CIIARLES E. PETERSON, F.A.I.A. Arclilecltuil Historian, Restoralionist and Planner
November 10, 1972
Mrs. Wn. G. Lockwood
Chairman, Study Committee
The National Society of the
Colonial Dames of America
5012 Yacht Club Road
Jacksonville, Florida 32210
Dear Mrs. Lockwood:
The undersigned flew down to Jacksonville the afternoon of Monday, October
30 and was met at the airport by Mesdames Freeman and Lockwood and put up for
the night at the new Holiday Inn south of the city. In the morning, the above
ladies were joined-by Miss Dena Snodgrass and we proceeded to St. Augustine,
where I spent three days.
Among the persons that came to the Ximenes-Fatio House on the first day
were Mr. Ben Lester, the owner of the Solana House just to the East (21 Avil6s)
and USNPS Park Superintendent George Schesventer. Both of those gentlemen
showed a great deal of interest in what we were doing. In the evening I read
a large part of Helen Hornbeck Tanner, Z6spedes in East Florida, Coral Gables,
Florida, 1963. That volume proves that a large amount of valuable and detailed
data can be got out of the documents of the second Spanish period at St. Aug-
During this trip we visited the Lindley (sp?) House (not restored), "The
Oldest House" (partly restored), the Llambias House (much restored) and the
Solana House (under work). From those specimens I get the general idea that
the X-F House has probably more of the original than the average St. Augustine
house of the Spanish period. Continued examination of old fabrics would show
just what was the local carpenters' vocabulary of that ancient city and guide
The evening of the 31st Professor F. Blair Reeves of the University of
Florida, Department of Architecture came over with a group of his students,
mostly undergraduates. They, on previous trips, had roughed out a set of five
sheets of measured drawings of the old X-F kitchen. From a set of ozalid prints
we reviewed what had been done. A close inspection of the building was made
and I pointed out additional elements to be analyzed and recorded on the draw-
ings especially at the old bake oven, lined with burned brick, said to be
the only old, private bake oven in the city. I recommended the addition of
332 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, Pa. 1910P9
2i4 \VAlil -Se2 623.
another sheet to make a more complete record. The blank spaces on each
sheet will be more or less filled up when the notes have been added to
record various observations relevant to a future restoration.
The first evening the students went over the X-F House with me and I
tried to differentiate the various periods of design on view. The next
morning we visited the Solana House with Mr. Lester who came down from
Jacksonville to show us around. The latter has had a connection with
Williamsburg, Virginia, has a house in Dorset, England and experience as
an antique dealer and a librarian. I pointed out what I believe are the
oldest features remaining in the house (woodwork and hardware) and the
several important resemblances to the X-F House, especially as to floor
plan. The house is said to have been built after 1803 but I think it
couldn't have been much after. And it is quite possible that both vere built
by Francisco Pellicer about whom we are hungry for information. The houses
should e considered jointly and, fortunately, Mr. Lester is most cooperative.
Mr. John W. Griffen, Director of the St. Augustine Preservation Board,
came over for a friendly visit and complimented us on the care with which
we are proceeding.
On Thursday afternoon I addressed the Colonial Dames at a party in a
private home in Jacksonville on the bank of the St. John's River. I compli-
mented them on the real progress so far, especially the thorough and sys-
tematic way in which the local research is being carried on by Mrs. Lock-
wood and Miss Snodgrass. The standards being set may well affect the whole
level of restoration work in the city, which has many problems.
I took a plane at 6:00 p.m. for Atlanta and Philadelphia, hoping that
I had helped the Dames make friends and earn respect in that interesting
community. Unfortunately the architect, Mr. Herschel E. Shepherd, Jr. of
Jacksonville was unable to join us as planned and we did not get a chance to
visit the new college in the old Ponce de Leon Hotel to see if they could
be of help in the matter of historic research and translations. Who knows
but there may be someone competent and eager to help in the history and
Following are some specific recommendations:
By all means acquire property to the west. The first house should be
demolished in order to restore the yard that was formerly there. The second
one might be useful for a custodian to live in. In any case it would protect
*the Dames' interests in the future.
Stairway and Gallery
The main stairway of the X-F House is apparently original and one of
its very best features. Unfortunately, through the years, the bottom step
has been buried in tabby, which is an open invitation to termites and rot.
I believe that the floor should be lowered to its original level which probably
drained adequately towards the yard. It may then be possible to eliminate the
raised masonry threshold in the house door over which we now have to step in
an awkward way.
A slice should be made through the tabby floor and the whole yard,
which, I'd guess, has been raised at least one foot. Returned to its
original level, the improved drainage all around, including that of the
old kitchen, will help prevent general dampness. Albert Manucy's studies
of the tabby floors in the Castillo are pertinent.
The drawings made by the students will be most useful as a basis
for the architect's restoration plans.
I am almost certain that there was a floor overhead in the oldest
section of the kitchen. When the work is underway and before the present
roof taken off, I suggest that a clear plastic rainproof cover on a pipe
frame be'erected over the whole to facilitate close study of the top of
the walls. Evidence of the size and spacing of old shingle laths can be
seen even now.
It appears to me that there is now no original wood at all in the
kitchen and all new fittings should be redesigned in the style of the time
and place. It is possible that the sockets for Spanish-style door frames
may be found buried in the tabby as was discovered at the Castillo. This
type of detail was widely used in the Spanish Caribbean.
Interior Tabby Floors
I believe that the general repair or replacement of tabby floors in
the house should await final restoration plans. There may well be more
interior partitions than are there now. Fpr interim use a light wooden
platform might be installed temporarily.
Before any serious restoration work is done I would recommend excavating
the interior courtyard of the house and all the area around the old kitchen.
You are fortunate to have an experienced agency like that at Gainesville wil-
ling to do it and I believe that no time should be lost.
It is recommended that Room No.L5 (as numbered on the HABS plans) on the
first floor be developed into an entertainment center to hold a billiard
table and a bar. The former can be covered and used as a table during parties.
The store goods in the Old Kitchen can be brought in and used as atmosphere
while the latter building is being restored. It is recommended that the
ceiling be plastered again and the walls white washed as was the custom
everywhere. There is plenty of evidence for doing that.
The original paint colors on the wood trim should be uncovered and used
as a guide for future work.
Miss Louisa's Room
It is recommended that one room be set aside to remember Miss Louisa
Fatio (died 1875). It would both incorporate personal memorabilia and
souvenirs of St. Augustine as an early winter resort.
It is quite possible that some parts of the house could be air-conditioned
unobtrusively for the comfort of the guides. 'Temperature control is not too
hard to do but 'humiditv control is.
For certain rooms at certain seasons a portable,-electric/humidifier
It is recommended that something documentary be published at once to
advertise your project and attract support especially help from the academic
Then, publish something worthwhile that will make your permanent mark in
the libraries of Florida history, possibly as a Bicentennial project. The
transcripts from Niles Register mentioned by Miss Snodgrass sounds like an
The energetic, imaginative and cheerful assistance during my visit is
Charles E. Peterson