the southern.

boundary between 1836 and 1873.. This apparently sliced 40 feet 3 inches

.,from the original breadth of the Government reservation. The present bound-

aries -of the site,.correlated to previous measurements under U.S. sovereignty,

Appear below:

St. George Street. The east facade, according to Wallen, was the

traditional front of Government House, overlooking the Plaza and opening

'on St. George Street. Older plats indicate that the building line was flush

with the street, and the coquina wall which once surrounded much of the

Building and its grounds did not enclose the east front. The wall, in fact,

ran around the rest of the perimeter from the north and south corners of the

east front. At present the property line extends along St. George Street

for 132.91 feet, from King Street on the south to Cathedral Street on the

S north._ This is 81.34 feet less than the maximum length of 214.25 feet first

recorded for the frontage on St. Georges, as the street was then known, in' a,

plat which Butler approved in 1836. Territorial surveyors drewi it in 1834

S and 1835 under his direction. Probably the reduction of 80-odd feet repre-

S'sents the.breadth of the roadways of King and Cathedral Streets.

S 'Cathedral Street. The northern line of 367.72 feet along Cathedral

*- slightly shorter, by a baker's dozen feet, than the 1836 boundary

of 381 feet. At that time the boundary merely separated the Government

property from the privately owned land in the rest of the large square which

Butler's surveyors numbered 15. Until 1890 Cathedral Street existed only

:',along the north side 'of the Plaza, the site of the Roman Catholic cathedral,

i from which the street took its name. 'In that year the square was divided

-; when the street was extended across St.. George and 'west to Tolomato, the old

Snare of Cordova Street. By an act approved February 11, Congress dedicated

Sto street use on the Government reservation "a breadth of land -f7

t.: i;: 'i. ", A: ... .

Sexual width with" Cathedral Street for as long as the city would maintain

streets and sidewalks on the building's perimeter. The shorter length of

the northern line probably reflects the straightening and widening of Cordova,

once Tolqmato, rather than the opening of Cathedral Street.

C" ordova Street. The western edge borders Cordova for 141.52 feet and

slants to the east to connect with King Street on straight line. Years earlier

-the boundary was far longer--223 feet 5 inches--and was distinguished by a

Sgraceiful westward are about midway in the coquina boundary wall. Local tradi-

:,,tion has associated the lunette, a truly provocative shape in an otherwise

Straight wall, with a line of Spanish redoubts on the city's western border--

-the low wetlands of Mary Sauchez Creek. Nothing encountered in the Govern-

m .ent records on the building confirms or denies the association. The semi-

circular bulge, between the wall and creek, was a constriction in the street,

Then Tolomato. As early as 1834 the city tried to get rid of the lunette and

'.i den :theI street, but Rodman was instrumental in persuading the Government

to refuse permission. But in 1871 there was no hesitation in granting it.

'An elongated wedge measuring 15 feet lO- inches across the base at the north

.was turned over. The only condition was the restoration of the wall on a

straight line.

King Street. The southern boundary of 342.33 feet today is 21 feet

'::longer than the 1836 line of 321.33 feet. A clue to the reason exists in a

"plat. drawn in 1880. The work of Lt. Col.' Q. A. Gillmore of the Corps of

'' Engineers,'iit shows two southern boundaries--one 40 feet 3 inches out into

K;':- ing's Road, the street's older name, and the other at the northern edge

'/anchored to the corner monuments. .The more southern line on Gillmore's plat

was 321.33 feet, exactly the length i. the 1836 plat. But the more northern

.... . .

line was 331.66 feet because the west-to-east slant of Tolomato Street nade

the distance from St. George Street longer at this point. An obvious con-

clusion is that land underlying King's Road probably was once part of the

Government House lot. The still longer distance today suggests that even

more area care into street and sidewalk use and as the line moved northward

it had to'extend further to reach Cordova Street. Although the name King

Street was already in common usage, Gillmore's plat used King's Road--appar-

ently an echo of the years of British sovereignty, 1763-1783, when plans

were formulated for a highway to connect Georgia and the other British

colonies in North America with St. Augustine.

Chapter 3.

1867-1868: Reconstruction Interlude



The Courts Come Back

An uneventful quarter of a century, at least in St. Augustine, flowed

between 1834 and l86e.. Over the span of these quiet years the building

sloughed its Spanish aura and took the color of its primary role as the one-

time Government House became identified in the public mind as the courthouse.

The naee would cling long after the Federal courts left the city in 1868,

Undoubtedly the- orkmanship of Wallen's masons, carpenters, and painters

withstood the ri jrs of the sane years with little evident need for repairs.

SJy the end' of the Civil War, however, the building again was in poor condi-

tion--indeed, seriously so. It could hardly have been habitable at all, in

Fact. if reports at the time can be accepted at face value.

S The more pessimistic were those which'Alex Mahguder, the U.S. Marshal,

sent to Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch and Supervising Architect of

-the Treasury Alfred B. Mullett. They faced the sizable task of making essen-

-' tial repairs in the neglected Federal buildings in the South at the close of

the war. The larger cities, of course, came first, and the Treasury Depart-

m' ent put off its inquiries about St. Augustine until late in 1866. As the

SCollector of Customs,.Pedro Benet, whose memories reached back to Spanish

;' days wnen he apparently had been a police officer in the city, replied that

Sthe building was "in a very bad condition." This agreed .with Magruder's

letter of October-6, 1866, in which the Marshal gave McCulloch a detailing

... causeand effect:

': The building was occupied by the U.S. Forces during the War, and almost
.entirely dismantled, stripped of doors, windows, window blinds &c. The
mason work and plastering p -ere7 very much injured., From what I can
S.learn the principal damage was done by the 4th and Seventh Regirents *j
SNew Ham-shire Volunteer Infantry/, 7 in the years 1862 and 1863.

SMagruder sent along an estimate which put the repairs at $9,050, explaining

That an architect with a nearby quartermaster detachment helped him. In a

letter to Mullett in January 1867, the Marshal was even more discouraging.

1He reported that he had taken his office into his home and observed that, if

Federal court were reconvened in St. Augustine, it would have to hold court

elsewhere than in the courthouse.

Apparently Magruder was prone to exaggerate, perhaps unintentionally.

In any event when the Treasury Department got around to making the repairs

in 1868 their cost stopped at the more modest figure of $2,000. In the mean-

time the court came back to St. Augustine and replaced the Union officers who

had "been using the building. Apparently the court encountered no insuperable

.difficulty in making do in the courthouse, and the clerk, William F. Dockray,

who styled himself Clerk of the U.S. Circuit and District Courts, established

his offices in the building, thereby opening the only interlude in its lively

history with thoroughly comic overtones.

Doc3'ray and Foster

Dockray revealed an incorrigible talent for making trouble and .indin.

fault. Almost as soon as he opened his office in the courthouse he sent off

a letter complaining to Washington at old Benet's incompetence and irrespon-

Ssibility--at least in Dockray' s estimation. Whether the letter was coinci-

dental or instrumental is not clear, but a new collector, Eleazer K. Foster,

:appeared on the scene. .If Dockray indulged in self-congratulations, he

quickly changed his mind. Almost at once the issue was joined in a resounding

feud between the collector and the clerk. There is no certainty, of course,

as to where censure, if any, should fall, but Dockray was unmistakably the

aggressor in a, quarrel whose expanding radius finally reached the Secretary

of the Treasury. In two letters of superb artistry McCulloch snubbed Dockray.

The series of incidents involved the building in one way or another from

Dockray's first outburst to the final imputation that Foster was deifra.Un-"

the Government. At the time the Collector of Customs at St. Augustine was

also the custodian of the courthouse.. Therefore Dockray's complaints en-

forced on the collector the task of explaining past events to the satisfac-

tion of suspecting eyes in Washington. But long before the feud expired the

next year the tone of the correspondence betrayed that the clerk's complaints

had outworn their welcome.

.Dockray went to the courthouse on the Fourth of July to work on the

docket, but the holiday clamor distracted him. Apparently this accounted

for the vehemence of his complaint not only at the noise but also of the

ron.Zful use of the building. The vigor of the protest revealed a deeply

'troubled man without, however, a certainty of what had touched off the out-

burst.. It drew a sympathetic reply in a few days from Assistant Secretary

"of the Treasury John F. Hartley who solicited a bill of particulars. Near

Sthe end of the month the clerk got off a document replete with accusations

.of misusee' even antedating the return of the courts. Dockray noted that

S"theatricals" had been staged in the courtroom and other exhibitions held

:there. *;When he got to Independence Day the clerk charged that the building

was the scene of "a sort of .. celebration in the morning and a political

meeting in the afternoon.," The day-long din, he emphasized, prevented him

From working. The alarmed Assistant Secretary surely rust have been startled

.to discover at the conclusion of the rambling letter a brand new charge.

:-Dockray also was protesting Foster's written notice to the clerk to stop

stabling a horse in the building. Proof of Foster's effrontery was the

Seertified copy" of the custodian's note which Dockray sent along to document

the charge. Dockray affectionately spoke of the animal as "my pony," al-

though Foster later insisted that it was a stallion. This discrepant note

appeared in a letter reporting on the failure to photograph the horse in a

first floor room whicf served as an ample box stall. Inadequate light proved


The Secretary Steps In

Exactly how Hartley greeted Dockray's complaint with its array of griev-

ances is uncertain. The certification was indisputable evidence that the

Depaartament was confronted with a unique definition of a grievance. Obviously

Sit excited a widening circle of interest, and there is no doubt of the applause

for Foster's efforts to rid the building of the horse. In the end the letter
.came to the desk of the Secretary, who replied on August 7. McCulloch's assur-

ance that the custodian has been admonished "to keep the building in proper

Condition and to see that. it is used only for legitimate purposes" must have

soothed Dockray as he read the letter a few days later. Learning that "cele-

brations, meetings and~gatherings for7 other purposes without the express '

i. authority of the Department" were excluded could only have added to a sense of

triumph. But then McCulloch rushed rapidly to the end with the snap of a whip:

The action of the Collector in requiring you to desist from the use of any
Portion of the premises as a stable is however approved and you will please
conform to- his instructions .

:" : ..McCulloch invited Foster at the same time to answer the charges. The

Custodian's detailed reply offers a few minor but interesting straws on

reconstruction days in St. Augustine. The theatricals were tableaux which

SUnion officers staged in the courtroom to raise funds for the community's

S'Trinity Episcopal Church. Foster went on to note that he was not consulted

whenn Judge Fraser, then holding court in the building, arranged for the

Catholic School -Exhibition--whatever it may have been. The collector could

have noted also that the court clerk surely was as well informed as anyone

on the matter. The charges growing out of the political meeting on the

afternoon of the 4th presented an even deeper irony in Foster's account.

Dockray'.s son staged the meeting without the custodian's knowledge. The col-

lector must have taken genuine satisfaction in reporting that he h~d already

Denied young Dockray's request for a room for regular political gatherings'.

The second episode opened before Dochray even received McCulloch's

,chastising letter.- The clerk's new complaint apparently grew out of one of

the steps in reorganizing the State government in Florida. Registers had

been'set up to enroll qualified citizens, and Foster maintained the one in

St.'Augustine. This brought numerous men traning- to Foster's door on the

second floor of the courthouse right next to the clerk's office. Often

members .of the passing tide would thrust their heads into Dockray's door

;and ask their way. All this undoubtedly was disturbing, but the clerk let,

it infuriate him to the point of formulating a new and novel charge against

thcecollector. The letter, written on August 9, clearly accused him of .

-ingenious malice. In choosing the location of his office Foster "deliber-

ately" aimed at annoying Dockray. with the tumult. That was the charge which

went to the Secretary. McCulloch's reply was marked by the extreme brevity

with which he. offered the amenity of regret and added that he could not see

h.ow he.could grant relief.

'.iThe Reoairs of .868"

: evidently the reply was sufficiently discouraging to keep I)ckray from

Attacking Foster for nearly a year. In these months the custodian went

-ahieacl the first postwar repairs, with the help of Richard Davies, a

local building contractor who doubled as an architect. They estimated the

:cost at a 5,250, and early in 1868 Foster sent the fi glres to Wshlnhnton.

After much pondering Mullett allowed him to contract, withi Davies for $2,000

worth of work. Obviously this was the least that could be done to preserve

the building. Apparently the relocation of the courts was already in the

wind, and the Treasury wished to avoid any spending which might turn cut to

Shave been unnecessary. In fact, the St. Augustine cou-thouse was one of the

Last, if not the.very last, Federal building in the ,3outh, to be spruced up

.. with postwar repairs. The work consisted largely of tem:norary roof repairs,

new door and window frames, new winddow sashing, and new furnishings for the

courtroom and jury rooms and for the offices of the idg, district attorney,

and marshal. Probably dtuing this. reurb'ishing the building lost the Wo.Lfry

Svhichh Mills had de signed 35 yearo earl.ier.

S The work went ahead under. Dockray' s suspicious and disapproving eye.

nally he could contain himself no longer. HJ s complaint has the unusual .

distinction of starting out on the premise that Foster and Davies are

cheating; the Government because the work, contracted at $2,000, can hardly

Sbe worth $1,200 and enphasiping the point by saying the value really is

'nearer $1,000~ : Then Dockrny enpped this by setting what he called his, own

: stiote:; '$800. Hoow the Department reacted to the welter of figures is

uncertain; there is no record of an acknowledgment.

SSt.'Augustine soon lost both Dockray and Foster. The latter took a job

with:the new State government, and the old files attest the bitterness of the

'l imprecations that Doclkay aimed at the back of his departing foe. There is

,no evidence that Foster, in spite of the frequent necessity of defending

himself, reciprocated the same intense personal emotion. He resorted to

epithets only once.. This was in reporting the ill-starred attempt to take

.a picture,of. ockray's horse inside the building.: The owner surprised Foster

. ... h *'.

and the photographer at work, and the ensuing .aternAtion'rust have -enlivened

.city gossip for some little time. Foster explained to Washington that he

wanted the photograph for protection in view of Dockray's reP.'.:tton as a

Sliar. 'iThe court clerk's sojourn ended not long after President Andrew

Johnson approved on July 27. 1868, an act discontinuing district court terms

at St.,Augustine. At the fall term the court for the Eastern District of

Florida convened in Jacksonville, closing a chapter in the building's history

running back to DaVal's arrival in November 1821. But the courthouse tradi-

tion had a brief renewal the next year when the State courts net there.

/ .

: r --: .~ i

- 47

Chapter 4.

1873: Second Remodeling

Riddle of the Remodeling

At the old courthouse the 1870s were a decade of activity, even though

the departure of the U.S. courts left the building virtually deserted. There

were in fact only two official tenants. Postmaster Charles H. Bohn used a

room or two on the ground floor of the wing for the Post Office. The other

Federal officer was the Collector of Customs, Andrew J. Goss, who was also

the custodian of the nearly empty building. Presumably he performed his

duties in the upstairs room next to Dockray's vacant sanctum. By 1869 the

county court was sitting in the building, apparently on the authority of

the custodian. At least no record came to light that Goss requested or

received permission from the Treasury Department.

A new roof of pine shingles, new doors, and new windows hardly were in

place before the courts went away. Perhaps this dismayed the Treasury

Department. The dubious status of the St. Augustine building was evident,

if not explicit, in the records of the Office of the Supervising Architect

even before Foster contracted with Davies for the 1868 repairs. Near the

end of 1869 some thought was given in the Department to disposing of the build-

ing.., But there is again no visible record of a formal decision to retain or

dispose of the building. The question became even more perplexing in 1873

when the Department remodeled the building for a second time, spending up-

vard of,$10,000, even though the Government would remain for some years only

a: minor tenant in its own building. Before the end of the succeeding decade

the Government became a major commercial landlord in St. Augustine, renting

space in the old courthouse.

A wide-ranging discussion preceded the remodeling and was perhaps its

strangest aspect. Commentaries and suggestions appeared in the local press

and in letters to the Department, ventilating a wide assortment of potential

uses outside the usual Federal orbit. Their premise was that the building was

too large for the Government. Out of this frank acknowledgment came sugges-

.tions of temporary and permanent tenants and uses over a wide gamut--a meeting.

room for a debating society, a school house, a church fair, offices for the

state.:and county governments, and housing for "homeless people." This last

probablyy was a euphemism for recently freed slaves. Before the 1860s ended

the debating society was already cnaeda .in forensic duels in the old court-


Undoubtedly a desire to use the property without charge lay behind some

of the But the State evinced its interest in an inquiry about.

leasing it for a school. In the letter, on May 26, 1871, the Superintendent

of Public Instruction, Charles Brecher, echoed the common note by pointing

out that the only tenants were post office clerks and occasionally the county

court, overlooking the collector-custodian. Two months later Superintendent

Daniel Waterbury sent a similar appeal to the Secretary of the Interior in

behalf of a local institution, the Peabody School of St. Augustine, of which

'Waterbury was the head. Apparently this was one of the schools, possibly

experimental in purpose, that drew their financing from the Peabody Education

SFund of $3,500,000, which George Peabody set up, primarily to help education

in the South, with part of the wealth amassed as a banker in the United States.

'and'Great Britain. Waterbury wrote to the Interior Department because one

of' its new bureaus was the Office of Education. Waterbury's request, which

he Secretary sent to the Treasury, pointed to the progress of deterioration

:In the deserted courthouse and proposed a lease which would make the local

Peabody School responsible for the repairs. Although there is no direct evi-

dence that anything emerged from Waterbury's petition, the school later became

one of the building's numerous tenants. These illustrate the impression that

Sthe Government had little or no need for the building. Even the promoters of

the railroad which was beginning to extend its rails south from Jacksonville

considered buying the property,' courthouse and lot, for the St. Augustine

terminal. This was noted as a recollection in St. Augustine's Florida Press

of May 3, 1873, as the Government started its second remodeling. There is no

* evidence that the proposal ever reached the Treasury, and the editor was only

Semphasizing the building's useful potential.

Florida's Future

:The only explanation of the Government's retention of its building is a

:surmise. -Possibly Mullett foresaw--or perhaps only sensed--the imminent and

Rapid flowering of Florida's popularity as a winter resort. This conjecture

Stakes into account the pleasantries in an exchange of correspondence between

the Supervising Architect and a postal inspector, whose headquarters, from

the datelining of his letters, appeared to be in Boston. The chatty exchange

referred to the Post Office at St. Augustine whose operations came under the

inspector's eye.- In the course of the letters he nade clear that he was

_. scheduling an inspection at St. Augustine in the winter and would send

Mullett a basket of citrus fruit. The inspector even asked for Mullett's

home address. The friendly personal touch in the flow of Government corre-

spondence, ordinarily governed by stilted conventions, may have opened to

M.ullett an insight into Florida's future. In his annual reports for 1866 to

.1874, while he was Supervising Architect, he displayed a keenness for getting

Srid ofI, Holding the property when the Government occupied two

to four rooms out of 15 was hardly typical. By the 1890s, however, the Govern-

ment was again the major occupant and well on its way to being the sole tenant

vith a parklike site available for expansion. So the record of the years en-

d' rsed Mullett's judgment.

But the remodeling hardly deserves equal credit. The building lost much

of its charm and simplicity which it drew from the Mediterranean flavor of

*Mills's design. This is betrayed by the only drawing so far discovered which

apparently shows the 1833 facade. The sketch probably was drawn just before

or just after the repairs of 1868 and most likely before the removal of the

lunette in 1871. The folded but well-preserved drawing was found in the Super-

vicing Architect's correspondence of 1873 in the National Archives. Undated,

unsigned, and, for that matter, without a title, the drawing is an original on

soft-textured orange-yellow drafting paper of a brilliant hue.

The 1833 Desih .

SThe study delineates at St. George and King Streets an L-shaped two-story ,

building surrounded by walls. Each of the floor layouts is detailed with

lower story fronting on St. George in the building's proper position. The

Drawing of the upper floor appears to the rear in the garden area. Behind

this is the wall with its clearly defined lunette at a seemingly more southerly

location than in the territorial survey plat of the 1830s.

S At the top, outside the perimeter wall, is a simple sketch which portrays

the east facade without benefit of perspective. North and south from the

,fla&ks of the main section extend coquina walls about seven feet high pierced

Sby gateways whose "handsome strong gates" are perhaps the very ones hung under

'Wallen's contract. Behind the southern range of the wall stands the wing with

Sits two-storied piazza. Certain building details reveal changes over the

-thirty-four or so years since Wallen finished the first remodeling. The doors

now have four panels, and the windows, too, are different. Those in the main

building appear to be casement windows and those in the ell have far fewer

Slights than the eighteen specified in each sash. Of course, Mills's belfry is

no longer visible. These changes are consistent not only with the condition

in which the Union troops.left the building but also with the repairs which

Foster and Davies made. But the changes left the simplicity of the Mills

S'design unmarred.

Despite its simplicity it displayed--in a minor way, it is true--a gift

of architectural versatility which rarely is associated with Mills's cele-

; berated reputation.- His outstanding buildings were so purely Greek in concept

that his name became closely identified with the Greek Revival school, of

whichh he was a chief exponent, of course. So exclusive an association had

-tended to overlook the way in which the architect adapted the obelisk, an

: ancient Egptian idiom, and magnified it many times to create the Uashinfton

I!onutent. The St. Augustine design, a modest measurement of the Mills genius,

revealed a capacity to turn from antiquity to a popular style contemporary at

the tine on the shores of the Mediterranean, especially its western end and in

-" .ar.. At home similar buildings probably would have a flat roof for a family

terrace. For this reason it should be noted that the Spaniards, not Mills,

put the hip roof on Government House--possibly out of their colonial expe-

rience in the'humid Caribbean climate.
S As a practical designer. Mills expanded the building by 58 percent exclu-

sive of the. space gained by adding a floor to the wing and uniting it with.

:'the chief section. He fashioned two well-proportioned and eminently suitable

courtrooms, and virtually all the space, aside from an entry and staircase,

was net space--essentially, useful working space. Mills accomplished this

by retaining and extending the two-story piazza which served .s an outdoor

anyi-weather gallry connecting the principal room. By c-bviating a noee for

ci corridors, the veranda added to the working space within the walls. This ap-

Sparently was the only exterior aspect retained from Government House, and it

undoubtedly pleased his keen esthetic sense as well as his desire for an eco-

.nomical design.,
The treatment of the walls and the cornice line reveal Mills's architec-

'tural skill, even when he was engaged in mail-order designing. In effect,

Sthe cornice line.was concealed, and a parapet extended the walls to an exag-

gerated height. The parapet rose above the walls apparently on three sides--

east, north, and west, enclosing the edge of the. roof. There were no eaves.

Onthe south side, and also on the east side of the wing, the roof sloped in

.two pitches to the eaves. This arrangement accounts for the three gutters,

which Wallen considered extra because they had been om.ltted from the speci-

fications of the contract. The parapet endowed the design with a flavor

redolent of Spain and its architectural inheritance from the Moors. The

simplicity which marked Mills's use of Greek Doric in the long colonnade of

the east front of the' Treasury Department Building in Washington, D.C., was

present in the St. Augustine exterior. But there was nothing Greek in the

spirit of the design which guided the alteration of the Florida building.

Perpetuating a Fiction

This is the building to which the Supervising Architect assigned a new

employee, William M. Kimball, to superintend its repair and remodeling early

Sin 1873. The Government had no drawings of the building, Mullett told him,

because it had been built when the Spanish held the territory. Kimball's

first report, on February 28, echoed the comment to his superior. The report

is' even more notable for revealing the Superintendent's genius for mistakes

which, however well-intentioned, brought his career in the Treasury to an

end in about a year. Little is known about Kimball, whose claim to the

courtesy'title of colonel is left in the limbo of uncertainty in the Treasury

Records. But there were obvious deficiencies in his technical equipment, and

the St. Augustine assignment was his first and last.

In his first report Kimball gave currency anew to the mistaken noticn

that -sprang from the original error in the Florida Press in 1834. Noting that

part of the building was very old, the superintendent observed that the court-

Shouse, apparently meaning the main building, was an addition built, he said -

with a modest error, in 1831. In this account Kimball may merely have reflec-

ted the locally accepted belief that only the wing dated from Spanish days.

In his report he went on to insist that "very little or nothing" had been

Done to repair the building since the 1830s, ignoring the repairs of 1868.

S The needs which Kimball detailed embraced items which apparently had

been repaired only five years earlier. He noted a need for frames, sashes,

glass, and blinds for the windows and frames and doors for the doorways.

The single chimney in the wing drew adverse comment, but both chimneys 'in

*the main section were reported in good condition. He found "terrace" floors the ground floor rooms 40 years e rlier in a good state of preser-

vation except in a few rooms. In these' he recommended new floors of the

same material. Apparently the term "terrace,' used both in the 1830s and

S187Os, referred to a form of terrazzo. He also pointed to the seriously

.dangerous condition, of the veranda.

S :The repairs which Kimball recommended were directed at the iterr-ized

needs--the windows, doors, and piazza as well as the terrace floors in need )

.of relaying. 'The remodeling of the building was the target of the major

.; recommendations.. He proposed to demolish the wing and extend the main build-

Sing westward for a second time. The specific proposal was to lengthen it by

27, feet '6 inches, which, by Kimball's measurements, would have made the build-"

'ing 115 feet 6 inches by 39 feet 6 inches. In its final dimensions it was

actually 1 foot longer. A companion proposal was to add 3 feet to the build-

'ing's'walls, lifting the ceiling height in the second story to 14 feet 9 in-

ches. The only other proposal related to the grounds and was for the removal

,:.''of the coquina all from the St.-George frontage. The superintendent esti-

-i'ated the cost at $10,617. It is interesting to note that the total cost of

;; the remodeling entered in Treasury books at the end of the disputes and '' .

Investigations wtas $10,492.

The 1873 Design .'4

M" ullett's approval of Ki ball's recommendations was the signal to go

forward. The plans were made in St. Augustine, and there is no visible evi-

dence that the drawings received a formal endorsement in Washington. Two

surviving drawings lack not only authenticating and approving countersigna-

t":ures but the signatures of the draftsmen and the dates of drafting as well.

Ordinarily Kimball would have drawn them, but the authorship is in doubt.

The rival claimants are Thomas F. House,, to whom Kimball awarded the najor

r. modeling contract contrary to Treasury practice, and Davies, the contractor -

' .'for the l868-repairs, who was later to say that he helped to the extent of

making drawings from which, -he declared, Kimball erased the identifications.-

-.'Thi dispute, however, was a side issue of little significance in the. wan- '

gling that ensued' between.KiMfall and House over the terms of the contract. i

S Early in April Kimball inserted an,advertisement in the St. Augustine

'Exarminer for a'contractor for "remodeling and repairing the Court House and ,

SPost Offic-:..' ." The superintendent was seeking a single contractor--in

effect, a general contractor, by a term of much later vogue. But Kimball


Uot iX

-h Government was its Gd! genera' c'

w as unaware that the Government was its own general contractor in those days,

S'employing'construction labor and inviting bids for materials and for the few

.highly specialized skills which plumbing, heating, and elevator contractors

furnished. KImball discovered his mistake in June when the Treasury refused

to reimburse him for the advertising. In the meantime he had awarded the con-

Stract to House,-the only bidder, for the sumn of $8,277.93, and the contractor

i had been at work for about a month. The contract was not disturbed.'

SApparently Kimball and House enjoyed unusual intimacy in planning the

remodeling. The latter was later to insist that he, too, aided Kinmball with

drawings. Kimball's forehanded spirit led to the.first falling out, and

. .' apparently it was a genuine misunderstanding. Soon after reaching Florida

the superintendent got the idea that seasoned cypress shingles were in short

supply.. The -discovery of a stock in a Jacksonville lumberyard promrted him

,.to puti them under option in the belief that the eventual contractor would

'pick up the obligation. The option, of course, was in Kimball's name. At

time of bidding, House argued later, he considered the option Kimball's and

.believed that the Government would supply the shingles without cost.. Appar-

ently one 6f the provisos in House's bid was for such supplementary shingles

as light be needed, and subsequent Treasury investigations sustained him.

The ill will grew in intensity, and various technical aspects came into'play.

: The location of.'an additional staircase was the center of a heated dispute.

'. '"Other pointss of argument and backbiting were the removal of the coquina

stone from the demolished wing and the St. George Street wall and the new

wood fence that-took its place. In .spite of intemperate bickering the work

o. ved rapidly to the end. One phase of the quarrel, in fact, dealt with the

large amount: of work House rushed to completion freed fro. Kimball's super-

*"' *' i'. 1 ' '. * ,

intending eye while the latter was away for a time. At the very end of summer

SKir ball, in evident pride, sent Mullett a stereoscopic view of the newly re-

modeled building.' The mounted twin photographs are no longer with Kiiball's

letter of September 23, but the sterography is evidence of tourist interest in

St. Augustine in 1873.


Twice the Treasury sent special agents to St. Augustine to trace the ins

and outs of the contract. The reports point to a conclusion that Kimball was.

'inept, :inexperienced, and lacked the training the task required. When he

reported back to Washington in February 1874 he found himself without a new

assignment. Part of his salary was impounded, but he was paid in full a few

months later."; One of the Treasury investigations scented corruption in

Kiriball's freehanded disposal of the old coquina rock. It turned out that

giving it away was Kinball's way of getting it removed. But the Treasury

took a different view of.the disposal of Government property and collected

for 192 loads of stone.- The reports treated House less kindly. There is a

Suspicion that the investigators concluded that he had tried to take advantage

of Kimball's absences as well as his inexperience. A small part of one of

his bills was denied and the Treasury's stern attitude is visible in the re-

Stention-of a balance of $2,520.20 until April 1875. This was a substantial' ,

-w"ithholding on a contract of a little more than $8,000. Kimball contracted

separately, for painting and some other minor phases of the work. In the end

'the remodeling costs came to $10,492, according to the accounts which Goss,

the St. Augustine collector, kept as Kimball's disbursing officer.

SThe :alterations reduced the building's net space by about 165 square

feet., By customary standards this was an odd eventuality, but the existence
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.-of far more space than the Government needed could account for a remodeling

Sin which preservation and architectural improvement took precedence. The de- ,,

,'gree to' which the architecture benefited is, however, debatable. Match that

appeared graceful and authentic in the Mills design was lost when a conven-

'tional cornice took the place of the Mediterranean parapet. The cornice ran

Around the building, even across'the south front, where it separated the

piazza roof from the main roof. A decorative gable surmounted the south

facade at the center. In the absence of an attic staircase the gable-.-whether

-its exterior wall was wood or coquina is uncertain--was a false front. The.

::design could have served equally well for the main hotel in any of the large

new towns springing to life in the 1870s on the cattle and mining frontiers

of.the West., The gable and veranda gave the south elevation the appearance

of. the main facade, even though the principal entrances still opened on i

-:,.St. George Street. The east facade, the traditional front, acquired a broad-

ened and ungainly look.

New' Home for the Post Office

limball reduced the number of rooms by one, from 15 to 14, although sur- .

prisingly'he retained the large courtroom on the second floor. But he threw

together the first floor rooms across the east front by taking out a center

partition which divided the area into two'nearly square rooms. This provided

a large room 35 feet 9 inches wide by 17 feet 6 inches deep--by 1873 measure-

:ments.' .Two doors opening on St. George Street assured ready access,' and this,

-'Vwith its size, made the room nearly ideal.for the Post Office. One of

..Kimball'sfirst decisions was to remove it from its old quarters in the wing.

In-a certain sense the history of the St. Augustine building since 1873 has

been the steady growth of the Post Office from its new location in a single.


) "'In anticipation of going to his new quarters Bohn suggested that the

SGovernment buy new equipment. He embodied the request in a letter of July 7

to Postmaster General John A. J. Cresswell detailing the present stock. Most

of it,'Bohn noted, he had provided at his own expense, pointing out that the

Government's property consisted of "several old glasscases" and a table. He

*** suggested a new outfit replete with lock boxes, call boxes, a delivery case,

and a mail handling table. The Post Office Department sent the letter over to

STreasury, where Mullett somehow took it to mean that Bohn wished to sell his

equipment. to the Government. Mullett proposed patience until an inspection

"'during the coming winter." Bohn is often given credit for repairing the

building at his own expense, and perhaps he did. But the record carries an

exchange of correspondence in 1872 in which there was a warning that he could

not expect reimbursement for repairs. But long before the winter inspection

.which Mullett had promised St. Augustine got its first lock boxes. These

'were transferred from.the Portland, Maine, Post Office, where they had been

outgrown. Whether the local Post Office got the other equipment on the same

September shipment is unknown. But as the city became increasingly a winter

Refuge of American wealth nothing was stinted in the way of equipping the

building to handle the mail of the annual and mounting tide of parttime resi-

Sdents, many' of then, with notable names in finance, industry, and political

A i.

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' t

Chapter 5.

-1880s: Ccn unity Center

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entfree Tenants

The debating society of 1869, anonymous in the building's papers, was

the harbinger of other occupants also dedicated to cultural and social advance-

ment in a renewal of. the spirit of the Athenaeum. There is no certainty of

Show long the courtroom served as a forum for debaters and whether the society

moved or died. This illustrates the casual character of the -occupancy records .

'X:. of the 1870s. Later on more formal and more frequent documentation was the

rule, especially when the Government expected the property to produce income.

But the first tenants were nonpaying guests. Because of their community char-

S.acter it was unlikely that formalities of any kind impeded their use of the

Nearly empty building. At least there is no evidence that the Department was ;

always consulted in advance in spite of the 'injunction McCulloch laid on

Foster, only a few years before.

Both the Public Library and the Peabody School were important occupants,

'but which was the first is uncertain.' The library's entry, however, is well

d * 1874 when it moved into a downstairs room. Possibly the school cane

at the same time or even before in view of the previous interest in finding

accommodations for it. As .a tenant the library proved more long-lived and

was still occupying space in the 1890s. At its maximum, in the early 1880s;/

'., the library spread over the courtroom and three offices. The school also

used" the courtroom as well as two second floor rooms for some time preceding

::. 1879. Apparently in that year the school was expelled from the old courthouse,

blowing up an issue which divided the community. One side held that the prin-

r [ :.cipal had been unable to keep the rooms clean or prevent the pupils from injur-

j: ing the property. The other took the position that Kimball's late contractor,'.

: ..House, who hadsucceeded as Collector of Customs and thereby became custodian,

*. -. . 4

too, forced the ouster. The dispute continued well past midyear of 1880 in

letters to the Treasury and the local press. One of those to Washi'nit-mn

sougnt ostensibly the school's reinstatement but became deeply involved in

C uerulous criticism of the Government. The burden of the complaint was that

the principal had lost no time in winning an appointment to the teaching staff

at the Governr-ent's school for Indians at Carl5sle, Pennsylvania, at a higher

.salary. Whatever the motives of those who wrote the letter, the Government

'refused to let the school return, and there is no indication that anyone

',troubled himself by forwarding the complaint to Carlisle. The library re-

-mained .the sole'occupant devoted to cultural improvement until a scientific

Ssociety--otherwise unidentified--joined it in 1890. 'At least the society

held semimonthly meetings in the building'at the time and was prepared to go

.elsewhere on an instant's notice.

,:* One of the sparse examples of a formal request for Treasury approval

:.occurred late in 1879. The "'St. Augustine Band' (Colored)," as House dis-

tinguished with care in a letter to Secretary of the Treasury John Sherran on

.October 13, desired to play its forthcoming winter series of concerts on the

grounds'of the building. House explained that the musicians could not play

at their customary location on the Plaza because the Confederate monument was

Being "'reerected." Although the letter failed to disclose the unusual events

necessitating a monument's reerection, the emphasis on the winter season

Accented the city's rapid development as a resort. :The Department was prompt

wirth its authorization, and the approving reply was on its way by October 18.

,.A Resort Community

; The first evidence of interest in a commercial occupancy appeared only i

a month later and further confirmed St. Augustine's growing popularity as a

r i .

resort. A telegraph company approached'House for permission to rent a room

for a local office. He urged Treasury to grant the request, taking great

care to spell out his reasoning in an explanatory letter. A rental of $100

a year, in House's opinion, would be fair, especially as the company should

furnish its own heat and light. But he also proposed an interesting condi-

tion. The Department should premise its permission on the company's agreement

tolkeep the office open the year around. House pointed out that the Govern-

ment needed telegraph service at all times, observing that the company's

Regular practice was to close the local office in the off-season. The Depart-

ment accepted House's suggestions after a few weeks of study, and its reply

authorized a rental on those terms. Apparently the terms 'discouraged the

Company. 'At least there is no record of a telegraph office in the building,

and the company was not among the listed tenants a few years later.

/ The first renter took space early in 1882. Interestingly he was a

.* painter,. Charles H. Chapin, who found enlivening subjects for his canvas in

^ the Spanish ruins. He wrote Secretary of the Treasury Charles J. Folger for

permission to rent a room for a studio "so that," as the artist noted in the

Letter on January 9, "I may finish up my sketches of the ancient ruins of

PSt. Augustine." House concurred, suggesting a rental of $10 a month, and

O;Chapin found himself in possession of a room under the library. Apparently

he used the studio for at least a year.

Late in 1882 a bank, S. P..Young & Company, asked for two rooms. A new

custodian, Francis E. Witsell, sent the request to Washington, endorsing a

Rental at $150 a year. This, too, was approved and established the precedent

.of outright commercial.occupancy. By,,early 1886 there were three commercial

:tenants, :and.the rentals from 1883 to 1886 amounted to $911.73. Presumably

^ Uli'.tA f

Ufl A i i X,

the sum included the income from the lease in 1883 .of the part of the .r ,unc T

Where Cathedral Street later would run. The Government received $200 a year

in ground rent, and the lessee had run up a smnll comm ercial buir.inrg front

which he .took in ,3,000 in annual rentals. Construction of the bui.ldi'ai in

the parklike surroundings'of the Post Office touched off a serious conflict.

: ifny St. Augustinians, both permanent-and winter residents, petitioned for

the building's demolition. The owner resorted to a variety cf stratagems

Sin a desperate effort to obtain-a renewal of the five-year lease. .Treasury

refused.; In 1888 the owner tore down the building but neglected or refused--.

.in the "murk of a bitter atmosphere the second appears more likely--to rebuild

the coquina wall. taken (down earli-er to make room for the building. The is-

Ssion, for whatever reason, proved rewarding in the end. It opened the way to

the construction in 1889 of a twin two-storied piazza on the north side, har-

"monizing and balancing the building, and undoubtedly all this hastened the

'opening. of Cathedral Street the very next year.

*'A GoalI: Rental Income :

.' But the Government's. emergence in the self-imposed role of a commercial

Landlord dates from April 8, 1886, when Julius C. Holmes, Treasury's general

superintendent of repairs, wrote a report of his inspection of the building.

The years since 1873 had taken a toll, dilapidating the building, decaying

.joists. and timbers, infesting the flooring w-ith insects. Holmes noted over-

.crowding of-the Post Office with two few lock boxes for the resort population.

; He proposed a vide range of repairs--new plaster on walls and ceilings, new.

S'paint, stone sills under all doors leadlin outdoors, a new metal roof, and

.toilets witha'sewer connection, He proposed a larger room for postal

workers,gas lights in the building, and a general sprucing up of the grounds.

: perhaps'the most novel recommendation was to take the library out of the dis-

Sused courtroom and divide it into offices for the acknowledged purpose of

Searing rentals to pay for the repairs and improvements. The general superin-

'tendent suggested reassigning Frederick B. Young, a superintendent of repairs

i::. in Memphis, Tennessee, to supervise the work. A short time later Holmes esti-

mated the cost'of the repairs and alterations at $5,920.50, without the court-

.. room partitioning. The department accepted the recommendations, and before

Sthe month ended Young reported at St. Augustine.

This was the beginning of a series of numerous and diversified contracts

'that carried out Holmes's recommendations over the succeeding five years. All

in all the Government spent $14,010.67 in repairs and improvements. None of

'.'the:work altered the building's structural character. The contracts were

,'aimed inr general at preservation and modernization with particular improve-.

Smrents designed to decrowd the Post Office and enhance the building's appear-

ance. -.All this was consonant with St. Augustine's new status as the winter

-resort at which Henry M. Flagler, one of the Standard Oil millionaires, was

Building a fabulous resort hotel, the Ponce de Leon, with Carrere & Hastings

.:of New York, a youthful and enterprising firm, as its architects. The Ponce

'de Leon made resort history, standing in'the block immediately west of the

Post Office. When the city cut Cathedral Street through the Post Office park

Sin 1890, Flagler's contractors, McGuire andV McDonald, did the work, presumably

; because it opened a new street to the door of the princely hotel.

The East Balcony

': Iut, the building's potential in rental income was never put fully to the

test. The four rooms into which the courtroom was subdivided in 1887 were

Quickly rented--apparently to lawyers--at the rate of $25 a quarter each.


1 But in 1888. the Corps of Engineers assigned a group of engineering officers

w i ith Captain W. M. Black in command to the repair of Fort Marion. The new

rooms turned out to meet the detachment's needs, and a new custodian, Frederick

3. Genovar, notified,the commerciall tenants to give up the rooms. Apparently

SBlack found them stuffy in the summer. As a remedy, he suggested a short

east-west corridor on the centerline of the old courtroom opening to the out-

doors :through a doorway cut in the east wall. A balcony would finish off the

'..'stairless exit.' In the Captain's opinion this would improve the ventilation

1o' the upper floor rooms. So the corridor, doorway, and balcony, which truly

'.enhanced the building's Spanish air, formed in reality a functional venti-

.'lating installation. They were included in the 1889 contract which also

added the northern. veranda. of the work was done in 1886 and 1887 while Young was still in

S: St. Augustine. .In fact the completed contracts amounted to $9,788.52 by

June 30 in the second year. They covered a miscellaneous assortment of

essentials--plastering, painting, whitewashing, door and window repairs,

: and plumbing. One of the larger contracts embraced repairs to the upper

:floor, inltclding the new partitions. Apparently St. Augustine had a hard

timee accepting the thought of cutting the old courtroom into offices. Just

as Young started late in 1886 to plan the upper floor alterations the local

p:.ieople baffled him with a unique proposal insofar, as Government needs ran.

SThey suggested the addition of a third floor with a new courtroom behind a

:m.ansard roof, presumably in the well-established French renaissance mode.

:.The perplexed superintendent sent the idea to Washington where it was firmly

suppressed. :Possibly the prospect of squeezing the library into two rooms

.'had stimulated the suggestion.

*r ' '* ~ '.' '" '

Under one of the very first contracts the St. Augustine Gas & Electric

Company collected $93.20 for laying on the gas lines primarily to light the

Post Office. When the custodian discovered that he lacked authority to buy

the necessary gaslight fixtures, he eased the contretemps by borrowing them,

probably from the gas company. By the time the gas lines could be extended.

the next year to the new upper floor rooms the custodian had the authority

and the fundc.

.... In the' next two fiscal years, 1888 and 1889, there was a lull followed by

a sharp rise in the amount of work completed in the year ended June 30, 1890.

The contracts concluded in this period added to $2,650.82. A single contract

accounted for most of this sum and took in the more significant improvements,

including repairs to the south piazza and its columns as well as the north

'veranda and-the east balcony. As the building entered the 1890s the round of

repairs tapered off.. The library and the unnamed scientific society, the only

nongovernmental tenants, had three rooms at their disposal. The other occu-

S pants were the Post Office, Collector of Customs, and Corps of Engineers. An

occupancy diagram, which another new collector-custodian, H. J. Ritchie, sent

'to Treasury on July 3, 1890, disclosed that three rooms were unused. In

' spite of the vacancies there was no commercial tenant. Undoubtedly the expand-

Sing business of the Post Office and the engineers soon required the empty

space. As the building moved forward into the 20th century, the library, too,

'.went away; Only,the presence of .the Board of Trade in one room and a post of

:the Grand Army of the Republic in another diluted the building's official

Government character.- Northern veterans in winter residence in Florida are

i.surely th. explanation of the oddity.of; a GAR post in the one-time Confederate


U's AC

; Chanter 6: TraaStions in ConfTict

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EPlaue Makes History

S Nearly a quarter of a century later a bronze plaque appeared on the east

facade. Although its ostensible role was that of witnessing to the 1uild.5i r's

past, it succeeded in contributing to the building's history in the future.

SThe marker resembled the historical signs which were then springing into view

in increasing numbers wherever traditions ran hack to settlement before, the

.' Colonial and Revolutionary ;ars. But the plaque at St. Augustine probably was

mcre ornamental. One of the speakers at the unveiling on April 6, 1992, ran-

Saged to emphasize its opulence, when he.voiced the hope that the Post Office

i arker- would inspire owners of other landmarks to put.up historical tablets,

Seven though "not necessarily expensive or elaborate." Richly embossed with

crossed and draped flags, an imperial coat of arms, and a crown, the bronze

::;*befitted' the status of the sponsoring organization with the somewhat awkward;

'.name.of St. Augustine Historical Society and Institute of Science. This sug-

'ests that it, or perhaps part of it, was the scientific society that occupied

: a room in the"old courthouse in the 1890s. Its president was Chauncy M.

'Depew, a one-time brilliant luminary of the bar, who forsook early success

in politics for a career in which he rose to the presidency of the New York

Central Railroad in 1885. He returned to the political arena in 1899 to begin

.,a dozen years of service as one of New York's U.S. Senators. An active- octo-

Sgenarian,. Depew had been born in Upstate New York in April 1834. 'This minor

fact lent itself to use in ridiculing Depew's role, even before his death in

1928 at '94.

: St. Augustine welcomed the tablet. Undoubtedly Depew's name hastened

'the srift approval of the application to the Treasury for permission to put

.,up the marker--a formality which General Services Administration, as Treasury's
J "

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successor in this particular, still requires whenever a private organization

desires to embellish a Government building with a historical marker. For some

reason the request was not addressed to Washington until early in March, about

a month before the ceremony. Treasury's quick compliance strikingly suggests,

the honor Depew commanded,, even in retirement. At the unveiling, which appar-

ently he did not attend, Postmaster Charles F. Hopkins dutifully thanked Depew,

Sbut erely for a contribution to help pay for the bronze. Possibly this was

by prearrangement with the Senator.whose lifetime honors included the.role of

chief speaker at the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, the centennial of

iaslhington's inauguration, and the opening of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.

But.a suspicion that Hopkins nursed a hankering for the credit for the plaque

is almost irrepressible. A curious and confirming document among the build-

Sings papers in the National Archives is a photomontage of unknown origin and

obscure.purpose. It ascribes to Hopkins, without qualification, the "initi-

ative, and .'. .energy" by which "this historical tablet became a reality."

Perhaps one of the pictures, which balance each side of the unreticent legend,

Should have pleased Black because the photograph illustrates another and unex-

Spected'use for the ornamental balcony that formed a part of the ventilating

system that' the engineer officer desired. The photograph shows Hopkins speaking

from the festively flag-decked balcony immediately above the plaque, mounted

but still veiled, between a pair of doors to the Post Office from St. George

Street.' ;,,

:De Canzo s Dwelling, 1597-1603

SIn the collage the inscription:appears in text, of readable size., It

runs for 60-odd words under a caption which inflated the rank of Coppinger

:and his predecessors by identifying the building as the "Spanish Governor

General's Palace." The opening statement is disarming in its restraint and

points out that the "original building on the site was logs." But then the

text jumps quickly to the "present structure." Its builder was "Gonzalo I

SMendez de Canzo, 1597-1603," and this is amplified by the information that

,the King of Spain bought it in 1603 "as a dwelling for the Governor of

SFlorida." These are the essentials of a message that ends with a near refrain:

SUnder Spanish flag over 200 years
Under British flag 20 years
SUnder American flag
' Since July 10, 1821

.Within a few years the truthfulness of the plaque--in specifics and in gen-

eral--was put to the challenge. Unfortunately deep tinges of rancor were

evident in the dispute, which involved motivations as well as historical

data. The disputation ran from the late 1920s well into the 1930s.

The plaque must have infused with a sense of reality many of the cher-

Sished traditions of many St. Augustinians. They had long endeavored not. ,

Only to deepen their knowledge of the city's past but also to associate the

community'more closely with the Spanish colonial regimes. The tradition-

alists had, indeed, recognized the Post Office as a building which existed

Sunder, a variety of names from the exchange of flags in front of Government

House, "alway (sic) .. the residence of the Governors of this Province,"

.as the Spanish councilmen put it in their inventory of September 1821, only

two months later. Speaking at the unveiling 101 years later, Hopkins en-

dorsed the validity of the tradition but struck a defensive note that

unveiled fears that soon became a reality:

The inscription, is regarded and accepted as authentic. To put at rest
any question as to its authenticity, the matter was taken up with our Ambas-
sador at Madrid, Spain, with the request that he refer the inquiry to the
proper authority at Seville, Spain, for attention and reply. The Ambassador
Submitted the matter to the American consul, through whose ge!.crous assist-
ance and cooperation a copy of the record, with reference to the Governor's

Mansion, was made and transmitted to this city. From that copy the inscrip-
tion . in part at least, was taken, and upon that information we rest
-our case.

This somewhat obscure language must have referred to documentation that the

'Archives of the Indies, a massive collection of Spanish colonial records in

Seville, furnished for the purchase of De Canzo's dwelling. How well the

Evidence connecting the dwelling with Government House conforms with canons

of historical criticism is uncertain and now perhaps something of a side

. issue. In any event the dispute took a turn that appeared to remove the

De Canzo house from contention and reduced the issue to a simpler question.

In the meantime the tablet itself has become a memento of America's growing

interest in the history of its people.

A Oallengpto addition

The traditionalists found their chief assailant, Charles B. Reynolds, a

:* tireless foe. He came equipped with devastating phrases, a zest for the fray,

Sand passionate convictions about the integrity of what were later called his-

: torical shrines. Reynolds was one of c.he officers of the firm of Foster &

Reynolds Company of New York, New York, which engaged in a worldwide-travel

Business under the familiar namc of Ask Mr. Foster. Presumably Reynolds took

-upon himself the task of exposing what he considered historical flimflammery

'out of a responsible travel agent's desire to protect unwary tourists. But

.the emotional currents of the St. Augustine. issue may have had a deeper tide.

Reynolds had early associations with the city, and his father was a clergyman

.there, possibly connected with the Peabody School. Soon after graduating

from Amherst in 1876 young Reynolds entered upon a writing career as the edi-

: .tor of Forest and Stream, and he published Old St. Augustine, a Story of

hnree Centuries in 1885. Later on he displayed an aptitude for producing

guidebooks. One of four that proliferated over his name in the single year

of 1905 was the Standard Guide to St. Augustine2 East Coast of Florida, and.

Nassau. It'seems almost a noteworthy certainty from the testimony of the

son that the father, the Rev. C. O. Reynolds, lived in the city in 1873--a

crucial year insofar as Government House was concerned. By then known as the,

Sold courthouse, it was partly remodeled and partly demolished in that year. j

Just when the historicity of the St. Augustine building became a mission ,

for the younger Reynolds is uncertain. But Government records in the National

Archives preserve three trenchant forays on the history as Mr. Reynolds ap-

peeared happy to question it. The first was an article in the January 1927

issue of Mr. Foster's Travel Magazine illustrated with an excellent sampling .

of old photographs and prints. Reynolds was 73 at the time. The tenacity i ;

with which the articulate elderly man held to his theme :s strikingly revealed

in a pamphlet which he published 10 years later. Entitled "Fact versus Fic-

tion for the new Historical St. Augustine," he devoted six of its 37 pages

to "the 'Spanish Governor's Palace" Post Office." Reynolds also had ocea-

sion in 1934 to write the New York Tires a rebuttal to an earlier letter-to-

the-editor describing the Post Office as a relic of the Spanish days. -

*' Tradition on the Record

S'The Government's role in this was a matter of passionate complaint for

Reynolds. In his opinion the Government's actions endorsed what he believed

to be the outright fictions of St. Augustine antiquarians and thereby gave

them official status. As an example, Reynolds cited A History of Public

Buildings under the Control of the Treasury Dpartment, which appeared in 1901,

more than 20 years before the plaque first embellished the Post Office walls. .

UI A 01 I

In the Treasury volume a historical sketch of the building noted:

It was constructed by the Spanish Government prior to the acquisition of the
State of Florida by the United States in 1821, and was used originally as a
"governor's palace."

To Reynolds the statement was one turn in a cycle in which an antiquarian myth

was sent to Washingtcn from St. Augustine and then returned to the Florida

city as a statement backed with the authority of the Government. Undoubtedly

this opinion makes a large measure of sense. Unfortunately when Reynolds

quoted the same excerpt in his pamphlet subtle changes altered the signifi-


It was constructed by the Spanish Government prior to the acquisition of
the State of Florida by the United States in 1821, and was used originally
as a Governor's Palace.

SBy removing the quotation marks Reynolds also removed a cautionary signal.

The editors of the 1901volume employed the marks to distinguish between

Sthe building's original construction in the Spanish era, a factual state-

ment, and its service as a "palace," a hearsay statement. When Reynolds .

used capital initial letters he further shifted the sense by giving the

Stem Governor's Palace the value of a proper noun--that is, a place actu-

ally called a Governor's Palace. In their caution the editors were guided i

by their source, Thomas B. George, who succeeded Ritchie as custodian when

the latter became the postmaster. For some reason Ritchie was blamed by:

.Reynolds for passing along the information he considered unreliable.

,.Exactly what George reported on this point is quoted below just as he re-

sponded on April 24, 1900, to a questionnaire-type letter from Washington.

.According to local historians and other authorities, during both Spanish
and British possession, it was known as the "GovernorF 7s Palace."

George's reply makes clear that the tradition existed in the 19th century,

although mansion and palace apparently are accretions of later years,
' >: ; . '; . ' '

reflecting an overt romanticizing of the practical Spaniard's contentment

with the term Government House. In fact the tradition can be traced as a

continuous thread from 1821.

The fine motivations, which Reynolds brought to his self-imposed task of

Simpeachment, were fortified with zeal and a genuine desire to enrich local.

: history. But the sources from which he drew unfortunately were misleading.

ITo a large extent he relied on the Florida Herald of June 5, 1834, which

Reported with no qualification at all the dedication of a new building on

: the site of Government House. In the absence of any inkling of Rodman's

'clever attempts to implant the idea of a new building in St. Augustine the

.news account was persuasive evidence, indeed. By itself it could mean nothing

-.but the demolition of the Government House which had struck Cross, the obser-

,'vnt quarterrraster officer, as far from the ordinary in 1821. The Herald's

account inspired Reynolds to observe with heavy-handed irony that Depew's

:bir~h on April 23, 1834, gave him 40-odd days' seniority to the building

which the New Yorker was instrumental in adorning with the marker crediting

it with more than three centuries of history. Personal and family sources

led Reynolds to accept the corollary tradition which also had convinced

Kimball in 1873 that the demolition of the wing removed the only structure

surviving in the Government's possession from the Spanish period. Thus the

existence of this alternative tradition seems well established and may ac-

count for the fears Hopkins nourished.

S:It is unfortunate that Reynolds had not had an opportunity, for whatever

reason, to examine the Government's records associated with the building from

the very day that Butler stood at attention, as Jackson's alter ego, at the

exchange of flags. There is nothing in the United States records, of course,

that sets the date when the Spaniards built the Government House. Certainly

nothing denies or affirms the account of De Canzo's house. But the corre-

spondence and contract of 1833 and 1834 make it equally clear that the ori-

ginal building was the foundation on which Mills designed and .allen executed -

':their alterations. Successive modifications have altered the building's ap-

_ pearance. Its character and even its scale are different today. But even ':

with the changes of the years some of the original masonry of Government

House was intact when Reynolds first leveled his criticism on the bronze








~-- i

. r

S Appendix A

S Sources



i 1

r '

:. ...

: , ;
i .







Annual Report of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury, for fiscal years
ended 187T, lo8, ~87 9, lo90, l891 (Washington, D.C.: Governmrent Printing

Clarence Edwin Carter, ed., Territorial Papers of the United States,
vol. 22-25, National Archives (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing
Offi.ce,. 1956-1960).

iDctionary of American Biography (New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner's Sons).

A History of Public Buildings under the Control of the Treasury Department
(Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901). 6 W

Record Group 59, National Archives.

Record Group 107, National Archives.

Record Group 121, National Archives.

State Department, Florida Territorial Papers, vol. 8, National Archives.

3 U.S. Statutes 654... .

4 U.S. Statutes 45, 125, 550

8 U.S. Statutes 252

15 U.S. Statutes 239

'Wheeler Preston, American Biographies (New York, N.Y.: Harper & Bros., 1940).

W'ho Was Who in America, 189-1942 (Chicago, Ill.: The- A.. Marquis Co.,

, Uic ix

1 u011 iX

Appendix B




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.. : .: .i



T Exhibits

'I.. Spanish Drawings

The drawings which Colonel Butler took from St. Augustine in
July 1821 include several which bear on the history of Govern-
.ent House. Unfortunately a drawingof that building apparently
has not survived, if, in fact, a set of the plans were in the
.:;- collection which Butler packed in his saddlebags. The national
S Archives has furnished photostats of those of interest from the
.. 'Territorial Papers in the records of the Department of State
(" Record Group 59).

1. Plano del Presidio de San Augustin .

Freiey, translated: d-rawing of the Stron;hold oC '"t. Auigs-.i-
--.. .... tine .in i ast Florida irlth entrances through encircling sand-
*' bars, rivers, ditches, and swamns.

: Essentially a military plat, the drawing presurmably is closely
contemporary with the transfer. Government House is not' iden-
tified; nor does it appear as a separate structure. This
suggests that the drawing lends itself as negative evidence
; 7' sustaining reports that Government House had fallen into
S' disuse as a residence and that Coppinger was repairing it
for restoration to its former gubernatorial role.

2. Plano inferior y superior .

Translated: Lower and upper story drawings of the public
building (literally, King's House) approved as an Account-
ant's office, Treasury, and Customhouse on the Plaza.

SThe subscription suggests that the architect or draftsman,
S1Mariano de la Rocque, made the drawing in St. Augustine in
March 1787. If so, the building was relatively new in 1821,
anrd this may account for its desirability as a residence.
SThe upper floor drawing--the smaller one--is, in effect, an.
overlay--an unusual architectural drafting technique, and,
Sof course, the upper fits over the lower.

.-.: Plano de un Almacen . .

Translated: Drawing of a powder magazine and sentry house
proposed for construction in the Plaza at St. Augustine,
'Florida.. "


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These drawings illustrate the care with which the Span-
'ards designed and constructed official buildings in
their American empire. The obvious use of iron in the
powder magazine is unusually early. The original of
this drawing is in color and has a remarkable decora-
tive quality..

4. Yglesia Parroquial ..

This is a drawing of the parish church that later became
,the first Roman Catholic cathedral of St. Augustine. It
: is interesting to note from a print'reproduced in 1927
in Mr. Foster's Travel Magazine that the colonial builders
were surprisingly faithful to the design in this drawing.
The print was reproduced without identifying the source,
-.:. .- but an excerpt which appeared in the Reynolds pamphlet
(Fact versus Fiction credits the June 1835 issue
of the Magazine of Useful Knowledge as the source. In
the travel magazine the print was dated "about 1831."
I incidentally the rest of the title, "no. Go. de Entrega,"
Apparently is not an ecclesiastical term. As a sheer
surmise, it probably relates to the order in which cer-
Stain drawings, of which this is one, appeared.

II. 1830s .

Visual materials of suitable quality proved hard to find for
S this period. Undoubtedly the letters that related to the
.. '.design and the remodeling in 1833 and 1834 could have been
-: reproduced. As their impact in general was far from extra-
ordinary we have included only photostats of the most inter-
Sesting--the contract of 1833 and a plat of the lot made soon
S thereafter.

1. Contract of October 12, 1833

S Insofar as we are aware the contract has not been repro-
Sduced heretofore. Nor, to our knowledge, has been cited.
Its chief value, as a matter of architectural history,
lies partly in establishing that Government House was not
S'. demolished but extended and enlarged and partly in fixing
S M ills as the designer. Apparently, too, Mills has never
Been identified heretc'-re :'ith this yld~Aing.

-2.: Plat of Square TNo. 15

This is the earliest delineation of the immediate site of
i ;. theiSt. Auguistine building to be uncovered in the research.

iltr )x

' Benjamin Clements and Jessee B. Clements; deputy surveyors,
made the plat sometime in the fourth quarter of 1834 and
the first quarter of 1835. They surveyed St. Augustine for
Butler, Surveyor General of the Territory of Florida, under
a contract of November 1833 in which the city survey was
incidental, at least in area, to a far larger survey of sur-
rounding territory. Butler approved the survey when he signed
the city map on May 16, 1836. The map identifies Iot No. 6
in Square No. 15 as "the old Government House, now Court House
lot." The language suggests the Government House was still
standing; in comparison Lot No. 5, Square No. 45 was identi-
fi. ed: "On it stood old Powder House." Special photographic
processing was necessary to reveal clearly the outline of the
Building in the plat with its measurements.

III. 1870s

The correspondence files of the Supervising Architect of the
S .'Treasury, now part of Record Group 121 in the National Archives,
offered new material on the building in St. Augustine.

1. Undated and untitled drawing

S, This is obviously a delineation of the Mills facade.
S Apparently it dates from a later period, probably in
the late 1860s. The drawing was preserved with cor-
respondence relating to the 1873 remodeling. The
Chances that it is a Mills drawing are virtually nil.
S.This is clear from the boundary street names--King
SStreet, rather than Road, and St. George, rather than
S St. Georges, Street. In any event the style does not
resemble Mills drawings from the 1830s and 1840s.
The drawing may have been used in the 1868 repairs,
and, if so, it could be Davies's work.

: 2. U.S. Custom House & P. 0.

SThis drawing shows the south and east elevations of
the building. Kimball and House remodeled it. The
Sunset plat shows the outlines of the building, as it
was and as it was altered.


. ; 2

Companion floor plans

The interior arrangements, as Kimball finished them
'in 1873, are shown in these layouts.' Although the

drawing is. obviclsly irnt cded t b a companion to fhi
prc'?cediirg d'Jaw'~ ilg Vari atIl',ins in style S:l7: r't the Iwrk
of two d:'ats.::,en.

4. House's bid and clippigs

This is a reproduction of House's 1873 bid--the only
Sone Kimball received in answer to his adveirtiocrcent.
It is reproduced a]onz vrith an editorial in u:hich the-
editor of the St. Aubustine i-:ai3d .s hea jed high plra ser
:od Kimball.

1920s -

.This is a copy of the decorative rjhotor.onta~ i discovered in
Record Groipm 321 at National Archives. Thor'e is nothing in
the files or with the exhibit that clearly iderntfiiez its
author or,its purpose.

. V. Expendjitures

This'table lists the' exqienditures
"froi.iS69 to 1901.

A, 1

for repairs by fiscal years

-. 411

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