Group Title: Historic St. Augustine: De Mesa Sanchez House, Block 7 Lot 6
Title: History of the deMesa - Sanchez house
Full Citation
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 Material Information
Title: History of the deMesa - Sanchez house
Series Title: Historic St. Augustine: De Mesa Sanchez House, Block 7 Lot 6
Physical Description: Report
Language: English
Creator: Scardaville, Michael C.
Publication Date: 1981
Subject: Saint Augustine (Fla.)
43 Saint George Street (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
de Mesa-Sanchez House (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Saint Johns -- Saint Augustine -- 43 Saint George Street
Coordinates: 29.896429 x -81.313225
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00091263
Volume ID: VID00078
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution.
Resource Identifier: B7-L6

Full Text

History of the DeMesa-Sanchez House

Today we are gathered in the courtyard of one of America's most historic

buildings. No, George Washington did not sleep here nor was an important document

signed here. This building, nevertheless, is historic because it is one of the

survivors of a great people who came to the New World, not from England, but from

Spain, the country that has settled and occupied most of the Western Hemisphere.

The Spanish founded and lived in St. Augustine for 235 years, and even the

British were here for two decades, but of this lengthy colonial era and of the

thousands of buildings constructed by the people of this colonial community, only

thirty-six are left as reminders of their makers.

This venerable building, the DeMesa-Sanchez House, belongs to this select

group, and is among a dozen which were built in the mid-eighteenth century,

decades before the English colonists up north declared their independence from


What do we know about the men and women who built, lived in, and used this

building for the last two centuries? After several years of architectural, ar-

chaeological, and historical research, we now know a great deal about this

historic property.

The first known owner, and perhaps builder, of the house is Antonio de

Mesa, a Mexican who came to St. Augustine by the 1740's where he became an em-

ployee in the Royal Treasury. However, when DeMesa lived here with his wife and

seven children, the house looked very different than it does today. This large

and rambling building started as a small, one-room, one-story residence constructed

out of the durable shellstone the Spanish called coquina.

DeMesa lived in his cramped residence only until 1763, the year when England

gained control of Florida and most of the Spanish inhabitants of St. Augustine left

for Cuba. In the twenty-one year British period, the house was owned by three

different parties, the most important being Joseph Stout, a Philadelphian who came

to Florida as a planter and plantation manager. Although Stout acquired the pro-

perty in 1771, he mainly lived on his indigo plantation south of Fort Matanzas.

This house was used for his export offices and for a place to stay when he and his

family visited the big city. And to better suit his needs, Stout enlarged the

small coquina house by adding several rooms along the street.

Shortly after making these improvements, Stout learned that Spain had re-

gained control of Florida, and, like the Spanish before, the English settlers of

St. Augustine abandoned the city to the new rulers. In 1784, Stout sold his house

to one of the first arrivals to the town, don Juan Sanchez, the royal master caulker

who had the all-important job of preventing the ships from leaking.

Sanchez was one of the leading Spaniards in the community. He had all the

right family and personal connections. His daughter was married to an official

on the governor's staff, and his ties with the Royal Treasurer led to the relocation

of the Florida Treasury to a part of the building in the mid-1790's.

Sanchez also had some money, and as most homeowners of means, he enlarged

his house to his liking. The building took on much of its current appearance by

1803. Sanchez built an east wing, added a second floor over the entire structure,

and constructed a detached one-story coquina kitchen to the rear of his residence.

Members of the Sanchez family lived here until the United States acquired Florida

in 1821, although they did not sell it until 1832 for the sum of $1,000.

The 1830's were a boom period for St. Augustine as many visitors and new

residents sought refuge here from cold northern winters or to recover from a

lingering illness. One such newcomer was James Lisk, a carpenter from upper

New York state who bought the house in 1835 and who proceeded to change the

Sanchez building into its present size and appearance. He enclosed several

porches and integrated the detached kitchen into the house, but he also did

something that brought some color to this increasingly American town: he added

a new layer of stucco over the coquina, scored it, and painted it pink. Who said

our ancestors were dull people?

Since the late 1830's, the house has had twenty different owners, most of

whom altered the building in some way, and it has been put to many diverse uses:

a boarding house, barber shop, restaurant, cigar and music shops, newspaper office,

antiques shop, and a museum.

In 1965 it was acquired by the St. Augustine Restoration Foundation which

transferred the house to the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board twelve

years later. Since 1977, the Preservation Board has been conducting research

and restoring the DeMesa-Sanchez House to its 1830's appearance since a restoration

to this period enabled us to retain much of the original and thus historic fabric

of the building.

It is gratifying for me to know that this four year intensive effort to be

as accurate as possible is recognized today by the Woodmen of the World. I am

sure Antonio de Mesa, Juan Sanchez, and James Lisk would also be pleased.

Dr. Michael C. Scardaville
Woodmen of the World Presentation
DeMesa-Sanchez House
May 2, 1981

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