Group Title: Historic St. Augustine: Block 7 - Lot 4
Title: Statement of historical significance
Full Citation
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 Material Information
Title: Statement of historical significance
Series Title: Historic St. Augustine: Block 7 - Lot 4
Physical Description: Report
Language: English
Publication Date: 1976
Subject: Saint Augustine (Fla.)
37 Saint George Street (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
De Hita House (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Saint Johns -- Saint Augustine -- 37 Saint George Street
Coordinates: 29.8966 x -81.313257
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00090508
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution.
Resource Identifier: B7-L4

Full Text

Statement of Historical Significance

Lot 4 Block 7

In 1763 this site was occupied by two houses, one of coquina, the other

of tabby. The first belonged to Bernardo Gonzalez, the other to Ger6nimo de

Hita. Both men served in the mounted dragoons. When Gonzalez and De Hita

left Florida in 1763-64 with the rest of the Spanish population, their houses

passed into the hands of Jesse Fish, who sold them to Captain Andrew Rainsford.

About 1778 the houses disappeared, and the lot remained vacant for nearly a

century. Although a series of structures occupied the site during the late

nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, the property is once

again vacant. It has been excavated by Dr. Kathleen Deagan and her field school

from Florida State University, whose work revealed the foundations of the

Gonzalez and De Hita houses.

Because of its location this property is a key parcel in the implementation

of the Board's master plan. The houses are slated for partial reconstruction

to illustrate eighteenth-century building materials and techniques. Acquisition

of the property would allow the Board to seek funds for such development. Even

more important in the short run, the Board could expend state monies to stabilize

the exposed foundations, which would otherwise rapidly deteriorate.

Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board

July 14, 1976

Site Report Addendum
Lots 2, 3, 4, Block 7

In an effort to collect additional information on the De Hita and

Gonzalez structures, I re-examined the documents listed in the 1975

Ganong site report and read the following materials that had not been

analyzed previously:

East Florida Papers, Testamentary Proceedings, Bundle 301P5, No. 13

(will of Luciano de Herrera).

Field Note Division,Bundle 380

Spanish Land Grants. 5 vols. Tallahassee, Florida, 1940-41.

Wilbur Henry Siebert. Loyalists in East Florida, 1774 to 1785. 2 vols.

-e ses. DeLand, 1929.

No additional architectural data on the structures was found in the

documents. Through the analysis of the cartographic and documentary evidence,

however, a detailed study of property dimensions and lot use will be appended

to the original site report.

Analysis of 1975 Site Report

There is some confusion in the report as to the identification

of the De Hita and Gonzalez structures. Such identification could have

been determined solely through the documentary evidence. In 1764, both

De Hita and Gonzalez sold their properties to Jesse Fish, a fact substantiated

by the 1765 Moncrief map as well as the "1772 Puente Sale of Houses" document

and the"Jesse Fish Account Book." These records also indicate that the

Herrera, Gomez, and Gallegos properties (Puente E-)6, 76, 'X) were also

sold to Fish, thus corroborating the evidence that the Florencia property(Pr (-

was transferred to Fish's employer, William Walton, as so noted by Moncrief.

The absence of an entry for Florencia in the Fish Account Book indirectly

confirms Walton's ownership of the site. Consequently, the two-room or

In ( nAk hJJ e e


double structure identified in the report as the De Hita site represents,

in fact, the adjacent De Hita and Gonzalez residences. Archaeological

excavations in 1975 by Deagen located the neighboring oyster shell foundations.

Part of the confusion in identification arises over the apparent

existence of a property line immediately to the north of the assumed De Hita

house. As will be shown below, Moncrief placed that line approximately 16

feet to the south of the legal property boundary.

The following section will briefly summarize the history of the site

and its north-south frontage through 1837, incorporating additional inform-

mation from the Tallahassee Field Note Division records which was not included

in the 1975 report.

Revised Site History

The history of present-day lot 4, block 7, as the attached map indicates,

is closely related to the development of lots 2 and 3. Through his union with

Juana de Avero&in 1736 don Ger6nimo de Hita married into one of the more

prominent creole families in St. Augustine. Bernardo Gonzalez, despite his

marriage to a local mulatto/, Agustina Gollas, was also able to establish

a close association with the Avero clan through the sponsorship of his

marriage in 1746 by Antonia de Avero, Juana's sister, and her influential

husband, don Joaquii Blanco, the Guard of the Royal Storehouse. The marriage

with Gonzalez was Gollas' second, the first taking place in 1727 to Bernardo

Florencia, a native of St. Augustine. Perhaps because of her advance age

for childbearing, Gollas' union with Gonzalez remained childless.

As cavalrymen, both De Hita, a creole, and Gonzalez, a peninsular

from Molar in the Bishopric of Alcala"de Henares, earned 264 pesos annually,

incomes double the median royal pay. Compared to all the royal salaries,

however, the pay of a cavalryman put De Hita and Gonzalez in the

income bracket.

When De Hita and Gonzalez sold theirAtabby and stone houses uaspexkieti y

to Fish in 1764, each lot measured 15 varas (41.72 ft.) north-south. On

August 20, 1777, Fish sold both properties to Andrew Rainsford for the sum

tad of 134 pesos 6 reales. Rainsford purchased the Gonzalez stone house

for 88 pesos 3 reales, almost twice the market value of the De Hita tabby

structure which sold for 46 pesos 2 reales. This 30 vara (83.44 ft.)

north-south lot soon reverted to the British government and was sold at

public vendue on December 21, 1778 to Luciano de Herrera, a Spanish spy

in British East Florida, for 15 pounds sterling ( pesos reales).

The sales transaction notes that there was no house or houses on the lot

in late 1778. Apparently, Rainsford or the British authorities had de-

molished the structures during their brief ownership of the site.

From 1784 to 1788, Dragoon Captain don Antonio Fernandez claimed both
4fo 4 so D-
the unoccupied lot and the adjoining coquina structure formally owned by

his mother-in-law, Antonia de Avero, and used during the British Period

as a place of worship for the Catholic Minorcans. Including the 15 vara

north-south lot of the Avero house, the total frontage of the property

claimed by Fernandez amounted to 45 varas (125.16 ft.). Upon leaving

Florida in 1788, Fernandez left these properties in the possession of a

recent immigrant to St. Augustine, Francisco Ruiz del Canto, since

Canto's wife, Francisca de Hita y Salazar, as daughter of Geronimo de

Hita, claimed ownership of the lots.

Herrera, the legal proprietor of the 30 vara vacant lot, was unable

to prevent Fernandez and Canto from claiming the site for their families.

Discovered as a spy in 1782, Herrera quickly departed Florida for Cuba,

and upon the return of the Spanish to St. Augustine two years later, he

began to sell his extensive city propertiesA On November 10, 1788, he

sold Canto the vacant lot for 51 pesos 4 real$es, but because of his

premature death, failed to file a proper bill of sale.

This oversight later caused problems for Canto, the Chief Superintendent

of the Royal Works. In the fall of 1798, Sebastian Oliveros, a

looking for land upon which to build his residence, challenged Canto's

ownership of the unoccupied lot. CHarging Canto with failure to develop#

crown-granted land, Oliverto petitioned Governor Enrique White for 14 varas

of the lot. Canto in turn informed the Governor of the sales transaction

with Herrera ten years earlier. To avoid similar claims by "ignorant"

persons, Canto asked White to declare his purchase legal, which the

Governor did on September 24, 1798. The case further benefitted Canto by

enabling him to enlarge his property. During the British Period, the English

engineer who lived in what is now the Salcedo house made an alley across

from his residence and immediately north of the Canto ldt which connected

St. George St. with the Castillo. Established for the purpose of insuring

"quick passage to the fort," the alley measured approximately seven varas

(19.46 ft.) at its entrance on St. George St. and narrowed to barely two

varas (5.56 ft.)near the fort green. As seen in the attached map, the

British cut the alley through the 1764 Florencia lot, apparently after

having demolished the stone structure.

The Spanish, however, found the alley unnecessary and Canto on

October 2, 1798 peitti ed Governor White to grant him this strip of land

since it was "too small to be useful to any other individual." Based upon

a site inspection by the royal engineer Pedro Diaz Berrio, White two days

later granted Canto the seven vara strip which the petitioner appended to

his 30 vara vacant lot to the south. The ca. 1799 Berrio map of St.

Augustine shows that the alley had been incorporated into the Canto property.

By late 1798, Canto's property, including the deeded and granted

lots as well as the claimed Avero lot, measured 52 varas (144.62 ft).

Examination of the deed records of the late Second Spanish and Territorial

periodsAlindicate that through 1837 the property remained at approximately

145 feet. Further research into the city lot records will document the

evolution of property lines through the present day.

-\ Summary of Frontage

1. 1923 Block 7, Lot 4 68'

Lot 3 33'

Lot 2 47'

2. 1763-64

De Hita/Gonzalez

Total 30 varas (83.44'); 15 varas (41.72') each

3. 1777


Total 30 varas (83.44')

4. 1778


Total 30 varas (83.44')

5. 1784


Total 45 varas (125.16'); 30 vara vacant lot and 15 vara Avero lot.

6. 1788


Total 45 varas (125.161);

7. 1798


Total 52 varas (144.62') 30 vara vacant lot, 15 vara Avero lot,

and 7 vara (19.46') alley

8. 1815

Montes de Oca

Total 52 varas (144.62')

9. 1837


Total 52 varas (144.62)

Conversion factor:

1 vara= 2.781 ft.

Revised Chain of Title

Map and Key

January 22, 1764

don Gerdnimo de Hita and
Bernardo Gonzalez


August 20, 1777

Description of houses: tabby
and stone
Lots: 15 varas N-S x 71
varas E-W
Source: Juan Joseph Elixio de la
Puente, "Plano. . de
San Agustin, Lots 80 and
79, Block E

don Geronimo de Hita and Bernardo

Jesse Fish


Andrew Rainsford

Sale Price:
(De Hita

134 pesos 6 reales
- 46 pesos 2 reales;
- 88 pesos 3 reales)



, ^ o^

.eraM i--^/

December 21, 1778

November 10, 1788

October 4, 1798


C 3 0 igQ- C -)I -t4)

Description: house and lots
Source: Ibid.

Provost Marshall


Luciano de Herrera

Sale price: 15 pounds sterling
Description: lot (no house)
Lot: 30 varas N-S x 65 varas
Source: Field Note Division,
Bundle 319, No. 73, fol. 7

Luciano de Herrera


Francisco Ruiz del Canto

Sale price: 51 pesos 4 reales
Description: lot
Lot: 30 varas N-S
Source: Ibid., fols. 2, 3 & 6

Governor Enrique White


Francisco Ruiz del Canto

Description: alley
Lot: 7 varas N-S
Source: Ibid., fols. 4-6 &
18 -18v



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