-- PRELIMINARY REPORT ,I Y 4-C
ARCHITECTURAL INVESTIGATION OF THE AVERO HOUSE A B- 7
ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA
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 identified as The Avero House, Site of the
Minorcan Chapel, 39 St. George Street, St. Augustine, Florida. The 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 architectural site 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.
2. DESCRIPTION OF EXISTING BUILDING
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 construction. Attic and roof framing is of wood beam construction. The
attic is .CL habitable ari is unfloored. All interior walls 4J p apparently plastered
directly the coquina masonry on the first floor. At the second floor, the plaster
is applies 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 ofthe 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 trap
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.
3. EARLIEST PORTIONS OF EXISTING BUILDING
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
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-rods 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 thi' 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, O, 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. REMODELLING 1743-1815.
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 floqred 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.
5. MAJOR REMODELING OF THE LATER 19TH CENTURY (1846-1900)
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 some 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 bg 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 Rocquei
description of 1788.
The machine-cut nails and spikes 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. Tht flooring in Room J was re-
placed when the present stair was installed.by 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 then
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.