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
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.
9-"v-. 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-M, 76, 7I) were also
sold to Fish, thus corroborating the evidence that the Florencia property(... A
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
double structure identified in the report as the De Hita site represents,
in fact, the adjacent De Hita and Gonzalez residences. Archaeological
DfZ ( I L
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 Averooin 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 mulattof, 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 Joaquin 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 -
When De Hita and Gonzalez sold theirAtabby and stone houses Psfee e~wy
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
tatR4 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
4 o 0f) sv r>-
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 Gerdnimo 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 realles, 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, Oliverv i 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 lt 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 peitio-~ 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
periodsAindicate 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.
F Summary of Frontage
1. 1923 Block 7, Lot 4 68'
Lot 3 33'
Lot 2 47'
Total 30 varas (83.44'); 15 varas (41.72') each
Total 30 varas (83.44')
Total 30 varas (83.44')
Total 45 varas (125.16'); 30 vara vacant lot and 15 vara Avero lot.
Total 45 varas (125.16I);
Total 52 varas (144.62')*30 vara vacant lot, 15 vara Avero lot,
and 7 vara (19.46') alley
Montes de Oca
Total 52 varas (144.62')
Total 52 varas (144.62)
Conversion factor: 1 vara= 2.781 ft.
Revised Chain of Title
Map and Key
January 22, 1764
August 20, 1777
don Gerdinimo de Hita and
Description of houses: tabby
Lots: 15 varas N-S x 71
Source: Juan Joseph Elixio de la
Puente, "Plano. .. de
San Agustin, Lots 80 and
79, Block E
don Geronimo de Hita and Bernardo
Sale Price: 134 pesos 6 reales
-- (De Hita 46 pesos 2 reales;
Gonzalez 88 pesos 3 reales)
December 21, !778
November 10, 1788
October 4, 1798
C 3 b0- C- I--tC
Description: house and lots
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
Lot: 30 varas N-S
Source: Ibid., fols. 2, 3 & 6
Governor Enrique White
Francisco Ruiz del Canto
Lot: 7 varas N-S
Source: Ibid., fols. 4-6 &