Group Title: Historic St. Augustine: Block 7 - Lot 5, Greek Shrine
Title: [Letter to Robert H. Steinbach re the Avero House]
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 Material Information
Title: Letter to Robert H. Steinbach re the Avero House
Series Title: Historic St. Augustine: Block 7 - Lot 5, Greek Shrine
Physical Description: Correspondence
Language: English
Creator: Shepard, Herschel E.
Publication Date: 1974
Subject: Saint Augustine (Fla.)
41 Saint George Street (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Saint Photios Greek Shrine (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Avero House (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Saint Johns -- Saint Augustine -- 41 Saint George Street
Coordinates: 29.896485 x -81.313233
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00090509
Volume ID: VID00121
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution.
Resource Identifier: B7-L5

Full Text

December 11, 1974

Mr. Robert H. Steinbach,
Director of Research & Interpretation
Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board,
P. O. Box 1987,
St. Augustine, Florida.
RE: The Avero House, St. Augustine, Florida
Dear Bob:

Our conference on Monday was most helpful to me, and I wish to thank you,
Ted and Cathy for your comments. As a result of our conversation, I enclose
a possible correlation with the Quesada Appraisal for your review, comment and
total destruction if necessary. As you know, an accurate comparison depends,
first, on the accuracy of the original Appraisal; secondly, on the accuracy of
field measurements, and thirdly, on the assumption that the existing walls are
indeed those listed in the Appraisal. The enclosed correlation assumes the fol-
1. The existing walls and the east wing walls you uncovered are those listed
in the Appraisal.

2. The Appraisal was a perimeter accounting of walls and did not include in-
terior partitions, exterior second-floor walls above first-floor roofs, and the
like. Certain unique additional features were also included. In essence, the
Appraisal is a quick description of exterior walls.

3. The Appraiser worked in a logical sequence in the following order: west;
south (including the patio complete); north; and east.

4. The relative value of the arches and pillars listed in the Appraisal indi-
cates to me that the masonry was one-story in height. I am beginning to think
that a wooden open second-story gallery existed above the Loggia, but I expect
this can never be proven with certainty. It is unfortunate that no interior
walls or partitions are listed; thus, there is no reference to the east wall
of Roan A.

I am now working on the 1816 Appraisal and will forward the results as soon as
possible. In the meantime, give the enclosure a hard look, if you will, and
I will see you next week.

Best regards,

Hersche E. Shepard.
Cy Mr. Ted Pappas With enclosure.




A. Method of Investigation

The Architect has studied all construction and finishes accessible without removal

of surfaces or materials. Certain pieces of door trim and nails have been removed

to establish methods, materials, continuity of construction and approximate dating.

Additional investigation will be accomplished in the near future during which quanti-

ties of finishes and materials will be removed. The results of the architectural

investigation to date have been correlated with archaeological and documentary re-

search currently available. A preliminary field investigation was conducted during

November 1974. The professional assistance of the following people is gratefully

acknowledged: Mr. Ted P. Pappas, AIA, Architect; Mr. Robert Steinbach, Archaeologist

of the St. Augustine Restoration Commission and Miss Kathy Deagan, Archaeologist.

The interest and support of Father Hondras of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jacksonville,

Florida is greatly appreciated.


The structure and property is currently iJ. ntifl d as The A .:- House, Site of the

Minorcan Chapel, 39 St. George Street, St. Augustine, Florida. .'he existing structure

is located at the west end of the property, and the west and north building lines fall

upon the property lines. This report includes only the existing above-grade portions

of the structure with regard to architec-ctal investigation. However, archaeolo-

gical investigation has been conducted within the building and within the site to the

east of the building. In addition, certain information is available from documentary

sources. Pertinent archaeological and documentary information, therefore, has been

incorporated in this report.


The existing structure consists of a two-story masonry and wood building rectangular

in plan. An oper. loggia occupies the southeast quadrant of the first floor. Interior

floors on the first floor are of recent concrete, except the loggia is paved with a

ceramic tile of recent manufacture marked "Habana, Cuba". The second floor is of wood

plank and beam constructsor,. Attic and roof framing is of wood beam co..-zructi ..i The

attic is os habitable ai i&s '.-.loored. All interior walls are apparentLy pla ..-red

directly the coquina masonry on the first floor. At the second floor, the plaster

is applie.. directly to the masonry except at certain furred areas and interior wood

partitions where plaster is applied over machine-cut wood lath. First floor ceilings

are formed by the exposed plank and beam construction of the second floor. All second


floor ceilings are plaster on machine-cut wood laths. Two second-floor doors

are of board and batten construction exhibiting 19th century rimlocks and strap

and spike pintle hinges. Remaining doors are late 19th century. All windows are

wooden, 6/6 lite, single-hung, held open by mean of spring-loaded keepers in the

sash jambs. Present roofing material is asbestos shingle.


A. General

Archaeological and documentary sources reveal that at least four instances of re-

building or remodeling had taken place between 1702 and 1815 ( ). Apparently

the site was first occupied by a two-room tabby structure having a clay floor. At

some time before 1743 the tabby structure was replaced by a house of coquina masonry,

and the west wall of the tabby structure may have been incorporated into the west wall

of the new structure. Archaeological and documentary evidence indicates that the

existing exterior masonry walls coincide with the masonry walls of the pre-1743 plan

with the exception of the east wall of Room B. With the exception of Pillar 1 and the

half-arch supported by it, the pillars and arches of the loggia also date from this

period. Thus from certain archaeological and documentary evidence we may conclude that

certain portions of the existing masonry walls date from the period 1725 to 1743.

Current architectural field data indicates that no wooden components of the house pre-

date the first quarter of the 19th century. Although further study of thenasonry walls

will be most helpful in establishing the sequences of construction, there is little

physical evidence at the site with which to establish a definitive original date through

architectural investigation

B. Earliest Above-Grade Construction

Architectural field investigation to date indicates that the following portions of

existing masonry walls have remained unchanged since construction and therefore probably

date from the 1725-1743 period,

(1) The south -wall of the house not including the second-story masonry por-

tion over the Loggia. This wall has fallen out of plumb from three to four inches to

the south at the second floor line, and was stabilized within the last 50 years by means

of tie-rrds and metal plates running north-south through the entire length of the


(2) The second floor portion of the west wall. The first-floor portion was

apparently rebuilt during remodeling by Frazer during 1946 to 1952.

(3) The north wall in its entirety may date from this period, although fur-

ther investigation is required at the chimney and the second-floor area above Room B.


(4) The Loggia pillars and arches with the exception of Pillar 1 and the
southern half of the arch which it supports. The second-floor masonry wall above the

pillars and arches is of later construction, as is the south wall of Room C. Although

archaeological and architectural evidence to date is inconclusive, it is possible

that the one-story masonry wall containing the arched doorway at the southwest corner

of the Loggia dates from this period. In any event, some type of construction was

required in thib area if the arches and pillars of the Loggia supported roof or floor


(5) The first-floor masonry wall located east of Room A.

Further field investigation may confirm window openings dating from this period.

Openings G, H, and I probably date from this period; openings C, F, J, 0, and N may !

date from this period.

Although additional architectural investigation may reveal evidence of roof framing,

doors, windows, and a stair dating from this period, it is probable that the only major

remainders of this period are the masonry components listed above.

4. REMODECLING 174I-1815.

Archaeological and documentary evidence indicate that the house was probably refloored

between 1743 and 1763, after which time the house fell into gradual disrepair and

ruin ( ). Between 1802 and 1815, the house was rebuilt or restored. The basic

plan remained unchanged although the masonry wall dividing Room A into two parts was

removed and the entire house was floored in tabby ( ). An appraisal of circa,

1816 indicates the main structure continued to have a flat roof ( ). Except for

archaeological and documentary evidence, none of the work accomplished during this

period is visible today with the possible exception of the upstairs fireplace and chim-

ney, and the floor framing of Room I.


A. Field Evidence

Archaeological and documentary sources neither confirm nor deny a mid-19th century

restoration. However, there is considerable architectural evidence that a major

remodeling occurred at this time.

B. Roof and Second-Floor Ceiling Construction

The present second-floor ceiling and roof are framed as shown in the accompanying dia-

gram. Since attics and foundation spaces are usually the least altered areas of build-

ings, earliest construction is usually found in these areas. In this case a crawl space

is not available, and investigation has been concentrated in the attic.


The joists and rafters are all hand-hewn on the top edge and probably the bottom. Most

are hand-hewn on the sides, although snme at the south wall were vertical stroke blade

cut or hand-sawn. Interior joists are not spliced and are approximately thirty-two

feet long. All fastening devices that are obviously part of early construction are

machine-cut, machine-headed nails and spikes. However, as noted on the diagram, the

outlookers on the north and south walls are mortised and tenoned into perpendicular

interior joists' and fastened with wooden pegs. All plaster visible from the attic space

is applied to machine-sawn wood lath measuring approximately l-5/16ths by 7/16ths inches.

At mid-span between ceiling joists and parallel to the ceiling joists, a flat nominal

one-inch thick plank supports the plaster lath. The plank is in turn supported by

scrap material spaced approximately 4 feet o.c. spanning between adjacent joists. The

nails in members supporting the laths are also machine-cut, machine-headed nails similar

to those found in the major framing. It is, therefore, very probable that the plaster,

lath, and ceiling and roof framing are of the same date.

Outlookers similar to those at the north and south walls are normally utilized when a

projecting eave is desired on all exposures, particularly in flat-roof construction.

In this case, however, the outlookers were installed upon the same module as the rafters

from the roof above to transfer the thrust created bq the hip rafters into the general

ceiling construction. There is no evidence that the present framing is related to earlier

flat roof framing.

When first constructed, the existing roof had no projecting eaves; the present decorative

outlookers forming the eaves are a very recent addition by Fraser ( ). The early

rafters and joists were cut flush with the outer face of the wall plate. A continuous

facia board sealed the outer edge of the plate, and a slight projecting was apparently

created by overhanging cypress shingles, pieces of which were discovered in the attic.

The cypress shingles were attached with cut nails, the ends of which can be seen pro-

truding through early sheathing planks still in place.

The building was also roofed at one time with metal tiles, many of which remain in the

attic. Metal tiles are 9-1/2 by 15-7/8 inches overall and are galvanized and painted

red. They are designed upon the Cortland patent and date from ca. 1900 ( .).

It is hoped that further investigation of the existing masonry walls will furnish evidence

of the flat-roof construction mentioned in the Appraisals of 1763 and 1816 and the Rocque

description of 1788.

The machine-cut nails and pikes indicate that the framing does not predate approxi-

mately 1830 ( ). The machine-sawn wood laths indicate a similar date. However,

the use of pointed rather than blunt screws in upstairs doors noted below indicates

construction does not predate ca. 1846-50 ( ). Unfortunately, the latest

date for this work is not as easily determined. However, portions of gas lines utilized


for lighting remain in the attic and indicate that this work probably preceded

the introduction of electricity to St. Augustine. Pending further research, the

latest date can be tentatively determined ca. 1900.

C. Second-Floor Framing

Second-floor framing visible above Rooms A and B. and the Loggia indicate that

the framing above each room is independent of the framing of neighboring spaces,

as seen in the schematic framing plan, Plate 2.

Joists above Room A are hand-hewn, spaced approximately and measure

x Since second-floor baseboards and the partition between Rooms D

and E is spliced beneath the partition, it is reasonable to conclude that the flooring

dates from the same period. Although dating of the beams requires further field in-

vestigation, it is probable they also date from this period. Workmanship indicates

they were not to be exposed but were to be concealed by a ceiling finish, probably

plaster on wood lath.

Joists above Room B are hand-hewn, spaced approximately and measure

x Although the differences in size and spacing between these joists and

those in Room A could be attributed to differing structural conditions, the additional

fact that the flooring is wider than that in Room A may indicate that the framing and

flooring in this area was installed at a different time. Further investigation is


Joists and flooring above the Loggia have been refinished, probably by Fraser, and

possible evidence of early finishes has been lost. However, machine-cut and headed nails

removed from flooring in Room C clearly date the beaded beams beneath Rooms C and J,

and the flooring in Room C, in the 1830-1900 period. The flooring in Room J was re-

placed when the present stair was Fraser, as was some flooring in Room C

where Fraser apparently removed an existing stair. The floor framing, replaced flooring,

and traces of an upper landing handrail in the floor and west wall of Room C clearly

indicate the presence of this stair.

D. Interior Finishes. Doors, and Windows

As noted above, the plaster ceilings of the second floor apparently date from the

middle 19th century. Since similar cut nails date the beaded baseboard at the second

floor from the same period, it is probable that the plaster walls, partitions and

furred area at the north wall on the second floor are from this period. In addition,

nails taken from the plaster trim surrounding Door 9 indicates that this opening is

from this period, and the identical design of the frames of Doors 10, 6 and 14 date them

from this period also.


The partitions creating Closet F, Hall G, and separating Rooms H & E are all of

recent date; wire nails are used throughout. Baseboards, door frames, doors and

hardware are of later manufacture. Additional evidence that the partition between

Rooms H & E is an addition is found in the plank flooring which is not interrupted

beneath the partition but continues beneath it. However, the hardware and construction

of Door 12 indicate that these minor rearrangements of partitions and installation of

doors occurred before 1900.

Doors 9 apd 10 are similar in construction, being formed of vertical boards with beaded

edges secured by two horizontal battens. The strap hinges are cast iron, fastened

with pointed screws. Evidence of earlier hardware is not visible on either door or

the frame of Door 9, although the frame of Door 10 at one time carried a door with

butt hinges. Doors 9 and 10 are the oldest in the building, but do not predate ca.

1846-50, as seen in the use of pointed screws ( ). The frame of Door 6

indicates similar strap and spike pintle hardware was employed there also. Unless

contrary evidence is found, it is reasonable to assume the strap and pintle hardware and

batten doors date from the mid-19th century remodelling. Thus the use of pointed screws

establishes the earliest remodeling date as 1846-50 ( ).

All existing sash exhibit modern window glass, spring-loaded keepers, and mill-made rails,

stiles, and muntins. Although sash with these characteristics were probably available

early in this century, the good condition of the existing units indicates they are of

very recent manufacture. It is certain that openings A, B, E, K. L, and M were pro-

vided after the 1743-1815 remodeling, since the walls in which they are located probably

date from the 1846-1900 period as discussed below.

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