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INCLUDING DESCRIPTIONS OF THE BUILDINGS,
CRAFTS, AND A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE
RESTORATION OF THE NATION'S OLDEST CITY.
HISTORIC ST. AUGUSTINE
Department of State State of Florida
This book is intended to illustrate the endeavors of the Historic St.
Augustine Preservation Board and its sister organization, St. Augustine
Restoration, Inc. Only buildings either owned or operated by these two are
shown between these covers.
This is in no way to be construed as a full report on the current
restoration program in the nation's oldest city. In addition to the
aforementioned agencies, major restorative work is being done by the
National Park Service, the Roman Catholic Church, and the St. Augustine
Historical Society as well as many private businesses and individuals.
The preservation and re-creation of historic St. Augustine is truly a
cooperative effort, and it is regrettable that due to limitations the full scope
of the program cannot be contained in these few pages. The reader is urged to
visit the community and view the current status of this project.
The Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board wishes to express its
appreciation to all of the interested citizens of Florida and elsewhere who
have helped make this book and the entire program possible.
GUIDE MAP OF AREA
1. Gallegos House
2. Ribera House
3. Gomez House
4. Triay House
5. Gonzalez House
6. Salcedo House
7. Salcedo Kitchen & Smokehouse
8. Arrivas House
9. Old Spanish Inn
10. Rodriguez House
11. Old Warehouse
12. Sanchez-Ortigoza House
13. Oliveros House
14. Benet House
15. Benet Store
16. Ortega House
17. Santoyo House
18. Pan American Center
19. Wells Print Shop
20. Cerveau House
21. Leather Shop
22. Blacksmith Shop
23. Sims Silversmith
24. Herrera House
25. Florida Heritage House
26. Spanish Military Hospital
27. Watson House
28. Government House Q
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Why St. Augustine ............................................
The Story of Restoration ......................................
St. George Street, North to South
G allegos House* ..........................................
R ibera H house ............................................
G om ez House* ...........................................
Triay H house* ............................................
Gonzalez House* .........................................
Salcedo H house* ...........................................
Salcedo Kitchen and Smokehouse*............................
Arrivas House* ...........
Old Spanish Inn ..........
Rodriguez House ..........
Sanchez-Ortigoza House ....
Oliveros House ...........
Benet House* .............
Benet Store* ...... .......
Ortega House ............
Santoyo House ...........
Pan American Center ......
Cuna Street, West to East
Old Warehouse ...........
Wells Print Shop* .........
Cerveau House* ..........
Leather Shop* ...........
Blacksmith Shop* .........
Sims Silversmith ..........
Herrera House ............
Florida Heritage House* ....
Spanish Military Hospital* ..
Watson House* ...........
Government House* .......
................. ............. 27
.................. ......... .... 34
.................. ............. 36
........... ................... 4 1
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
............ ............... .... 63
.. ............................ 67
.......... ............. ... 69
* Indicates buildings owned by Historic St Augustine Preservation Board.
WHY ST. AUGUSTINE?
The story of the founding of St. Augustine cannot be told without
including the story of colonization of the southeast section of the United
States. Known today as the nation's oldest continuously occupied city, St.
Augustine's history is firmly interwoven with the fates and fancies of many
nations and people.
The discoverer of Florida was Don Juan Ponce de Leon, a former
governor of Puerto Rico. Ponce de Leon sighted the eastern coast of Florida
on Easter Sunday, March 27, 1513, while on a trip in search of gold and
silver. Ponce claimed the land for Spain and name it La Florida, or the Land
In the following half century, the government of Spain launched no less
than six expeditions attempting to settle Florida but all failed. In 1564 the
French succeeded in establishing a fort and colony near the mouth of the St.
Johns river and in doing so, threatened Spain's treasure fleets which sailed
along Florida's shorelines. As a result of this incursion into Florida King
Philip II named Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, Spain's most experienced
admiral, governor of Florida, and instructed Menendez to explore and to
colonize the territory. King Philip also instructed him to drive out any
corsairs or settlers of other nations if they should be found in Florida.
On September 8, 1565, with banners flying, trumpets sounding, artillery
booming and 600 voyagers cheering, Menendez set foot on the shores of St.
Augustine. In honor of the Saint whose feast day it was when Menendez first
sighted shore, he named the town St. Augustine.
Menendez quickly set to work following the instructions of King Philip.
With brilliant military maneuvers and a tremendous amount of good fortune,
Menendez did away with the French garrisons. Following these successes he
set to work establishing a permanent colony, as well as establishing Indian
missions for the church and perimeter fortifications for the town.
Forty-two years before the English colonized Jamestown and fifty-five
years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, St. Augustine was
founded and she remains to this day the oldest permanent European
settlement in the continental United States.
Maintaining St. Augustine as a permanent colony and military base,
however, was a mighty task. Without the courage, perseverance, and tenacity
of the early pioneers, it is very doubtful that the community would have
Sir Francis Drake, the English corsair, pillaged and burned the town in
1586, and then in 1668 another pirate, Captain John Davis and his English
buccaneers, plundered the homes and left 60 persons dead in the streets.
Clashes between the Spaniards and the British became more frequent when
the English colonies were established in Georgia and the Carolinas.
The year 1672 saw work begun on the stone fortress now called Castillo
de San Marcos. The fort was nearly completed in 1696 but not officially
dedicated until 1756. Attesting to the strength of the Fort, in 1702 Governor
James Moore of Carolina led a two month siege without success and in 1740
an even stronger attack by British General James Oglethorpe of Georgia was
In 1763, the stroke of a pen accomplished what pitched battles had failed
to do. Spain gave Florida to Great Britain in exchange for newly conquered
Havana and St. Augustine came under British rule for the first time. England
ruled over the city and territory for 20 years which included the period of the
American Revolution. The citizens of the city remained loyal to the crown
throughout the span. In 1783, under the terms of a treaty signed by England,
France and Spain, East Florida and St. Augustine returned to the rule of
Spain, which lasted for 37 years.
In this period of the world's history, many changes were taking place in
Europe and as a result, 255 years after Menendez set foot on the shores of St.
Augustine, Spain sold Florida to the United States of America. At a color-
ful military ceremony on July 10, 1821, troops of the United States took
possession of the territory and the Spanish soldiers departed, never to return
The new regime found the town in a pathetic condition, devoid of
progress and with great apathy among its citizens. Much of this had been
created in the closing years of the second Spanish period due primarily to the
general poverty of the area. Many of the buildings were run-down, some
almost in ruins. After the American occupation speculators arrived in the city
to take advantage of the situation. A yellow fever epidemic in 1821, however,
carried off many of these newcomers. Despite the condition of the city it was
said to have possessed a mellow charm with the scent of orange blossoms in
the air, the narrow streets with latticed gates that led into cool courtyards,
and a lack of industry or commerce to disturb the serenity of the scene.
Although St. Augustine of the early 1800's was difficult to reach, many
distinguished visitors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, noted poet and
philosopher, as well as Prince Napoleon Achille Murat, son of the King of
Naples and nephew of the great Napoleon, made the arduous journey. The
Seminole war of 1836 called a halt to this new awakening temporarily, as the
Indians made a desperate attempt to regain control of Florida from the
Americans. In 1837, two prominent Seminole leaders, Osceola and
Coacoochee, with a number of warriors were captured just south of St.
Augustine where they had come under a white flag for a parley with the
Americans. All were imprisoned in the Castillo from which Coacoochee and
20 of his companions managed to escape. Osceola however was transferred to
Fort Moultrie at Charleston, S. C., where he died. Remnants of the Seminole
Indians continued battling American forces until most of them were either
killed or had surrendered for transfer to reservations in the West.
The end of the Seminole war made Florida safe once again for visitors,
who among other reasons came to take advantage of the fine climate. In 1845
Florida became the twenty-seventh state of the Union with Tallahassee
selected as the state capital. This was a compromise between St. Augustine
and Pensacola, both of which were difficult to reach from most parts of the
St. Augustine continued to prosper until it was interrupted by another
conflict, the Civil War. Slaves in this area had played a minor role in the
economy as compared with the rest of the state and there was considerable
Union sentiment in the city due to the number of northern-born residents.
Florida, however, seceded from the Union and according to letters of the
time, "It was announced here by the firing of cannon and musketry, and
much shooting. A large flag made by the ladies waved on the square. By order
of the Governor of the state, the fort, barracks and federal property were
taken possession of. Cannon are mounted on the ramparts of the fort to
defend it if any attempt should be made to retake it." The temporary joy of
the inhabitants was soon replaced with sadness. Many of the young men from
the city served in the Confederate armies while the majority of the
northern-born citizens returned north for the duration of the war. In March
of 1862 a Union blockading squadron appeared off the inlet and demanded
the city's surrender. During the night, the small Confederate garrison with-
drew and the next morning the city was occupied by Union forces who
remained until the end of the conflict.
At the conclusion of the War, in 1865, St. Augustine was three centuries
old. The effects of the war and the privation it had caused took some time to
wear off, but the winter visitors began their return almost immediately.
Facilities were bad to say the least, so work was begun on improving the
travel arrangements and accommodations. In 1883 the Jacksonville, St.
Augustine and Halifax River railway was completed giving the city a link with
its neighbor to the north, Jacksonville.
During the winter of 1883-84 Henry M. Flagler, one of the co-founders of
the Standard Oil Company, visited the city and was impressed with the charm
and possibilities of the area. As a result of his interest, the magnificent Ponce
de Leon Hotel was built, as were the Alcazar and Cordova Hotels. With the
opening of these three the wealthy and fashionable flocked to St. Augustine,
soon to become known as the "Southern Newport". Flagler purchased the
surrounding railroads at the same time as he started his hotels, marking the
beginning of the Florida East Coast railroad. Eventually he extended the FEC
down the east coast of Florida, first creating Palm Beach and then Miami in
The progress engendered by men such as Flagler also took its toll. The old
and storied inevitably gave way to the then new and modern. Many old
houses and the remaining sections of the defense lines were uprooted to make
way for new buildings. In those days these changes were hailed as a great
improvement. Construction wasn't the only enemy St. Augustine had,
however; fire did its share of damage. In 1887 flames swept the Cathedral and
much of the block north of the plaza. In 1914 a disastrous fire wiped out
many of the buildings in the older section of the city between the city gates
and the plaza.
St. Augustine, weathering the storms of World War I and II, has
undergone a rebirth with the quaint Spanish charm being re-instilled through
the dedication of its citizens. Major areas of the city have undergone
facelifting to return it to the appearance of the first Spanish period. As a
result of this, St. Augustine has again become a major point of interest for
tourists. Now, however, instead of just a winter playground, St. Augustine,
rich with the heritage of the past, has become an important center for visitors
all year long.
The goal of restoring St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city, is not a new
one. The first action taken toward this end was begun in 1936. On February
27 of that year St. Augustine Mayor Walter B. Fraser presented a resolution
to the City Commission. The resolution called for the appointment of a
committee of not more than 25 citizens to investigate the possibility of
making the old Spanish port of St. Augustine into a restricted area for the
protection of the picturesque narrow streets and the quaintbalconied houses.
The resolution further stated that unless some steps were taken along this
line, with the hope of securing federal, state and private funds to carry on the
work of preservation and possible restoration, little by little the old would
disappear and what was a priceless heritage would be dissipated through the
lapse of time, the march of progress, or the vandalism which permits the
destruction of old buildings. The resolution was passed unanimously by the
members of the City Commission.
Mayor Fraser apparently commenced work immediately, forming a
committee of 25 locally and nationally known people interested in the
restoration of St. Augustine. He contacted the Carnegie Institute of
Washington and secured its backing. On October 26, 1936, an initial meeting
was held of this group in Washington. As the meeting progressed it was
pointed out that initially there should be a show of interest from the people
of St. Augustine. As a result, on October 26 it was announced that the St.
Augustine Historical Society had made a grant of $1,000 available for the
program. Soon thereafter notification was received of a private grant of $500
from Mrs. Louise Wise Francis. The City of St. Augustine followed this on
November 12 with a $500 grant. The main committee meeting in Washington
was split into two separate sub-committees: the first was to deal with the
fact-finding survey of historical materials pertaining to St. Augustine, Florida,
the second with the development of the historical resources.
Dr. Verne E. Chatelain, as the director of the survey and of the program,
commenced his operation on November 15, 1936, with a survey of materials
in the libraries in Washington. On December 7, 1936, he arrived in St.
Augustine. After a meeting with Mayor Fraser and other civic leaders an
office for the survey was set up in the First National Bank Building.
The second meeting of the national committee was held in St. Augustine
on March 2, 1937. At this time the two-phase reports were received by the
committee and ordered implemented. The first section of the findings dealt
with historical materials relative to St. Augustine. The reports noted that St.
Augustine was the oldest community of European origin having continuous
history in the United States, and the history of the community which dates
back to 1565 had passed through many successive and distinct phases of
development. Part one of the survey listed available historic features of the
area. These included sixteen separate sites, ten fortifications, seven roads,
fifty examples of architecture, and seven scenic drives.
The second section of the report, dealing with the development of the
historical resources of St. Augustine, also emphasized a number of points
similar to those of today. The subcommittee felt that it would be a mistake in
the development program to "freeze" history at any particular time level. It
pointed out again that the city was a living, growing organism and this
condition must be a basic consideration. The final point was the presentation
of the story and how to begin it. The suggested plan had only two phases, but
they were important. The first phase dealt with civic organization and
control. The subcommittee felt that control of the program should be
exercised by local people through an arm or a branch of the city government.
Second, they felt that the physical elements of the plan must be strictly
outlined and adhered to. These included parking areas, zoned areas,
promenades, development of traffic circulation with limited access to certain
areas, and the development of historical museums in their proper settings.
Both reports were accepted by the parent committee and the start of an
immense program of restoration got under way.
To implement the section of the report calling for local action a historical
planning committee was formed on March 17, 1937. The chairman was
former Senator Scott M. Loftin, and Dr. Chatelain was named secretary and
survey director to carry on the work outlined in the Carnegie reports. The
same group of interested St. Augustine citizens formed on May 7, 1937, St.
Augustine Historical Preservation and Restoration Association, a non-profit
corporation. The primary purpose of this association was the same as that
outlined for the present Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board.
To expedite the funding of what was now called the St. Augustine
Historical Program the City Commission on March 23, 1937 pledged $2,500
to supplement the Carnegie grant and sought help for further funding from
the County and State. On May 12 a bill was introduced in the Florida House
of Representatives by H. R. Sanders and J. H. Turner declaring "the
preservation, restoration, and maintenance of ancient landmarks and certain
other kinds of property a public use and providing for exercise of power of
eminent domain by the County of St. Johns, cities, towns, and political
subdivisions thereto to acquire such property." On the same day Senator
Peter Kendrick introduced a bill in the Florida Senate calling for an
appropriation of $50,000 for the St. Augustine Historical Preservation and
Restoration Association, "to be used solely for the purpose of preservation,
acquiring, restoration and maintenance of ancient landmarks, sites and
records of antiquity in and relating to, the City of St. Augustine, Florida, the
expenditure of such money to be under the direction of the governmental
body of said city, and providing for semi-annual reports of such expenditures
to the Comptroller of Florida." Both the special act granting the county
power of eminent domain and the general act granting the $50,000 were
signed into law by the Governor on June 9, 1937.
In 1938 the Carnegie Institute purchased the Llambias House and
immediately deeded it in trust to the City of St. Augustine. Several repairs
were made on the house in cooperation with the St. Augustine Historical
Society; later a major renewal was made of this house.
During the period of 1938 to 1940 Dr. Chatelain and his associates
prepared a basic historical plan. At this very important stage in the
restoration program of St. Augustine the clouds of war had gathered on the
horizon in Europe and in Asia, and as a result work was stopped on the
project. However, even though operations had halted, many tangible things
had been accomplished thus far in the early years of restoration. Most
significant of these were:
1. More than three years of research was completed by competent
historians. This was absolutely necessary before any restoration or
preservation could be done. This was the spade-work, the
foundation. Along with research went archaeological investigation.
All of the old defenses of the city were located and mapped. This
information was carefully recorded and was the subject of a most
interesting monograph prepared by Dr. Chatelain and published by
the Carnegie Institution of Washington entitled "The Defenses of St.
2. A zoning ordinance was promulgated by the Association and
approved by the people of St. Augustine. This ordinance gave the
city the authority to enforce the preservation of historical
3. The restoration of St. Augustine gained the approval of the State
Legislature, and to further indicate the interest of the state of
Florida members of the Legislature voted the aforementioned
$50,000 of state funds for the project.
Progress on the long-delayed undertaking was finally resumed. On
February 1, 1952, the trustees of the Llambias House met and passed a
resolution which began, "Whereas, the St. Augustine Historical Preservation
and Restoration Association desires to undertake the preservation and
restoration of the Llambias House and expend some of the funds
appropriated by the State of Florida for the preservation and restoration of
historical sites and landmarks," and went on to give permission to the
Association to proceed with restorative work on the house. Approximately
$5,000 of the state grant had been allocated earlier for this and other
projects, leaving $45,000 for the Association to use. Work on this major
endeavor was begun late in 1952 under the noted architect Stuart Barnette
and completed in November 1954. On Saturday, January 15, 1955, the
official dedication of the restored Llambias House was held. In 1955 also the
St. Augustine Historical Society assumed full responsibility for the house.
The Historical Society as well as many other groups had continued with
restoration efforts in St. Augustine throughout the intervening years.
In March of 1958 Governor LeRoy Collins called a group of St. Augus-
tine citizens and state residents to Tallahassee to present a program for the
restoration of the nation's oldest city. Governor Collins placed this matter
before the Florida Board of Parks and Memorials on March 18. Mr. Frank D.
Upchurch, Sr., of St. Augustine, was chairman of this organization. On April
28, 1958, the Board appointed a special advisory committee to study the
program of revitalization of St. Augustine, and on May 22 this committee
met and elected Dr. A. Curtis Wilgus as chairman, with Dr. Verne A.
Chatelain as the executive secretary. On June 11, 1958, the advisory
committee adopted a program of necessary steps to achieve the desired aims.
This was presented to the Governor, and on June 19, 1959, House Bill 774
was signed by him establishing the St. Augustine Historical Restoration and
Preservation Commission and granting $150,000 to commence operations.
The act stated that the purpose and function of this commission was to
"acquire, restore, preserve, maintain, reconstruct, reproduce and operate for
the use, benefit, education, recreation, enjoyment, and general welfare of the
people of this state and nation certain ancient or historic landmarks, sites,
cemeteries, graves, military works, monuments, locations, remains, buildings,
and other objects of historical or antiquarian interest of the City of St.
Augustine, Florida, and surrounding territory."
The Commission which resulted from this act was composed of H. E.
Wolfe of St. Augustine, Leonard Usina of Miami, William F. Rolleston of St.
Augustine, Mrs. Nelson Poynter of St. Petersburg and William Lee Sims, II, of
Orlando. The Commission held its organizational meeting on September 10,
1959, and Wolfe was elected chairman with Usina as vice-chairman. Named
secretary-treasurer was Rolleston.
On November 24, 1959, the Commission retained on a consulting basis
Earle Williams Newton, renowned throughout the nation for his work at
various sites in restoration and preservation.
The basic plan of organization and later operation fell into four main
categories: Research, Land Acquisition, Construction, and Interpretation and
Utilization. With the research done earlier by the Carnegie Foundation and by
the Florida Board of Parks and Memorials, the Commission was able to
present within a short time a scale model of the proposed restoration of the
historic sections of St. Augustine. Along with this model a master plan for the
development of the overall program had been devised. Before this plan was
published, however, members of the Commission visited many earlier
restoration projects such as Williamsburg, Old Sturbridge Village, and others
to observe their methods and manner of operation.
In 1962, a non-profit foundation called St. Augustine Restoration, Inc.,
was established to receive private donations to further the local project, and
continues to exercise this function today.
The Commission's research program has, of course, been a continuing
thing. It has worked closely with the St. Augustine Historical Society, and in
fact has been allotted desk space in their library for its historian. The agency
has likewise cooperated with the Catholic Church, the National Park Service,
and many private groups and individuals in the research program. Experts in
cartography, archaeology, documentary history, and historical architecture
are working together to provide the highest degree of authenticity to the
Archaeological research has played a major role in the program, directly
and indirectly. Directly, archaeology has made possible the verification of
locations of original foundations and houses. Indirectly the Commission's
experts have been able to assist other groups, both private and public, in
furthering their historical investigations. Research into past life and times in
the city has provided valuable insights into the accomplishments of our
forefathers as well as their way of life.
Land acquisition has been a necessary facet of the program and one that
has required a vast amount of time and energy. The Commission and St.
Augustine Restoration, Inc., together acquired a total of 34 parcels of
property in the first ten years of operation. As frequently happens in such
situations, however, the land acquisition program has created its own
problems with the increased valuations of adjacent properties as a result of
improvements made during reconstruction. Such acquisition, nevertheless, has
been and will continue to be the basic element in the entire program.
Early in the project it was realized that there would have to be
maintained a permanent construction crew, trained in special historic
methods of building. This became vital to insure structural integrity and
authenticity in the rebuilt houses and shops. Shingle-splitting and hand-hewn
lumber were just two examples of the need for this type of crew. Utility
work, however, has normally been subcontracted to local firms.
The first project of the new Commission was the restoration of the
Arrivas House. Work on this two-and-one-half story building was commenced
in 1961; it is now used as the agency's headquarters, with craft shops on the
first floor. Since completion of the Arrivas House the state and the
Corporation together have restored or reconstructed a total of 29 buildings,
with private groups and individuals completing more than a dozen others. In
all of the buildings, whether restored or reconstructed, the Commission has
insisted upon authenticity in structural design as well as appearance. In excess
of $2,000,000 was expended on land acquisition and building construction in
the first eleven years by the Commission and Corporation. The basic objective
of their program is to re-create colonial architecture and culture of St.
Augustine during the period of 1565 to 1821. In accomplishing this there
have been preserved, restored, or reconstructed First Spanish Period houses
(to 1763), British Period buildings (1763-83), Second Spanish Period
(1783-1821) examples, and early American dwellings (after 1821). Eight of
the buildings are used as museums, ten as craft shops, five as private
businesses, and two as private residences.
The interpretation program, as with research, is a continuing operation.
As research uncovers information about the activities and culture of historic
times it is brought to life by proper interpretation within the buildings.
Now renamed the "Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board," the
former Commission's effective planning and sound financing combined with
public support and a dedicated staff continue today to make the restoration
of St. Augustine's original area one of the nation's leading programs of its
THE GALLEGOS HOUSE
This is a simple house of the First Spanish Period in St. Augustine's
history (1565-1763), the type in which most average citizens dwelt at the
time. It was originally built in 1720, and is shown on a 1764 Spanish map as a
masonry residence belonging to Juan Garcia Martinez Gallegos. A later map,
dated 1788, indicates a timber-frame house owned by Lucia Escalona had
been built on the lot.
Authentic methods of construction were used in re-creating the old
Spanish colonial home on its original site as the visitor sees it today.
Oyster-shell concrete, known as "tabby" (a corruption of the Spanish word
"Tapia"), common until 1763 but not employed thereafter, was used for
walls, floor and flat roof. The house has only two rooms, cooking having been
done on the porch or in the yard. Casement windows are typically Spanish,
though in the original version there were probably only wooden shutters. No
openings were made in the north wall, to keep out wintry winds. The door
and loggia are on the south, entry from the street being through a gateway
into the patio as with similar houses in Spain. Garden, fruit trees, and shed all
lie within the walled area for security and privacy, as does the cypress-pole
fence surrounding the usual chicken yard; most citizens of the old garrison
town of necessity raised much of their own food.
Presently the Gallegos House, being the restored structure nearest the
City Gates, serves as the Information Center for the state's Historic
Preservation area. Here in the former living-room of the house the visitor may
plan the day's sightseeing on a wallsized picture map, with explanations by
the costumed hostess. In the back room, normally the bedroom, one side has
been left without a moisture-sealing plaster coating to reveal the successive
layers of slow-setting tabby which comprise the house. Also on this wall is a
photographic enlargement of the 1788 map from the second Spanish period,
showing property lines and buildings, which has proved invaluable in
establishing precise locations for archaeological and reconstruction work,
each plot being numbered, named, and described in addition to being drawn
Photographic displays throughout the building give the visitor glimpses of
the many sights to see in the area: exhibits, craft demonstrations, the Spanish
Inn, the reconstructed Military Hospital, and a multitude of others. An addi-
tional panel contains samples of handcrafted objects made and available for
purchase in the Area. Books and pamphlets dealing with various aspects of
the project can be obtained here, as well as tickets for admission to those
buildings for which an entry fee is charged.
THE RIBERA HOUSE
This is typical of a "fine" house, occupied by a prominent well-to-do
family. It is a reconstruction, rebuilt on original 18th century foundations.
Unlike most two-story houses in the historic section of St. Augustine it had
two stories from the beginning, whereas most were one-story flat-tops upon
which a wooden second level was added during the English occupation
1763-1783. As in the original, this building was built of coquina, plastered all
over inside and out to keep out moisture, and has tabby (shell-lime concrete)
floors. Like all First Spanish Period homes it had no glass in the windows,
only shutters. Entrance from the street through a gate-way into the patio is
typical. So is the loggia and outside stairway.
Downstairs may be seen the living room and dining room. The former was
for use by the father of the family as an "office" and to meet business
associates, or by both owner and wife for social gatherings. The furniture, all
18th century antiques, was purchased by the Historic St. Augustine
Preservation Board in Spain. The large table with drawers has high chairs at
the ends; cushions or footstools were used to keep the occupants' feet off the
cold tabby floor. In the northeast corner stands a typical "varguefio" or
dropfront desk on a matching base. The three leather-upholstered arm-chairs
were both economical and practical in a warm climate. The large chest of
drawers was used to store blankets, linens, and winter garments; a horizontal
chest opposite served a similar purpose as well as being a bench for seating
extra guests. The tiny chest held family heirlooms. During chilly weather the
brass brazier contained hot coals from the kitchen for warming feet resting on
its brass-topped stand. Wrought iron chandelier and floor candelabra held
bayberry candles, used only for special occasions due to cost; small brass
lamps burning fish oil served everyday needs.
Art objects decorating the room include paintings, small statues, and an
early 19th century rug from Turkey used as a table-runner. Largest of the
pictures is a "Madonna With Angels", painted in Spain early in the 19th
century but done in the style of the 17th century master, Murillo. On the
west wall is a portrait of an unknown bishop, an 18th century Italian work;
opposite it is an 18th century Spanish picture of a gardener holding a flower,
imitating the style of Spain's 17th century court painter, Velasquez. On the
east wall is a Spanish colonial piece from Cuzco in Peru, a "Madonna of the
Seven Sorrows". In the glass case on top of the desk is a Santoo" or figure of
the family's patron saint, made in Spain about 1750.
The large chest of drawers served as the family altar for morning and
evening prayers. An 18th century book-stand in the center is typical, to
display a Bible or prayer book depending on the occasion. Candles and
crucifix complete the arrangement.
An early 19th century silver and glass inkstand set holds a quill pen of the
type used in the original house; it is from Mexico.
In the dining room can be seen a typical 18th century middle-class
grouping: heavy table, leather-upholstered chairs, and storage cabinets. Oldest
item in the house is the 17th century cupboard in the northwest corner, to
hold food and wine. Opposite this is a buffet for silver and dishes. The
horizontal chest held linens (used only for guests or special occasions). In the
corner stands a tall dish-cupboard, called a "confesionario" due to its
resemblance to a confessional booth. All the dishes are Spanish "majolica"
ware, made early in the 19th century (but unchanged for 200 years before
that, so ours are authentic in appearance); some bear the insignia of the
monastic order to which they once belonged. The wall-hanging is made of
alternating hand-woven strips, using the Moorish pomegranate motif; the
material is old but was sewed together in this manner in modern times. The
mortar-and-pestle set on the wall is found in all Spanish homes, for grinding
pepper and other spices fresh for use (rather than canned, as we have).
Typical also is the wall rack, suitable for holding pitchers or bowls indoors,
flower pots outdoors. The chandelier with candles, like the one in the living
room, was used only for special occasions; fish-oil lamps sufficed for everyday
Most valuable antique item in the house (in terms of original cost) is the
Spanish portrait dated 1757 of Jose Maria de Cabrera y Estensor as a child,
by the painter Manuel Serna.
Items of interest upstairs in the small bedroom are the entrance doors,
from an 18th century house in Spain, and the bed of the same era, small in
appearance but a full-sized double bed of the period, when people were
smaller in stature than they are now. Chest and chair are authentic antiques
At the rear is the main bedroom, with typical adult bed, child's bed,
flax-spinning wheel, horizontal chest for bed-linens, and upright wardrobe for
outer garments (because there were no closets in Spanish houses). The
wash-stand is of early 19th century manufacture; so is the chest of drawers
and the flax reel.
On the wall is an 18th century Flemish painting called "The Inspiration
of a Gospel". The bed-warmer,_pitcher, and notched hair-washing bowl are of
the same date. Likewise the small glass case with Santoo" inside. The black
wooden board with hand-hold and projecting spikes is a flax-hetchel for
pulling the fibers into parallel rows for spinning.
Also upstairs is the "family room", where mother entertained her friends,
where the children played on rainy days, where the sewing was done, and
where the whole family gathered in hot weather to get the benefit of ocean
breezes. In addition to standard items of furnishing such as the large table and
chairs there are special pieces like the prayer-chair with a seat which can be
raised for kneeling, a "papelera" or letter-file cabinet on a small table for
storing family records, and a leather trunk for traveling. Against the north
wall is a large carved bridal chest, gift of father to daughter at the time of
engagement and hopefully filled with linens by the day of the wedding one to
two years later. Embroidery is in progress on the (modern reproduction)
stand near the window.
Behind the house is the two-room kitchen building, re-erected on the
original 18th century foundation. It stands apart from the main dwelling due
to the fire hazard, smoke, and cooking fumes. Meals were carried to the
dining room by servants or slaves. In the main room is located the built-in
"stove" of masonry, from which smoke from the wood fire has to find its
way out the round holes in the ceiling, drying the herbs and tobacco and
smoking the meat hanging from the beams as well. On the table is a
laundry-board. On the floor may be seen a double-roller dough-kneader for
bread, a yoke with ironbanded wooden buckets for bringing water from the
well in the backyard, a home-made palm-leaf broom, a four-pronged "gig" for
spearing eels, and two types of oyster rakes. A fish-oil lamp hangs from the
In the same building the other door leads to a tiny room in which dwelt a
slave or servant. Adjacent is the garden where fruit trees, vines and vegetables
were nurtured at the rear; in front is the formal flower garden with sun-dial
for lounging and entertaining when weather permitted.
THE GOMEZ HOUSE
This is a typical example of a very simple wooden house of the First
Spanish Period (1565-1763) in St. Augustine's history. The legend
accompanying a 1764 Spanish map describes it as a "house of boards" owned
by Lorenzo Gomez and his wife Catarina Perdomo. The plain and even drab
appearance of this small dwelling reflects the manner of living of the average
citizen in a Spanish colonial garrison outpost.
The small home originally contained two rooms, with a sleeping loft
reached by a ladder. In this reconstructed version the interior has been left as
one room for practical reasons. Cooking and other food preparation was done
outdoors, perhaps in the shade of a huge spreading oak such as now shelters
the little building and its yard.
The sides of the house are unpainted wide vertical boards. The roof is one
of cypress shingles which were hand split by specially trained workers, both
for use in this reconstruction and as a public demonstration of shingle
splitting. The casement windows have plain wooden shutters typical of the
period. As was customary there are no openings in the north side, from which
direction the ocean winds of winter blow in this region.
This structure disappeared during the 1763-1783 period of British
occupation of the city; either it was torn down or perhaps fell into disrepair,
as on later maps this site is shown as an empty lot. Today it is open to the
public and contains a colonial gift shop.
THE TRIAY HOUSE
This is a reconstruction on original foundations of a First Spanish Period
(1565-1763) house dating from the mid-eighteenth century. Early Spanish
maps indicate on this site a "stone house" belonging to Pedro de Florencia.
During the twenty years in which British forces occupied Florida
(1763-1783) an English map shows this property was held in trust by a Jesse
Fish, an agent for the sale of Spanish properties.
After the return to Spanish rule in 1783 sales records indicate that Juan
San Salvador, a master armorer, purchased this dwelling from a departing
Englishman and later sold to Francisco Triay, one of the Minorcan settlers
who arrived in St. Augustine during the late 18th century. A 1788 Spanish
map records this property as a "house in fair condition" belonging to
Francisco Triay. According to an inventory list, by 1790 it is a "rubble-work
masonry house" with lot belonging to Maria Triay (Francisco's wife), and ten
years later an appraisal shows the site was occupied by a "coquina"
(shell-rock) house belonging to Maria Triay. The property remained in the
Triay family through 1834 as indicated by a survey on that date. Many
descendants of the Triay families continue to live in St. Augustine today.
The original Triay house was a small two-room home with a sleeping loft
and gabled shingle roof. This reconstructed version is a faithful replica of the
dwelling described above which once stood on the same site, and follows the
same plans as the old house which was in use for so many generations. Today
it provides a convenient location for an artist's studio and gallery. Entrance is
through a patio which is shared with the neighbor to the south. The patio is
particularly pleasurable when grapes on the arbor are in season. The shade
provided by the arbor, inviting benches beneath, and soft breezes from
Matanzas Bay provide an atmosphere reminiscent of the historic era which
the house represents.
THE GONZALEZ HOUSE
This is a reconstruction of a First Spanish Period (1565-1763) house on
the original foundations. It is a little larger than most, indicating a prosperous
owner. As with the majority of homes in colonial St. Augustine proximity to
the fort was highly desirable, so that in case of attack by pirates or enemy
nations the inhabitants could flee to the Castillo for protection.
Early Spanish maps show this was a stone dwelling belonging to Bernardo
Gonzalez, and show that it was rectangular in shape. A British map of 1765
reflects the same information but also indicates the adding of a wooden
building to the rear, believed to have been used as a stable and kitchen. The
later British inhabitants of St. Augustine did not make as much use of
outdoor kitchens as did the earlier Spaniards. Because this addition was a
wood-frame structure there are no archaeological evidences of foundations.
Subsequent maps show the lot as being vacant.
This building is a product of the approach to home architecture as used in
the first Spanish period in this area. It has the typical flat roof, constructed of
wide boards laid across ceiling rafters, both hand-hewn, as was the custom of
the time in parts of Spain. Drains from the flat roof project out into the
street. The walls and floor were of "tabby" or oyster-shell concrete. Windows
were of the casement style, today's reconstruction has glass panels for
convenience but the early house would have had solid wooden shutters. The
entrance is through the simple patio with its grape arbor and benches, in this
case shared with the neighboring Triay family in the small house to the north.
Currently occupying the Gonzalez house is the Spanish-French
Restaurant and Patisserie.
THE SALCEDO HOUSE
This reconstruction of an 18th century Spanish colonial house is known
as the Josef Salcedo house. Early Spanish maps indicate this was a stone
house belonging to a Joaquin Blanco originally. Blanco was a socially
distinguished resident of Calle Real (St. George Street); he held a high
position at the Castillo, managing all the military supplies.
Because of the changing of rule in Florida from Spanish to British in
1763, residents evacuated Florida to Havana leaving their properties in the
hands of a British agent to be sold. According to the British map of 1765 this
property is shown as belonging to a Captain Andres Rainsford who was in His
Florida reverted to Spain in 1783, and on a 1788 Spanish map this
property is described as a masonry house in good condition belonging to Don
Pedro Josef de Salcedo. According to military records Salcedo was a Captain
of Artillery in the Castillo garrison.
The house, reproduced as it appeared in Salcedo's time, has been placed
on its original foundations which were uncovered by archaeological
investigation. The walls are of coquina covered with plaster, with the
exception of the one on the east side which has been left unplastered so the
visitor may see the underlying coquina structure. The roof is covered with
cedar shake shingles.
The wooden shed-type kitchen was added by British owners who were
not partial to outdoor kitchens. The well adjacent to the house is an original
well as shown on the maps.
Today this structure, with its typical entrance through the patio, is
utilized as a candy shop where candy-making is demonstrated and the
products sold. The second floor, with its stairway on the outside and its
balcony on the east and south sides, is a private apartment but would have
been the bedrooms of the early house.
THE SALCEDO KITCHEN
Immediately behind the Salcedo House may be seen the white-stuccoed
shingled-roofed kitchen building with its large fireplace chimney and service
porch. In 18th century Saint Augustine the larger houses of more affluent
citizens customarily had kitchens separated from the dwelling for protection
against cooking odors, smoke, and the ever-present fire hazard.
Uncovered by archaeological investigation based on a 1788 map were the
wall-footings and coquina fireplace hearth. On these the little building was
reconstructed in 1965. Currently it is used as a bakery. Bread and pastries,
following old Spanish recipes, are baked daily in the big brick oven, as a
demonstration of a colonial craft and for sale to visitors.
Antique and, where unavoidable, reproduction kitchen furniture and
equipment may be seen: oil lamp, corn grinder, flour chest, cupboard, pots
and kettles, dishes, pitchers and wooden bow-operated egg-beater.
Outside, next to the chimney, may be seen banana trees and tobacco
THE SMOKE HOUSE
To the north of the kitchen stands the smoke house with wood siding and
shingles weathered by age. This was a British innovation, as they preferred to
smoke foods to preserve them whereas the Spanish used salt for preserving.
Here a demonstration of meat and fish smoking, is given periodically to
re-create a phase of colonial living in early St. Augustine.
In the yard there are citrus, persimmon, fig and flowering pomegranate
trees as well as the usual small vegetable garden behind the kitchen.
THE ARRIVAS HOUSE
This house is a restored structure that has been entitled the "Don
Raimundo de Arrivas House", from the name of an early owner. It is
significant because its present architecture includes aspects of the several
different historical and cultural periods of St. Augustine life. Both the 18th
and 19th centuries are represented in the total architectural form of this
structure; Spanish, English and American characteristics from those two
centuries are apparent throughout the restored building. The house also
demonstrates the basic local construction methods of the past, thus
presenting a plural cultural image.
The sequence of the development of the Arrivas House has been lost in
antiquity. Archaeological work brought to light the fact that the first
structure on the site now occupied by the present Arrivas House goes back to
the 1650-80 period. The first discernible house was made of "ripio", a
shell-concrete wall construction. Additional rooms were later added to the
initial building, which ultimately was superseded about 1725 by a coquina
structure on the same lines as the ripio house. A Spanish map of 1764
indicated Don Raimundo de Arrivas owned the current site of the restored
structure; it lists two stone houses on the lot, while a 1788 map designated
ownership by the Arrivas heirs and reveals one large L-shaped masonry house.
The wooden second story, with balconies, was probably added about 1788,
and greatly rebuilt ca. 1829-30.
When Florida became a colony of Great Britain in 1763 the property was
placed in the charge of a British agent, Jesse Fish, and later reverted to the
Arrivas heirs when Florida was regained a second time by Spain. From 1824
until 1960 ownership changed approximately 23 times.
The patios of Spanish houses such as this were always to the south, for
protection from the north wind and to take advantage of the sun. Patios were
used as another "room" by the housewife in early St. Augustine; here the
women prepared food for cooking, made soap, washed and performed other
chores. Lawns were non-existent and the ground was swept.
In the garden to the rear is a typical grape arbor as well as fruit and pecan
trees. Also a feature of early Spanish times is the vegetable and herb garden.
The well is an original, and was in actual use until recently. The citrus trees
are of the sour orange variety; sour oranges were valued by the Spaniards for
use in a variety of ways in cooking and preserving.
At present the rooms on the first floor of the house serve as an exposition
of domestic life in a Spanish colonial garrison town. A costumed hostess daily
demonstrates spinning, weaving, and candle-making of a by-gone era. The
southeast room contains an antique loom dated 1797 and a replica made in
the Restoration carpenter shop from colonial drawings. Spinning is
demonstrated on both wool and flax wheels. This room also contains an 18th
century wooden chest and a painting over the fireplace of an unknown
In the southwest room with its original fireplace, are an antique table and
benches purchased in Spain plus a confessional-style cupboard for dishes and
kitchen utensils two hundred years old. Here the visitor can also see candles
The small bedroom has an antique Spanish painted wooden bed, table,
chest, and an arm chair with footstool to keep occupants' feet off the cold
floor. The small chair is from Guatemala. The prayer chair before a crucifix
on the wall is a replica made in the carpenter shop.
The second floor, originally for bedrooms and sewing room, is now
utilized as the administrative offices and board room of the Historic St.
Augustine Preservation Board.
THE OLD SPANISH INN
This building, originally a small 18th century one-story coquina house,
has a long history, its original walls are still visible on part of the front and
north side. The living-room with fireplace was added in the 19th century, and
the second story applied early in this century. The kitchen-dining room was
once separate but is now incorporated into the overall structure. Leased in
1957 by Mr. and Mrs. G. H. Bath, it was completely remodeled to resemble a
typical 18th century rural northern Spanish inn, and was opened to the
public in July 1959. In 1966 the building and its contents were purchased by
St. Augustine Restoration, Inc.
With the few exceptions stated below, all furnishings are reproductions of
period antiques, made in Spain specifically for this building.
Seen in the vestibule as one enters is an antique candle-stand and a
reproduction in tile of a famous Spanish painting depicting Columbus
reporting to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in Barcelona upon returning
from his first voyage.
To the left is the principal guest room for very important patrons
Matching the massiveness of the canopied bed is a tall wardrobe, a standard
feature in all Spanish buildings of the era, since closets were unknown. Heat,
when necessary, came from hot coals in the brass brazier. The early 19th
century rug has a heraldic crest in the center. On the wash-stand can be seen a
pitcher and bowl of soldered tin, painted red and gold. The double-eagle
frame on the mirror symbolizes the Hapsburg dynasty, which ruled Spain
from 1516 to 1700. Framed prints show traditional costumes from different
regions of Spain. The copper bed-warmer, the candelabra, and the inlaid
arcade chair are antiques.
To the right of the vestibule is a large room with fireplace and a
conversation nook beyond it. A rug dated 1800, the candelabrum, and the
fireplace tools are historic items, the remainder reproductions. This double
area served as the reception room or lounge for male guests. Overlooking it is
a portrait of St. Augustine's founder, Pedro Menendez, copied on tile from
the famous original by the Italian master Titian. The small stools are for
cock-fight bettors, who straddled them "backwards" and rested elbows on
the horizontal piece while leaning forward and tossing coins into the arena as
additional bets if their favorite seemed to be winning. A massive chest on
detached feet served as both storage center and bench. Above and flanking it
are portraits of King Philip II (Spanish monarch at the time St. Augustine was
settled in 1565), his third wife Elizabeth, and daughter Catherine, all copied
from originals in the Prado Museum by Prof. Jacinto del Caso of Madrid in
1958 especially for this building; so also were the Ferdinand and Isabella
portraits, from originals rendered at the time of their marriage when he was
18, she 19. The tiny chest on the table is a miniature nuptial "hope chest" of
the time, used for jewelry in a private home but in a room like this probably
held straws for transferring a flame from the fireplace to a gentleman's pipe or
to ignite candles or oil lamps. The long benches were always used in inns to
accommodate more people at less cost and space than chairs could have.
Featured in the hallway is a rare antique Italian relief-carved drop-leaf
table (probably 18th century), an engraving of Menendez with name
misspelled, another of the Moorish "Tower of Gold" in Seville, a typical early
19th century Spanish floral rug, and a tall thin serving chest for silver and
In the custom of the times the women's sitting-room or lounge is separate
and in the quieter interior of the inn. Antique items here are the flax-spinning
wheel, a stringed "bandurria", dated 1740, on the wall, the brass lamp with
shield, and rug with the Hapsburg double-eagle insignia in the center
surrounded by peacocks, symbols of eternity. At the left of the entrance is a
typical "varguefio" or dropfront portable desk, set atop a storage chest.
Opposite stands a huge carved cabinet for dishes. Heat for the room is
provided by the Moorish-style brazier. Stools are for keeping feet up off the
cold tabby floor. A large mirror permits last minute adjustments to hair and
makeup before going in to dinner or departure from the inn.
The middle bedroom, somewhat less ornate than the V.I.P. chamber but
still furnished for noble tastes of the 18th century, is dominated by the
ornate bed. However, the huge old wardrobe is genuinely antique, as is the
inlaid arcade-back chair. Authentic reproductions are the wash-stand with
towel bars, the bed-table, stools, brazier, and mirror. Nineteenth century
items are the costume prints, painted tin pitcher and bowl (green, in this
instance), crucifix over the bed, and the double-eagle mirror.
Most noticeable in the rear bedroom is the beautifully reproduced
"cathedral" bed, so called for its resemblance to the retable behind Spanish
cathedral altars. Since no 18th century buildings in Spain, inns or otherwise,
had closets, garments were hung in a wardrobe (as in the middle bedroom),
on racks with lathe-turned pegs (as in this bedroom); or left in the traveler's
leather trunk (as seen at the foot of the bed). A man's jacket hangs on the
wall-rack here. Essentials are the corner wash-stand, tin pitcher and bowl
(now yellow), double-eagle mirror, wooden bucket, and iron candelabrum.
Accessories include costume prints, towel rack, and 19th century crucifix
figure on a modern cross.
At the rear of the inn's first floor opens the large dining-room, furnished
for serving food and keeping it warm; actual cooking, however, was
customary. Men's and women's tables are apart the latter beside the
window for a view of the patio and its flowers, the former with its
accompanying bench across the room. A huge fireplace with crane and kettle
kept both edibles and diners warm, and was surrounded by the equipment to
do it copper cooking vessels, stirring spoons and strainer, plus chocolate
pots and tin spice-boxes on the mantel. Flanking it are the wine vessels a
pig skin full of ordinary wine, casks for better grades. On the opposite wall
two glass-enclosed candle sconces illuminate the 19th century Spanish cuckoo
clock. Dominating the south wall is the oldest piece, an 18th century
dish-cupboard (called a "confesionario" due to its resemblance to a grilled
confessional in a Catholic church) filled with colored majolica and
Moorish-type copper-luster-glazed pottery, of modern make but traditional in
appearance. Part of any such setting are the huge copper vessels and the heavy
brass mortar-and-pestle set in wooden rack for grinding of spices.
When weather permitted, lounging and even dining could be
accommodated in the patio; if the former, dinner indoors was announced by
ringing the six-bell wheel. Porous water-jars, to keep the contents cool by
evaporation of seepage, stand conveniently in the rack, while water itself
came via the modern reproduction well-head with its locked cover to prevent
contamination. At the end of the courtyard stands a huge historic-type olive
oil storage jar. Above it on a bracket is an 18th century carved-wood statue of
the town's namesake, St. Augustine. At the rear of the patio a stairway
mounts to a second floor, which in a real Spanish rural inn would have
contained the owner's apartment (at the front) and dormitories for male and
female servants of noble travelers or for guests of meager income and low
THE RODRIGUEZ HOUSE
This is an example of Spanish St. Augustine architecture characteristic of
the early settlement.
A Spanish map provides the information that on this site there was a
tabby (a stone, shell and lime type of masonry) house belonging to Antonio
Jose Rodriguez. The house, as drawn on the map, indicates it was a two room
dwelling with a loggia facing south. Ownership of property is not known prior
to the time of the 1764 map, as there were no records to provide this
Rodriguez married Maria Manuela Rodriguez in 1719, he was the son of
Josd Antonio Rodriguez of Seville and Gertrude Morales. His wife was the
daughter of Agustin Rodriguez of Granada and Maria Aguilar. The Rodriguez
name is known as being among the first Florida families, with descendants
still living in St. Augustine.
The house disappeared shortly after the British gained possession of
Florida. Recorded information of 1765-66 tells there was a wholesale
destruction of crumbling tabby houses by King George's soldiers, who pulled
them down easily for the wood in them to burn, as firewood was scarce. How
long tabby had been used in St. Augustine as a building material is not known,
but many structures of this period were made of it. The floor in the
Rodriguez is of such a mixture.
This early style dwelling with its flat wooden roof supported by pine logs
had no chimneys or fireplaces; heating was by means' of charcoal in braziers.
As usual, entrance was gained via the side yard through a gate in the
surrounding wall. Such walls or fences were usually on the street line, as in
the Rodriguez house. This walled enclosure was used as a chicken yard,
garden, orchard, and work area. Most gardens had a grape arbor, every yard
had its shallow well. There is no evidence of a detached kitchen adjoining this
house; cooking apparently was done in stone bowls on the loggia or in the
yard. The diet of the populace in early 18th century St. Augustine was
necessarily plain, so that simple facilities were adequate.
Today the reconstructed Rodriguez house, made possible through the
generosity of Edward Ball of Jacksonville, contains a key studio in the
Preservation Board's craft program. Traditional skills and techniques of
pottery making and decorating are here applied to reproducing historic
Spanish ceramic art objects, for sale to visitors as lasting mementoes of their
stay in St. Augustine.
DE ORTIGOSA HOUSE
This is a house characteristic of the First Spanish Period (1565-1763) in
local history. A Spanish map of 1764 described the dwelling as being of stone
and belonging to Jose Sanchez de Ortigosa.
The stone house disappears by 1788; the property on this site by this
time is described as a "wooden house in fair condition."
Jose Sanchez de Ortigosa, of Ronda, Spain, married a native girl, Juana
Theodora Perez, and they had nine children. The homestead at one time
extended from St. George Street (Calle Real) west to Spanish Street. One of
their daughters, Francesca, lived on the west end of the lot on the corner of
Spanish Street. Another daughter, Narcissa, lived just across the street. It was
the Spanish custom for families to build homes close to relatives.
Jose Sanchez de Ortigosa and his many descendants provide a colorful
portion of the history of St. Augustine's inhabitants. Jose was a privateer who
once captured a large supply of rice which provided food for the troops and
many others. His son, Francisco Xavier, also cut a romantic figure in his day.
He was quite prosperous, owning many houses, and much has been written
This house is a reconstruction of the first one that existed on the site. The
roof is constructed with tile laid across hand-hewn ceiling rafters, with a layer
of concrete across the top of the tiles to seal them. Drains from the flat roof
protrude from the top of the building. The walls are of "coquina", a form of
shell-rock, plastered over inside and outside to seal the surfaces against
moisture. The floor is "tabby", an antique variety of oyster-shell concrete.
The windows are of the casement style of the First Spanish Period, but would
not have had glass panes in those days, being of solid wood instead. The
flat-roofed two-room stuccoed dwelling was the most common type in St.
Augustine in the middle of the 18th century.
Presently the house is furnished and used as a carpenter's shop where
early skills of the trade are demonstrated daily as part of the craft program.
Here antiques are repaired and copies of authentic pieces are hand-made both
for exhibition houses and on order for the public. In the south room,
originally the bedroom, may be seen both centuries-old furniture items and
reproductions made in the building today.
The re-creation of this interesting and historic house was made possible
with funds donated by Mr. Edward Ball of Jacksonville expressly for this
THE OLIVEROS HOUSE
This is a coquina house of the Second Spanish Period (1783-1821), on
original foundations which were unearthed during archaeological excavation
of the area.
This reconstructed building was the fourth structure to occupy the site, the
first being a wooden house, the second a tabby structure and the third of
wood. The two-story dwelling has a ground floor composed of three rooms
and a loggia area. The original floors were apparently of wood, as no evidence
of tabby was discovered. In the north room the partial remains of a coquina
and brick fireplace were found. The loggia had a coquina-chip floor; within
this space was the stairway to the second floor where three bedrooms were
An early Spanish map indicates the original version was of masonry,
belonging to Pedro Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who was a native of Galicia, was
married to Isabel Rodriguez of St. Augustine in 1733 and they had five
children. She was a widow, having previously been married to Bonifacio
In 1763, with Great Britain occupying Florida, the Spanish residents left
for Havana. Apparently the house was not sold during the English
occupation, as their map shows this property as a lot and house in the
trusteeship of Mr. Fish, who was agent for the sale of all Spanish property.
In 1783 one of the five Gonzalez children, Juan, married Juana Montes de
Oca in Havana. She was also a native of St. Augustine, who was later to return
as a widow with five children to make claim for and live in her father-in-law's
house. The Spanish government by decree of 1784 returned the property to
the widow Juana Montes de Oca.
By 1788 records indicate this is now "a house of wood and shingles,
covered with palm leaves in fair condition, the property of Juana Montes de
Oca". Juana died in 1791 and the house disappeared between then and 1798.
That same year Juana's daughter, Maria Gonzalez Montes de Oca, widow of
Rafael Saavedra de Espinosa, sold the lot to Sebastian de Oliveros.
Oliveros was a native of the island of Corsica, coming to St. Augustine in
1733. He was a sailor by profession who navigated a small sloop. According
to documents on October 4, 1798, he "bought from the Gonzalez Montes de
Oca family their lot where he built a home for his family which consisted of a
two-story coquina house". Oliveros frequently sailed to Charleston and other
northern ports of the United States. In those days piracy was still practiced;
he was one of its victims in 1804.
Eleven years following her husband's death the widow, Catalina Usina,
petitioned the Crown for permission to sell the property. She moved out of
the house and rented it to Gaspar Arnau, a mariner and owner of a bark. He
eventually purchased the property. In the house Arnau operated a shop and a
way station. The building is described as "a continuous salon on the ground
floor and another upstairs without furring".
Most yards by this time were fenced; this had a masonry wall. To the rear
the detached kitchen stood, and the well. A vegetable garden, grape arbor,
and fruit trees were a part of colonial life, and this yard was no different.
The Oliveros house existed until 1908. Surviving occupants, who refer to it
as the "yellow house", recall its appearance. They tell of a ladder ascending
from the loggia area, later to be replaced by stairs.
In today's replica of this interesting structure the visitor may see the old
skill of cigar-making practiced by Spanish-speaking people. An interesting
observation is that a cigar-making operation is housed in the very same
structure where women of the house once smoked. Even though it was a
known fact in the late 19th century that if women smoked it was done in
privacy. Ladies often set their large aprons afire attempting to conceal their
pipes, although little Spanish cigars were preferred.
THE BENET HOUSE
This is a reconstruction of an early 19th century Second Spanish Period
(1783-1820) house. Archaeological excavation of the site revealed that the
north side was original in part, and coquina blocks and hand hewn lumber
unearthed beneath the modern structure were used in the reconstruction of
this Minorcan home.
The first documented structure on this site appears on a 1764 Spanish map
which describes it as "a masonry house belonging to Pedro Zapata". Zapata
was a native of Malaga, Spain, and was married to a native girl, Francesca
Garcia, in 1742. Francesca was from the very early St. Augustine families. It
apparently remained in Zapata's possession until the evacuation of Spanish
residents to Havana when the British flag was hoisted over the Castillo.
An English agent, Jesse Fish, who took charge of selling properties of
former occupants, sold the house for Zapata to a Pedro Cosifacio, a Greek
from Corsica coming to Florida with the Minorcan colony in 1768 and then
to St. Augustine in 1777. The sale took place in 1779. Cosifacio was a
storekeeper and tradesman.
Apparently this house was a good business investment, as it changed hands
rapidly. Cosifacio sold the property in 1782 to Roque Leonardi the
merchant, and two years later Leonardi resold to the farmer and wig-maker,
Andres Pacetti. Pacetti was a native of Florence, Italy, was married and had
four children according to the census. At this time the property is described
as a "wooden house and lot containing 24 English yards".
A 1788 Spanish map shows it as "a timber frame house in fair condition,
owned by Antonio Berti". The census lists Antonio Berti as a native of
Minorca with a wife and five children. His occupation was farmer and smith.
The record also shows his name among the tavernkeepers and it is assumed he
kept a tavern in this house.
It remained a wooden house through 1804, when Berti sold the property
to Don Estaban Beneto (Benet). Estaban Benet was born in 1764 in San
Felipe, Minorca. His father apparently remarried, as an account given by one
of his descendants tells of Estaban and his brother, Pedro, running away when
they could no longer tolerate their stepmother. Estaban made his way to St.
Augustine and grew up into the coasting trade. He had several vessels going to
Havana where Pedro had gone. He was married to Catarina Hernandez in St.
Augustine in 1795 and had four children. Esteban perished at the age of 48
when the "Santa Catalina" went down.
A coquina house must have replaced the wooden one shortly after
purchase in 1804, as it was listed as such when Pedro, the eldest son, took
possession. Pedro was 14 years old at the time his father died, and the
responsibility of helping his mother raise the family fell upon him. He
married Juana Hernandez in 1823; they had 10 children. Although Pedro had
little formal education he was well informed and was successful in business.
He made certain his own children received the advantages of an education.
His oldest son, Stephen Vincent Anastasio, was the first Florida appointee to
West Point and became Chief of Ordnance of the United States Army.
Stephen's own two sons had distinguished military careers, one also
graduating from West Point.
While still a young man Pedro became a church warden. He served a
number of terms on the City Council and was so influential in politics that he
was known as "Boss". He held several Federal positions including Collector
and Surveyor of the Port. Two of Pedro's great-grandsons were to distinguish
the Benet name in the literary world; Stephen Vincent Benet and his brother
William Rose Benet were both Pulitzer prize winners.
Pedro died in 1870 and his son, Joseph Ravina, took over operation of the
family store across the street. Juana, his wife, died in 1884 and the old
coquina house became the sole possession of the daughter Isabel who, like her
father, Pedro, commanded great influence. Many stories are related about
Miss Isabel and how she helped others during the Civil War. Miss Isabel lived
there until her death in 1915, and not until some time after was this coquina
home of so many fascinating people and episodes demolished.
The house with its many interesting features was a measure of old Pedro's
success, with its high pitched roof and valuable furnishings. According to
custom, the entrance was through the terrace or patio where a lovely rose
garden grew. The upstairs and downstairs loggia areas were shuttered to keep
out the hot afternoon sun. In keeping with the building trend the house sat
on the street line and preliminary evidence shows that the front rooms may
be of an even earlier 18th century house. Its style suggests there was a strong
English influence on the Minorcan builders. Masonry walls enclose the garden
area where the detached kitchen would be located along with the well, fruit
trees, a small vegetable and herb garden and perhaps a grape arbor.
Many descriptions of this house are recorded. Recollections of its last
occupants and early photographs have made it possible to re-create this fine
Minorcan home. Today an apartment occupies the upper level, with the
ground floor divided into two shops.
THE BENET STORE
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The first documented structure on this site appears on a 1765 map of St.
Augustine. Later the Rocque map of 1788 describes the house on this lot as a
wattlele and daub' in fair condition", owned by Matias Pons. It remained in
his possession until his death, at which time his will of 1817 describes the
property as a "stone and wood house with a store of victuals and provisions
situated on St. George St. that goes to the Land Gate (present City Gates)
with its corresponding lot". Judging from the estate he left, Pons was a very
successful businessman. The property continued in the hands of his heirs until
1839, when it was purchased by Peter Benet.
Peter Benet and his wife, Juana Hernandez, had 10 children, among whom
was Joseph Ravina Benet who would later assist in operating the store.
Recorded in the City Council Minute book of October 13, 1840, is an
application by Peter Benet for leave to remove his retail liquor shop from the
southeast (Benet House) to the southwest corner of George and Cuna streets.
Prior to his purchase from the Pons heirs, Pedro Benet had operated his store
for several years on the ground floor of his house across the street, as revealed
by taxes he paid on the stock and $16.00 a year for shop licenses. Pedro
Benet died in 1870, and from 1871 to 1883 his son Joseph Ravina Benet held
occupational licenses which were usually listed for keeping "a store" or for
"goods, wares and merchandise". In 1872 the license was granted to sell wine
and malt liquors; in 1882-3 for tobacco and "segars".
The general store remained in existence through the late 19th century, but
its operation was brought to an end when a notice appeared in the local
newspaper of 1887 regarding an order to sell real estate of the Estate of Pedro
Benet. The name "Benet" was later to become widely known in the literary
world through the works of Stephen Vincent Benet, the famous poet. He was
the great grandson of Pedro and grandson of Brig. Gen. Stephen V. Benet, a
West Point graduate. Descendants of this distinguished General and poet
continue to reside in St. Augustine.
Demolition of the old structure on this location was begun on August 13,
1903, preparatory to erecting a new building by one Bernard A. Masters,
owner. Thus the final chapter was written on the original edifice.
In 1967, 65 years and approximately 10 days from the date the old
building was demolished, the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board began
reconstruction, on the previous foundations, of the old Benet Store. By
means of research on site history, early photographs, and recollections of two
surviving members of the Benet family the "new-old" .building was
completed, stocked with authentic items for display, and opened as another
of the Board's craft shops and museums.
Visitors who enter this reconstruction, a typical St. Augustine general store
of the 19th century retaining much of the Spanish flavor, can be transported
in time by the sights and smells of the past. Hanging from the ceiling are
antique items such as a sausage stuffer, iron ball "instant heater" for water
and beverages, cabbage shredder, auger, hand-wrought shears and tongs, and
other articles of a bygone era. On the floor and walls may be seen barrels and
crocks filled with potatoes, onions, dried beans, pickles, "trotters" (British
name for pickled pigs feet), the announcement board of the next ship's arrival
with its name and cargo, fresh sausage and a variety of smoked meats. The
bookkeeper's cage and accounting desk are Spanish-American antiques of the
period, purchased especially for this building. Imported Spanish food
products line the shelves behind the main counter to complete the effect.
THE NICOLAS DE ORTEGA
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The first documentary evidence of the historic house which once occupied
this site appears on a Spanish map of 1763, which shows a rectangular
dwelling with its long axis north and south. There was also a small rectangular
building to the west of the main structure which probably served as a kitchen.
A later map of 1764 lists the house as belonging to heirs of Nicolas de Ortega.
Nicolas de Ortega was the son of Augustin and Juana Alberto. He married
Francisco Laureana de los Reyes in St. Augustine in 1736, and they had eight
children born in St. Augustine. Nicolas was listed on the roster at the fort as
an armourer in 1740. He died in 1762 leaving a will.
During the Seven Years' War England captured Havana, and in the Treaty
of Paris, 1763, England exchanged Cuba for Spanish Florida. Not wishing to
become British subjects the Spanish residents evacuated St. Augustine,
moving to Havana and leaving their homes in the hands of a Spanish agent
who in turn deeded them to be sold to the Englishman, Jesse Fish. In Mr.
Fish's account book are recorded the names of persons who bought houses
and lots from him; it is from these sales that much information is gleaned.
The British Governor granted the property in November of 1779 to a John
Proctor. After Proctor's death the house was sold in June 1787, at public sale,
for -230 to James Scotland, who did not, however, receive any title.
Scotland was a house carpenter who settled in St. Augustine in 1775,
carrying on his trade until the province was again ceded to Spain in 1783, at
which time he departed from Florida and left his property in the care of
William Slater, British Vendue Master, to sell. In his memorial, six years later,
Scotland described his property as, "an exceeding good stone dwelling house
consisting of four large rooms with a kitchen, outhouses and garden, enclosed
with good fences. .". By 1783 Spain once more ruled Florida, again by
treaty. In 1791 Sebastian Ortega, a Minorcan, purchased the house and made
extensive repairs amounting to 314 pesos. He put on a new roof, closed up
some openings, replastered the walls, put in a new tabby floor, repaired the
sleeping loft floor, put up a new fence, and repaired the oven and chimneys.
Meanwhile the heirs of Nicolas Ortega (no relation to Sebastian) were
petitioning the King for possession of their former properties which the
Crown had reclaimed. Josefa Ortega, Nicolas' granddaughter, in 1785 asked
for the return of houses left by her grandmother and presented a will as
evidence. The Spanish Governor issued a judicial decree in 1785 permitting
Josefa Ortega to live in the house; after long litigation the Spanish Crown
approved the suggestion "that all those Floridians who possessed houses and
lands should have them returned if they could prove their ownership." The
Spanish Governor declared the property as belonging to the sons and heirs of
Da. Laureana de los Reyes, Nicolas' widow, and all previous acquisitions from
the time it was sold by Jesse Fish as null and void. He also declared that as
the previous owners had acted in good faith with just titles and had made
profits on the houses they were obligated to pay 5% to the heirs of Laureana
de los Reyes as stipulated by the Public Auction; however, the heirs were
indebted to the previous owners for any improvements they may have made
to the house. Sebastian Ortega, the Minorcan, began his claim for the
improvements he had, and started proceedings against Sebastian Garcia and
his wife Josefa (Ortega) which lasted 3 years. In the interim Garcia, with
power of attorney from the heirs, sold to Don Francisco Rovira. Finally in
1806 the Governor ruled Sebastian Garoia should pay Ortega for the repairs,
and a complete list of labor and materials was presented.
Meanwhile Francisco Rovira had already sold the house to Don Juan
Flotard, a new resident, in June of 1803. Flotard, a merchant, got into
financial difficulties with the Royal Accountancy regarding payment of
duties on imported goods and left Florida. In 1807 the Royal Accountant
started proceedings to recover the amount due for the duties, and in an 1808
public sale the house passed to a well-to-do citizen, Don Manuel Fernandez
Biendicho. Biendicho and his wife were aboard the "Dos Hermanos"
returning from Havana in 1813 when it encountered a severe hurricane and
sank with all passengers and cargo.
An appraisal and inventory of Biendicho's properties was made in 1813,
the proceeds being distributed to his heirs. In 1815 these heirs sold the old
Ortega residence to Miguel Andreu; by then the house was "in very bad
condition". As late as 1834 the Andreu family remained in possession of the
property. Descendants of the early families of Ortega and Andreu continue to
live in St. Augustine.
Presently the reconstructed house with its walled garden and arbor is leased
as a private residence, once again a living entity in the Restored Area.
THE SANTOYO HOUSE
This reconstructed early Spanish house first appears on a 1764 map. The
key to this map states it was a house of ripio (a kind of shell concrete)
belonging to Miguel Santoyo, and gives the measurements of the lot but does
not specify the house dimensions.
Miguel Santoyo was the legitimate son of Juan de la Rosa Santoyo and
Maria Ana Cavallero. He was a native of this presidio. On Monday, August 9,
1756 he was married to Maria Maniller. She was also a native of this area and
the daughter of Francisca Escovedo and Luis Maniller. From the marriage of
Miguel and Maria many Florida residents descended. Miguel, his father, Juan
de la Rosa, and brother, Augustin; were stationed at the Castillo. Miguel was a
soldier in the regiment of dragoons.
A distant war gave all of Spanish Florida to Great Britain and for 20 years
subjects of King George lived here. Their cultural background was much
different from that of the Spanish. They destroyed dozens of common little
houses, not in good condition, for the wood to burn as firewood was scarce,
remodeled many of the better ones, and built several small timber-frame
houses for the British refugees from the American Revolution. As this little
house does not appear on subsequent maps, it must have been one of the
victims of the destruction of tabby houses.
Most properties of Spaniards leaving Florida were left to be sold by an
agent, Jesse Fish, and in 1769 he sold this property to a George Kemp,
surgeon and a member of the British General Assembly in East Florida.
By 1788 the house had disappeared. On the Rocque map of that date it is
an empty lot, a part of lot No. 65.
The original Spanish structure was the typical simple two room masonry
house which had a coating of smooth plaster to waterproof the masonry,
further emphasizing the simplicity.
Roofs at this time were both flat and pitched, the flat ones were made of
tabby and the pitched ones of thatch. or shingle. This roof is flat, with
projecting rain spouts.
The facade has a door on the north side and another facing west, both in
the same north room. The original windows would not have contained glass,
as glazed sash windows were introduced after 1763. Prior to that time inside
wooden shutters and rejas (ornamental grilles) were the style. Contrary to the
customary building plan the house was not constructed on the street line, but
set back from the street with a high masonry wall on the street line and with
a barred gate. No evidence was located in the archaeological excavations that
there was a loggia or porch common to Spanish colonial St. Augustine
Cooking took place in stone bowls either inside or in the yard. Heating was
accomplished by means of charcoal in a metal lined brazier, as few houses of
this period had fireplaces. No trace of a tabby floor was found; the floor
could therefore have been either of wood or earth. For convenience wooden
floors have been installed in this re-creation. The two rooms had variable
uses: Early houses did not have a set room as a bedroom. Pallets were spread
out at bedtime and rolled up in the morning, giving rooms more than one
This building is the colonial Marin-Hassett House, reconstructed on its
original foundations. The main portion and first wing are of early Spanish
masonry construction (the Marin house), with an attached wing from the
English or Second Spanish Period reflecting the mixed architecture
characteristic of the late 18th century. (Hassett house).
The house exemplifies an upper-class home of the times. Made principally
of coquina (a natural shell-rock, quarried locally) it is covered inside and out
with plaster to keep out moisture. Fireplaces upstairs and down were added
during the British occupancy. The downstairs hearth is covered with glass,
allowing the visitor to see the earlier foundations 18 inches below the present
To appreciate the significance of this structure, a brief account of the
background of its owners- may prove helpful. Early maps show that on this
site stood a stone hose belonging to Antonia Marin. During the British
period (1763-1783) the house was purchased in 1766 by a James Box, who
was once the colonial Attorney General. Later the property came into the
hands of Stephen Haven. When Spain regained control of Florida Mr. Haven,
in 1785, sold to a Francisco Entralgo, and he to Father Thomas Hassett in
Thomas Hassett was an Irish priest appointed to serve the Minorcan colony
in St. Augustine. He was deeply involved in the welfare of the Minorcans and
in 1786, due to his profound interest in education, took a census of the
Minorcans, Italians and Greeks as well as their Negro dependents, for whom
he established the first free school in what is now the United States.
The reconstructed Marin-Hassett House serves today as a Pan American
Museum. Purchase of the site and rebuilding of the dwelling were achieved
through the generous donations of American corporations doing business in
Latin America. Their express desire for use of the building was to exhibit art
objects from all Latin American countries.
The garden to the south is in the fashion seen in both Spain and Latin
America, linking the building to the Spanish Exhibition Center across the
street. The area is designed and landscaped as a small plaza called a
"plazoleta". The dominating feature is the statue of Queen Isabella in the
center, sculptured by Anna Hyatt Huntington whose interest in the Hispanic
world is well known. The statue and garden symbolize the link of Spain, the
mother country, with her erstwhile colonies. The garden has been made
possible by the generosity of the late Mrs. Alfred I. duPont, supplemented by
contributions from garden clubs and other organizations. The landscaping was
accomplished by the Women's Garden Clubs of Florida. In the late 18th
century a vegetable plot and orchard occupied this land, cultivated by Father
Art exhibits of Hispanic origin are housed in the building the year round.
Those on the ground floor are changed periodically, but the display of
Spanish colonial painting, sculpture, and minor arts on the second floor is
Upstairs the first room which the visitor enters contains a Spanish antique
wedding-gift rug and leather covered travel-trunk. Surrounding them on the
walls and in niches are polychromed wooden religious statues and oil
paintings from Mexico and Guatemala, dating from the 17th to 19th
centuries. In the corner opposite the entrance stands the figure of St.
Augustine, after whom this city was named.
The second room contains a showcase of assorted Latin American colonial
artifacts, also from the 17th to 19th centuries, plus more religious statues and
paintings from Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. All are products of local
craftsmen in those countries, following techniques used by artists in the
mother country of Spain.
This structure appears with the designation "old coquina warehouse" on a
mid-nineteenth century plat of the area. Portions of the foundations and
below grade level walls were found intact and constituted a portion of the
twentieth century building that occupied the site until recently.
Archaeological. investigation failed to establish a construction date.
However, other conjectural data would indicate that this building was
originally constructed between 1800 and 1830, early in the American
occupation when Florida was still a territory, not yet a state.
Presently it is utilized as a maintenance shop for the Historic St. Augustine
Preservation Board. In the shop all mill work for the houses as well as some of
the furnishings are produced. Visitors will note the massive handwrought
hardware on the building, as well as the small door for human entrance set
into the larger loading doors.
The site was once a part of the land owned by one of the early settlers, a
Jose Sanchez de Ortegosa of Ronda, Spain. His homestead at one time
extended from St. George Street (Calle Real) west to Spanish Street. One of
his daughters, Francesca, lived just west of this house, on the corner. Other
Sanchez children lived nearby, as it was the Spanish custom for families to
build homes close to relatives.
The former owners Sanchez were prominent in St. Augustine's long
history and have provided a colorful portion of its background. Many
accounts have been written on their public and private lives and many
descendants of the Sanchez family live in St. Augustine today.
The re-creation of this structure was made possible through the generous
contribution of Mr. Edward Ball of Jacksonville, former board member,
expressly for this particular project.
THE WM. WELLS
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The story of the Wells Print Shop begins in February 1782, when printer
William Wells came to St. Augustine from Charleston, S. C. The move was an
escape from the Revolutionary developments in Carolina, a change for which
he as a Tory had no sympathy. With him the Englishman brought his printing
press and all equipment.
Shortly after his arrival his brother John, who also lived in Charleston,
joined him to assist in the new enterprise. To help make a living William Wells
started a newspaper, the "East Florida Gazette". This was not only the first
newspaper in St. Augustine but in Florida as well. It was, naturally, in
In addition to commercial printing the two brothers also did bookbinding,
publishing two complete works during their stay in the town. Titles of these
were: "Nature and Principles of Public Credit" and "Case of the Inhabitants
of East Florida."
The Wells brothers' residence in St. Augustine was brief, however, for a
year after their arrival Florida and St. Augustine were returned to Spanish
possession as part of the treaty ending the Revolutionary War. Since most of
the British population departed it became no longer feasible to publish a
paper in English. A little more than a year after his arrival Wells left St.
Augustine in March 1783 and went to Nassau where, with the same
equipment, he published the "Bahama Gazette".
This building is a facsimile of the typical all-wood board-and-batten gabled
structure preferred by British settlers for ease and speed of erection and
The press being operated in the shop is a replica of the kind used during
the last half of the eighteenth century on both sides of the Atlantic. It was
made here in the Preservation Board shops in 1966, and has been in daily use
since that time. The press is not for demonstration only. Three of its principal
uses are: to make reproductions of two different antique maps of St.
Augustine for sale at the shop, to print leaflets, and to embellish everyday
functional objects such as the imprinting of the emblem on paper bags used
by the Benet Grocery. Of primary interest to visitors, however, are exact
replicas of the 1783 "East Florida Gazette" being printed before their eyes,
and available for purchase as a souvenir with historic value. Interior
furnishings visible in the shop include a book-binding press and an
accountant's desk, both genuine antiques. Adding additional atmosphere are
several very old books in glassed cases on the walls, illustrating early versions
of both the printing and the binding arts.
THE CERVEAU HOUSE
This is an original house, constructed in the mid-19th century.
Although archaeological investigation has not been completed on this
property, documentary research indicates no building on the site until the
period of British occupation of St. Augustine; by 1783 there is identifiable on
a contemporary map a "timber-frame and shingle house, in bad condition,
palm thatch roof, owned by Sebastian Coll". Ownership of the lot was
retained by the Crown. Coil was a member of the Minorcan colony which
migrated from New Smyrna in 1777.
Records are incomplete, but available information from the inventory and
assessment of 1790 describes the property thus: "a wooden house covered
with palm belonging to Jose Buchany on the King's lot", with boundaries
plus the tax assessment. Apparently Buchany borrowed money from Miguel
Segui and gave him a mortgage on the property in 1791. The Spanish
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governor in 1803 ruled in favor of the heirs of Miguel Segui and awarded
them the title due to non-payment of the mortgage.
Segui's widow Antonia and the other heirs promptly sold the property to a
Don Carlos Goberto de Ceta, who within a year resold it to Margarita Ysard.
A later owner is listed as aJ. Baya. The current name is that of the last
proprietor, Miss Blanche Cerveau.
The present dwelling, well preserved and currently occupied by a "straw
market", is typical of the breeze-oriented design popular during most of the
19th century on the Florida coast and in the Bahamas. The long windows
which reach to the floor and the wide two-story porches on the east and
south sides were fashioned to receive maximum benefit from the breezes
from the nearby bay. A typical St. Augustine Spanish feature, however, is the
lack of openings on the north and west sides, thus keeping out the north wind
in winter and the hot west sun in summer.
Originally the house was roofed with cypress shingles, replaced in this
century by metal sheeting; hand-split shingles from local forests have now
been installed to retain the initial appearance. Paint samplings indicate the
present color scheme to be the one used throughout the life of the building.
Old records list an herb garden, chicken house, and fig, persimmon, and
pecan trees behind the dwelling. As was customary the yard was of plain dirt,
swept daily by the housewife in the Spanish manner; grassy lawns were rare in
St. Augustine until late in the century.
THE LEATHER SHOP
This small structure, although not an actual reconstruction of a specific
historic building on the site, is nevertheless an accurate replica of a saddlery
or harnessmaker's shop during the period of English occupation of St.
Augustine, 1763-83. Typical features are the railed porch for tying customers'
horses, the board-and-batten siding, small-paned glass windows, handsplit roof
shingles, and hand-forged hardware.
Inside the building visitors will see a costumed leathercraftsman at work,
tooling, decorating, staining, and polishing saddles, bridles and other harness
items, belts and holsters, boxes, book-cover, and other assorted ornamental
but useful articles.
In the foreground behind the counter is a marble-topped stand on which
hand tooling and die-stamping of the moistened leather is done. Behind this
on either side is the cutting bench and the dyeing-polishing bench. In the
center of the work area stands a saddle-shaper and a stitching horse for hand
sewing. From the ceiling hang stirrups, saddle-frames, and bridles. Rolled
hides fill the shelves.
The large wooden object on the visitor's left is a collar-sizer for
horse-collars. Beside and opposite it are saddle racks, on one of which is an
antique English sidesaddle made by the official saddler to the Queen.
On the walls may be seen two informational charts: to the right a complete
anatomical chart labeling all external parts of a horse, to the left a saddle
chart likewise identifying all features of a standard saddle by their correct
Although this building is English in style it is assumed that a Spanish
leather shop of the period (late 18th century) would have been similar in
appearance. Spaniards were renowned horsemen, and all travel in Florida
away from the rivers was of necessity on horseback due to lack of roads.
Proper care of the animals and their accoutrements were vital to survival.
THE BLACKSMITH SHOP
This building is not only a reconstruction of a similar shop which stood
near the spot in the late 18th century but also a sample of English colonial
carpentry. It is a typical "out-building", used for many purposes in past
centuries. All structural elements were shaped from pine logs with broad-axe
and adze, then notched or mortised and pegged. The dirt floor, shuttered
window openings, and lack of interior finish are all standard features of the
Records for the property have been traced as far back as 1771, midway
through the 20-year period of British control of St. Augustine. At that time a
row of lots and buildings belonged to an Alexander Skinner. In 1782 he sold
them to a David Morran, who rented one of the buildings to a blacksmith.
When in 1784 Spain regained possession of Florida Morran returned to
England, leaving his wife here to take charge of the property and sell it if she
could. Apparently she was not successful, because later Morran claimed
compensation from the British Crown. When Mrs. Morran departed late in
1784 the property was left in the hands of land agents James Henderson and
Jesse Fish for ultimate sale to returning Spaniards.
The present building reproduces all the features of the original 18th
century shop. Most noticeable is the double forge, one inside with huge
bellows at the left for heavy or intricate work requiring high heat and careful
craftsmanship, the other outside next to the poled corral for routine
On the doors, ledges, boxes, and table are displayed some of the objects
made by today's blacksmith, a descendant of early Minorcan settlers. In
addition to all hardware and iron tools used in and on the restored and
reconstructed houses in the area he produces reproductions of 18th century
candle and rush-light holders, hardware, and a wide variety of ornamental
objects available for purchase by visitors as souvenirs.
THE WILLIAM SIMS
This is a frame house-shop combination typical of the kind built by English
refugees from the American Revolution in the 1780's. A silversmith named
William Sims from Scotland apparently operated such a shop in St. Augustine
during the British era, migrating with all his tools and possessions. The exact
location of his establishment is unknown; this building only reproduces the
Sims utilized the center area as a showroom and reception room. The
gateleg table is a late 18th century antique. So is the pitcher. Against the east
wall is a 19th century copy of a Chippendale chair.
The small display case contains an assortment of antique sterling silver
spoons from various periods between 1750 and 1800, plus a heavy pewter
one from the early 1700's. The northeast wall case contains on its upper shelf
a pair of Georgian pewter candlesticks, an 1800 model candle-wick trimmer
(sometimes wrongly called a "snuffer") and tray of silver plate, a cutwork
sterling silver basket dated 1785 by its hallmarks, and a plated-silver ladle; the
lower shelf displays a modern reproduction of a 1790-model English tureen
or serving dish, a mid-19th century sterling silver copy of a 1760 "pipkin",
(used for pouring hot water or milk into a cup or pot), a typical 1785-model
English pewter "tea-caddy" with bone-handled lid and a lock and key (to
keep servants from removing tea in the owner's absence), and a modern
reproduction of a 1760 English pewter pitcher.
The double case in the southeast corner contains on its upper shelf an early
19th century silverplated desk set with two inkwells and a center holder for a
sealing-wax candle, a pewter double-lens fish-oil reading lamp recorded from
1790, and a 1780 antique cylindrical pewter one-pint measure; below on the
lower shelf stands a pair of antique silver "baluster" style candle-sticks (so
called because they are shaped like balusters on stairways in classical Georgian
architecture), a brass ladle, and a late 18th century pewter pitcher with
hinged lid and bearing an English hallmark on its bottom. Hanging on the
exterior of the showcase is an antique copper cooking pan.
The western half of the large room served as the silversmith's shop. The
dozens of assorted iron tools such as the miniature vise-anvils and hammers
are antiques of the period. So is the accountant's desk, on top of which sets
an even older silver-plated coffee pot with walnut handle and bone rosette
lid-knob. Likewise of early 19th century manufacture are the keys and the
brass scales on the wall.
Other featured items of furnishing are modern reproductions made in our
shop: the wire-reducer with its thick belt, massive handles, and set of dies for
shaping silver wire as well as reducing its diameter; the work-bench against
the north wall, with spaces for three apprentices to work, the huge bellows
beside the fireplace where casting is done; the reed chairs, of a type probably
made locally in the 18th century. On the railing between workshop and
reception area is a small display rack for exhibiting different styles of.spoons
available to the customer.
Antiques of the period in the north wing of the building are: the dresser,
with its wig stand and jewel box; the large "blanket chest", used principally
to store clothing in an era without closets; the Turkish rug on the floor, and
the candle-holder on the table.
Early 19th century pieces are: the wash-stand with mirror, pitcher, and
bowl; the table in "Chinese Chippendale" style; and the Hepplewhite
Modern reproductions of period items are the bed, the reed chairs, the
table items, and the two wall decorations (soldier print and map of Florida).
DE HERRERA HOUSE
In the long history of colonial St. Augustine there were produced several
maps which indicated the block numbers, the lots, and all buildings with their
dimensions. Most maps also had a key which gave the owner's name and a
brief description of the property. On a Spanish map dated 1764 this house
is recorded as a "ripio" (rubblework) dwelling belonging to a Juan de Muros.
Juan de Muros was not a native of St. Augustine and his place of birth is
illegible in the records. In 1755 he was married to Maria de Loreta. One of
their sponsors was a Captain Pedro Alcantar; it is therefore quite probable
that Juan was also a military man.
The house, in the building style of the period, was placed on the street line
with its main entrance through a patio on the southside. Entrance was
through the loggia or porch which faced the side yard, admitting the winter
sun but excluding cold winds. One entered and left through a gate in the
fence. This is what has become known as "St. Augustine Architecture" it
resembles the Spanish, yet has character of its own.
In 1763, when the fortunes of a distant war gave Florida to Great Britain
her subjects came peaceably to St. Augustine. With the new regime most
Spaniards moved to Havana, leaving properties to be sold by an agent. A
British map dated 1765 lists-this particular property in the name of a William
Wilson, and shows addition of an outbuilding. Wilson dealt in purchase and
sale of land, most of which was in large parcels outside the city.
When the British flag in turn left Florida in 1783 with it went the vast
majority of citizens, unwilling to give allegiance to Spain. The Spanish census
of that year indicates the house was in the hands of William Slater, native of
England, appointed vendue master by the governor. 1785 records show sale
to Luciano de Herrera. The Spanish map of 1788 describes it as: "house of
masonry, and some divisions of wood, in fair condition, rented by Don
Luciano de Herrera to the tailor Eduardo Esten, as well as its lot". From the
map it is evident the house had been altered.
Luciano de Herrera was appointed by the Governor to remain in St.
Augustine to conclude the sale of properties for their owners. He soon
thereafter also gave Herrera the "public relations" task of handling
delegations of Indians visiting St. Augustine. Herrera's knowledge and
experience with Indian leaders made him their official host and protector. He
had to make certain their visits were free from any unpleasant incident, dole
out gifts from the king's store, keep them away from taverns and report any
tavernkeeper serving them liquor. Until his death in 1788 Luciano de Herrera
served as Indian commissary for the province.
The heirs of Herrera sold the house in 1789 to Miguel Isnardy. It is
described as a "rubble-work masonry house with lot".
Isnardy, listed as a new resident, was a sea captain who carried on trade
between Florida, Havana, Philadephia and New York in his own vessel, was
also successful in the building trade, and owned much property. He was
contractor for the building of the Cathedral.
Isnardy sold the property by 1792 to Pedro de Cala, a free Negro, and the
house is described as "of stone, wood and shell, on St. Charles Street" and
gives it boundaries.
Five years later the dwelling was in turn sold by Pedro de Cala to Jose
Lorente, who made extensive changes to it. A new resident in St. Augustine
next bought the house in 1803, Don Gabriel Guillermo Perpall, who remained
owner well after Florida became a U. S. territory in 1821.
This reconstruction of the house as it appears during Herrera's time, with
its patio leading to a loggia entrance, is most unique in that it has all the
exterior charm and atmosphere of a Spanish colonial home, yet inside is the
modern and functional business office of the Southern Bell Telephone and
Telegraph Company. Its decor is completely Spanish; hand-crafted desks,
chairs and other furnishings were made by skilled craftsmen especially
for this situation. Featured in the interior is the original hearth and various
artifacts uncovered during archaeological investigation. Local residents enter
this unusual house to pay their telephone bill, others come to admire a
blending of the historic past with the modern business world.
FLORIDA HERITAGE HOUSE
This is a reconstruction of a late Spanish colonial-style house built in the
early nineteenth century. Later a building stood on this site known as the
City Hotel, owned by Seth M. Wakeman, a merchant from Connecticut who
also operated a grocery store in it.
When the twentieth century hotel structure was being razed for
reconstruction of the house, human-skeletons believed to be of Timucuan
Indians were discovered scattered about under the property. How they came
to be buried there and by whom remains an unsolved mystery. It is assumed
that either they died during an epidemic or may have been killed in a skirmish
with the Spaniards. The bodies were buried without much preparation, as
they were stacked on top of each other in some instances. A small portion of
the floor has been left open to allow the visitor to view a part of this burial
ground and the skeletal remains.
The wall panel accompanying the drawing of a Timucuan Indian explains
some of the theories as to why these bones of Florida's first inhabitants are in
Exhibits in the building are arranged in chronological order, left to right,
beginning with the Indian cultures. First may be seen, in addition to the
burials, a brief history of Florida's Seminole Indians. Showcases contain
typical clothing, dolls, baskets, a ceremonial rattle made from a whole
tortoise shell, and other artifacts.
Next in order the visitor may see objects which were part of Spanish life in
colonial St. Augustine, recovered from excavated sites. A Spanish stirrup,
various types of hardware, and a large olive jar are some examples.
Of particular interest to many is the Spanish coin and gold collection
recovered from early 18 century shipwrecks along the Florida coast. The
silver coins were minted in the "New World" for shipment to Spain and were
called "reales". The gold pieces, which were struck from gold bars, were
called escudoss" and "doblones". Both are in various denominations. A
curious item is a beautiful gold chain, in perfect condition, which was found
at the bottom of the sea and which is still partly embedded in a piece of coral
just as it was discovered. The "sea diver's view", with multi-level peep holes,
allows the visitor a glimpse of the ocean's floor with other items which were
found there, just as the diver encountered them: ingots, china cups, coins,
chains, cannon balls, and assorted hardware pieces can be identified.
In the center of the room a scale model of the north section of the colonial
city is a visual aid to explain the extent of the program of restoring and
recreating America's birthplace, and gives a miniature view of how the 18th
century city will appear when complete.
A tall showcase contains gifts presented to the City of St. Augustine by
Spanish governmental agencies and cities, such as a replica of the 16th
century Spanish sword used by the city's founder, Pedro Menendez de Aviles,
as well as bagpipes, medals, photographs, and other mementoes.
Additional articles of historic significance shown in this building are an
18th century carved colonial chest: memorabilia of St. Augustine's Flagler or
"Golden" Era, and a review of modern industry in the city. The triangular
kiosk illustrates the different aspects of the Historic St. Augustine
Preservation Board's activities on its exterior panels, and encloses a display of
representative samples of handcrafts produced in its shops.
On the west side of Aviles street near the plaza there stood in the 18th
century a Spanish military hospital. During the British occupation of St.
Augustine 1763-1783 a Scottish carpenter and builder named William Watson
purchased and remodeled into a dwelling a stable which stood opposite it.
Soon thereafter he built a new house a few steps to the southeast (Watson
House), and his former residence was remade into a convalescent home. Not
long after the Spaniards retook possession of the town a fire destroyed the
hospital. In 1791 the government purchased the convalescent home and
modified it for use as a military hospital. This present structure is a
reconstruction of that historic edifice on its original site.
Above the main entrance the visitor first sees the coat-of-arms of Charles
IV, king of Spain during the late 18th century. Entering the building on6
notices first the apothecary shop with its pharmacist surrounded by antique
drug jars from Spain; in historic times the resident apothecary had to grow his
own herbs and/or gather wild ones. On the counter is a modern replica of a
traditional mortar and pestle. Behind the grille is visible an old Spanish
marble pill-rolling slab, with marks for slicing pills from a cylinder of
medicinal material, some of which would have been ground in the small
bronze 18th century mortar beside it. The book is an 18th century French
volume of prescriptions, many of which are in Latin. An antique balance -
scale with weights completes the main working area. Beyond it in the
glass-topped case are 19th century doctors' bleeding knives for letting blood
Beyond the antique Spanish floor-chest and modern reproduction reed
chair can be seen the darkened morgue, where relatives and friends of a dead
soldier might pray and burn candles for the traditional 24-hour period. A
grieving young lady in black sits, fan and rosary at hand, beside the deceased.
He, in dress uniform, lies in an antique mortuary bed brought from Spain; the
sides are hinged to facilitate movement of the body from stretcher to bed
and bed to coffin. The iron candle brackets are reproductions made in our
Next is the doctors' office, where operations where also performed. All
furnishings except the bed are 18th century antiques. Here the resident
physician prepares further bandaging of a soldier patient. Outside the door is
the official bulletin board, on which may be seen translations of excerpts
from the Spanish Royal Army Medical Corps' regulations as to personnel and
The large room beyond is the Officers' Ward, being bigger, lighter, and
airier than the rest and including a table for eating and card playing. Hung on
one of the wall clothing-pegs is an antique bed-wrench for periodic tightening
of ropes supporting the straw-filled mattresses. There is a door to the loggia
outside for use when weather permitted. A water-jar and dipper stands in the
corner. A toilet-box with jar rests against the south wall. Each bed is
equipped with the necessary T-bar and mosquito net. The fireplace is used
both for warmth and for heating water in the old kettle. A portrait of a saint
overlooks the room.
Through the next door is the Enlisted Men's Ward, with beds for sergeants
and corporals, a long shelf for lowly privates (built for four but in an
emergency could accommodate eight). The ward attendant performs nursing
duties for the three patients, each with different ailments. Minimum
accessory items are mosquito nets, toilet box, and candle holders.
At the rear of the building is located the Isolation Ward, with two patients.
Besides the standard features this room also has floor-length white
draw-curtains, pulled when the Governor or any other visitor not previously
exposed visited and/or inspected the hospital, to prevent contagion. The
stairway leads to the second floor, historically the living quarters for
attendants and employees. Current plans call for conversion of the upper
story to a Museum of Florida Medical History as soon as sufficient funds are
This is a reconstruction of the home of a British subject who was a
builder-carpenter in St. Augustine during the late 18th century.
Records show ownership and descriptions of this property from the early
history of the colonial city. The first Spanish map lists "houses of stone and
boards, the property of Dn. Juan Jose de Arransate" and gives the
dimensions. The British map of 1765 indicates there were three houses on the
block under the name of Mr. Rogers. Little is known about Mr. Rogers; he
most likely was an agent for the sale of properties.
After this, ownership changed several times in a short period. First it was
sold to a James Henderson who in bankruptcy sold to James Penman in 1772.
This British owner, James Penman, was a very influential as well as a
controversial figure in St. Augustine politics, quite often at odds with the
Governor. Penman was an attorney by profession as well as a leading
merchant, planter, and loyal friend of the Minorcan colony leader, Dr.
Andrew Turnbull. In and out of disputes with Governor Tonyn, Penman left
East Florida and became a Councilor and Commissioner of Claims in the
province of Georgia in 1779; just prior to leaving he sold his property to
William Watson left England for East Florida in 1766 and remained until
February 1784 after the change of sovereignties. He was a mature
journeyman who purchased and renovated old houses. In some cases he built
new ones, then sold them at a profit. He must have been a man with better
than average imagination, for he is credited with having converted a 20 x 80
foot row of stables into a proper 7-room dwelling. That he was no ordinary
carpenter is also shown by his ownership of a large tract up North River from
which 20 negroes kept him supplied with lumber and shingles.
Behind the converted stables Watson built another dwelling house 32 feet
long 20 feet wide and 18 feet high which was a wooden framed house, glazed,
with short shingles, two stories high. In this house William Watson and his
family resided. It is a purely British structure which architectural historians
use as an example of the construction of that period.
When Florida was regained by the Spanish crown in 1783 Watson departed
soon after for England, and his properties were left in the hands of Father
Pedro Camps for disposal. In the Watson claims to the British crown for
properties left in the Florida colony it is recorded that on his return to
England he was shipwrecked and lost all his possessions.
Father Camps was the guardian of a young boy, Martin Mateo Hernandez,
who came to Florida with the Minorcan colony from the Isle of Minorca in
1785. Martin Hernandez died on the island of St. Thomas in 1799, and his
heirs made claim to the property which ended in 1802 when the last heir
Today this reproduction of a fine example of British colonial architecture,
typical of the houses built in tropical areas, provides a dual residence in an
atmosphere of a by-gone era.
HISTORIC ST. AUGUSTINE
The origins of Government House are shrouded in early St. Augustine
history, which begins with its settlement in 1565. The first governors
occupied their own homes, without an official residence, and apparently
these were the usual thatch-roofed wooden houses, on choice lots near the
waterfront. In 1598, upon the laying out of the town's central plaza by royal
decree, Governor Gonzalo Mendez de Canzo built his own residence facing its
west end; this was the first known structure on the present Government
House site. Canzo's successor in 1604 arranged for purchase of the building as
the official residence, which it remained until 1689-1690 when it was
replaced by a two-story masonry house with balconies. This in turn was
burned in 1702 by British troops departing after their unsuccessful siege of
the "Castillo" or fort into which the population had fled.
"Government House" as it came to be called was rebuilt in 1706 on a large
scale, for use as residence, office, court, and social center of Florida. Another
renovation occurred in 1759, bringing the structure to the stage of
development shown in the painting done in 1764. Walls were of locally
quarried shellrock called "coquina" 22 inches thick, capped by a shin-
gled gable roof. The official Doric-style entrance faced eastward toward
the plaza and the sea. A masonry stairway led to a porch or gallery, thence to
living quarters on the second floor. Semi-detached outbuildings within the
walled compound included the kitchen, servants' quarters, stable, guardhouse,
and four privies. A watchtower, now gone, overlooked the gardens and
orchard at the rear as well as the town in general. Accounts tell of gala social
events which took place in the house and courtyard, and mention public
appearances of the governor and family on the east balcony on festival days.
By the treaty of 1763 Florida passed into British ownership as "ransom"
for previously-captured Havana, with Governor James Grant the new
occupant of Government House. He deplored the shuttered window openings
and soon replaced the heavy wooden blinds with glazed double-hung sash.
Further British additions to the property included a new stable and coach
house in 1766.
At the close of the American Revolution Florida and St. Augustine were
returned to Spain by treaty. In 1785-87 the governor's mansion again
underwent major rebuilding. All wooden parts were replaced, walls
strengthened, and the entire finished product whitewashed. Once again
Spanish government and justice were dispensed from the big house on the
tree-lined plaza. Soon, however, the long negotiations began for the
acquisition of Florida by the United States. Pending their outcome the
Spanish crown saw no point in spending money on maintenance, and
Government House gradually deteriorated in the subtropical climate. When
actual cession occurred in 1821 the old building was patched up for civil use.
Federal Judge Smith used part of the lower floor as a courtroom. In 1823,
before Tallahassee became the territorial capital, the newly-elected Legislative
Council met in the mansion; laws were again formulated in the building from
which Spain had once administered its claimed territory of 300,000 square
miles, from the Carolinas to Key West and the Atlantic to the Mississippi.
In 1833-34 Government House was rebuilt with federal funds, following
plans drawn up by Architect Robert Mills, later to be famous but still only on
the threshold of his career. Much larger now, the structure contained 16
rooms; one was the postoffice but the others were for courtroom and similar
federal functions. Locally the building came to be called "The Courthouse".
During the Civil War Federal troops were headquartered in it. Interim repairs
were made in 1868. In 1873 another major remodeling was ordered, using
plans by architect William M. Kimball. The main structure was lengthened to
the west by 27 feet, the roof raised, and new porch added. Through the next
60 years the Post Office and Customs Office gradually took over more and
more of the building as the town grew. Ultimately further enlargement
became necessary, so in 1936-37 facilities for these and other federal agencies
were doubled. Finally in 1965 the requirements of modernization and
automobile parking dictated the abandonment of Government House in favor
of a new postoffice building at the edge of the city's business section. The
historic structure was transferred as surplus property on February 14, 1966
from the General Services Administration to the State Of Florida as a public
monument to be administered by the St. Augustine Historical Restoration
and Preservation Commission. Pending appropriation of the necessary funds
for restoring, use is made of the 1937 wing by the Commission (recently
re-designated the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board) staff for a
research library, archaeological and curatorial laboratories, and historical
displays; the original or east wing is unoccupied, its ground-level floor
removed by excavatory probing for earlier foundations. Portions of original
walls remain on the north, east, and south sides.
During its long life St. Augustine's "Government House", now much
admired and photographed in its picturesque setting by thousands of tourists,
housed many functions from gubernatorial residence to the county
agricultural agency. Throughout the two-century span, however, its one
continuing role was as a center of legal administration in all its forms -
Spanish colonial, British courts of Common Pleas and General Sessions,
military courts martial and modern federal judicial processes. During the first
hundred years, except for the 20-year English occupation, the method by
which "justice" was dispensed was anything but legalistic. Spain's generally
complex and ponderous judicial system was totally absent in Florida. St.
Augustine was a military outpost, established to protect shipping lanes and
maintain the Spanish presence on disputed territory. Governors were military
men without training or knowledge in the field of civil law. Usually the
colony contained no one else with such training either. The nearest colonial
"audiencia" was in faraway Santo Domingo. Although there was much
complaint to the Crown about this lack of facility for appropriate civil and
criminal hearing, nothing resulted from it. Respective governors made their
own local rules, and enforced them with varying degrees of severity
depending upon whim and personality. Punishment for crimes also was
frequently according to social status of both accused and victim: slave,
servant, indentured laborer, soldier, or aristocrat. Fines, a jail sentence,
corporal punishment, or hard labor were possible penalties for theft or public
drunkenness. Offenders were brought to the governor's office by his military
guards, whereupon a summary court with no appeals, little documentation,
and less investigation administered "justice" with dispatch. A Negro slave was
fined 30 pesos by Governor Zuniga in 1710 for murdering an Apalache
Indian, while in 1760 an indentured laborer killed his Spanish overseer and
was sentenced to death by Governor Palacio, who also decreed the murderer
be beheaded and his head displayed at the site of the crime as a deterrent to
others. No established pattern of justice apparently existed, at least for
second-class citizens for whom there was no provision in the Spanish code.
Fortunately in the sparsely populated outpost community there was little
cause for real crime. Infrequent misdemeanors were adjudicated in the
military manner. Formal litigation, even less frequent, did result in illegal and
even blundering practices, but most were eventually rectified by higher
authority once the reports of proceedings reached them, though this normally
required years of delay.
During the British occupation of 1763-83, Government House sheltered
"His Majesty's Council for East Florida" (the colony having been divided for
easier administration into East and West sections) and the newly established
Common Pleas and Peace courts until 1772 when the old Spanish hospital in
the center of town was reconstructed as a courthouse and jail. In the English
manner a complete set of civil officials from chief justice to jailer assisted the
governor in legal procedures. Even so, dealing with alleged crimes by Indians
could be and was handled by the governor himself through his powers as
overall head of the provincial government, and punishment of smugglers
could likewise be summarily meted out by him as vice-admiral of the colony,
commissioned by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty for this as well
as defense purposes.
Finally, as St. Augustine and Florida were incorporated into the United
States in 1821, Government House lost its old Spanish mien. Structurally
reborn and periodically rejuvenated, it passed through the 19th and into the
20th centuries as a handsome and useful guardian of modern governmental
processes. With time, money, and patience this most historic of American
civic buildings may once again regain its romantic Spanish flavor.
~5,&J ~yfY -- -
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A brief story of the historic city of St. Augustine and
descriptions of 28 restored and reconstructed buildings,
supervised by the Historic St. Augustine Preservation
Board and St. Augustine Restoration, Inc.