Group Title: Historic St. Augustine: Block 10 – Lot 1
Title: Rescued by Women
Full Citation
Permanent Link:
 Material Information
Title: Rescued by Women
Series Title: Historic St. Augustine: Block 10 – Lot 1
Physical Description: Clipping
Language: English
Creator: Keith, Thelma
Publication Date: 1958
Copyright Date: Public Domain
Physical Location:
Box: 4
Divider: B10 L1 - Dr. Peck History
Folder: Block 10 Charlotte St.
Subject: Saint Augustine (Fla.)
143 Saint George Street (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Dr. Peck House (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Peña-Peck House (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Saint Johns -- Saint Augustine -- 143 Saint George Street
Coordinates: 29.893507 x -81.312774
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00094115
Volume ID: VID00056
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: B10-L1

Full Text

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Section E

Sunday, June 8, 1958

Page 1

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By Thehna Keith
Written for The Herald

Sil 1 S S 5uiiii 1111 1

a-. = .. S. -'-. .~'- '-.- -

ST. AUGUSTINE-This is the story
of the Old Spanish Treasury of St.
Augustine and of the women of this
city who have preserved it.
It is the story of a genteel family
who lived a pleasant life behind a gar-
den wall and brown shuttered windows
and hid the secrets of their old house
from the public because they wanted
It is the story of how townswomen
-working without pay and with very
little acclaim for 26 years-have made
the quaint old place a delightful center
for eating and meeting, as well as a'
tourist attraction.

BA:CK IN 1931, one of the town's
elegant old ladies, Miss Anna G. Burt
died at the age of 81, leaving her home
to the city of St. Augustine.
But this was the height of the de-
pression and the city had no money
to maintain it. The -$1,000 set aside.
annually in the will for its care was
not at all sufficient.
Hardly, anyone 'knew of the real
significance of the'place 'ith the mel-
lowed coquina walls, despite, the fact'
-Miss Burt's family had lived there 100
But with -her death the story of the
home began to unfold .
; Miss Burl, of course knew most of
the old house's secrets, but in her -will
she called,it merely "aritebellum."
It was "antebellum" all right. Re-
search has shown it was built some-
time before 1763, part of it perhaps
as early as 1690, when the Spanish
Crown ordered .Gov.. ,Don Diego de
Quiroga y Losado to build the "royal
houses and the accounting house of
stone. (Stone was the then newly dis-
covered coquina shell rock.)
Miss Burt's intimate friends recalled
that she had never allowed anyone to
dig in the garden unless she was pres-
ent. "They might find buried treasure
there," she said, "hastily hidden during
one of the many early British, Indian
or pirate forays on St. Augustine."

NOT ALL of the house's story
NOT ALL of the house's story

became known at once, or course. Even
now the full story of its past waits
upon a prodigious study which the St.
Augustine Historical Society is under-
taking before the town's 400th anni-
versary in 1965.
William B. Griffin the society's
historian and his staff are reading
and cataloguing 120,000 pages of
manuscript which have been photo-
stated from the originals in Spain,
but never before translated in full.

(Collection of this material w
nanced in the 1930's by John B. St
Jr. and recently released to the
Library of Florida History at the
versity of Florida. Only pages coi
ing St. Augustine are being tran
but the index of other information:
put Florida's history from 1512-1'
the fingertips of those able to
with the original Spanish.)
While translation of the Stetsc
pers may clear up the beginning
of the old -house, historians ha'
tablished that as early .as"1763
'Spanish were keeping chests of
and silver there as a headquartel
paying the King's soldiers, goverr
and church officials.
It was in 1763 that the Spanis
SFlorida and the British took possi
under the Treaty of
Paris. The records of
the first Spanish' l ci-' :-
pation went with them.
A map of 1788, .after
the Spanish had re-
'turned, shows that they
again.used the house as
a treasury. It describes
it as a "stone house" in
good state, the King's,
which serves as count-
ing house and treas-
ury." *

By 1832 the house
came into the hands of
Dr. and Mrs. Seth Peck
who had arrived in St.
Augustine with their
children and fine fur-
niture from Old Lyme,

Old Spanish TIrcasuri ,St.




Guide, Mrs. Delora Lyon at Spanish Treasure Chest in Strong Room
... coquina wall her,~ is the original

Augustine; Lower Floor Is Believed To Have Beeq Built Between 1690-95
... Woman's Exchatge keeps it open to the public every day except Sunday

It was Dr.- Peck who sent for the wonderfully
vde boards seen in some of- the floors and doors.
They were shipped south by New England sailing
vessel during the Seminole war, 1835-42.
Dr. Peck set up his office and St. Augustine's
first apothecary shop in two downstairs rooms.
His thick old ledger of 1837 tells what a busy
man he was with families such as the "John Lewis
Williamses" to look after at "visits 2 and medicine 2,
$2; advice and medicine for wife, 50 cents; visit and
medicine, $1:25".
Occupying the old house after the Seth Pecks
were their children: Dr. John Peck and the maiden
sisters and "dainty Godet Ladies," the Misses Re-
becca and Mary Peck. And then finally the Seth Pecks'
granddaughter, Miss' Anna Burt, (Her mother, Lucy
Peck had married George Burt.)

Miss Nanny Was Pretty
"MISS NANNY" as Miss Burt was known, has
been described as "very pretty with a sweet face, white
hair and a small, stylish figure. She was civic-minded
and had a well informed mind of hef own." A New
York dressmaker kept her in the latest fashion.
Miss Nanny, incidentally, is buried in the family
plot with her head to the north, because her bed
stood that way while all others there are buried
east and west.
At the time of Miss Nanny's death there was in
the city the Woman's Exchange, a group of influen-
tial women whom she had helped to organize in 1893.
Their principal project was the operation of a shop
to help stay-at-home housewives earn pin money.
In those days there was no way for a woman
:to make extra funds and women from all over the
country sent their fancy work, hand made children's
clothes, jams and candies to be sold in the St. Au-
gustine Exchange.
Mrs. Reginald White, a charter member of the Ex-
change who is now sailing into her '80s with the,
enthusiasm of a teenager, remembers just what the
city manager said back in 1931 when confronted with
financing the gift of Miss Nanny's house.
"If we had to hire another garbage man and
pay him 25 cents an hour, we couldn't do it."
Even a mass meeting of citizens failed to solve
the problem and the city was about to turn down
the gift.
To the members of the Woman's Exchange who
had been .entertained in the house many times this
was a tragedy, Who would get "Miss Nanny's" lovely
Chippendale, Sheraton, Hepplewhite and Duncan Phyfe,.
the fine silver, and imported china?
*A -

Women Suggest a Way
an idea that saved the house for the thousands of
men, women and children who have come to visit it
during the past 26 years.
Miss Mary Smethurst, .the Exchange president,
suggested members move the shop. into the Burt
House. And Miss Emily Wilson, Exchange member
and historian, who had done research on the site,
told the city how important it was to save the prop-
The city lost no time in accepting the women's
proposal and the Exchange moved its shop into the
room which Dr. Peck had used as an apothecary.
The women also assumed custody of the house, op-
crating it and raising funds for its maintenance.
Th,e Exchange, in keeping with the house's history,

renamed it the Old Spanish Treasury and ran up
gay flags from 'the southwest balcony Spanish,
British and American,
These spunky women, who had put their hearts
into preserving this bit of the past, said, "Why riot
have fun doing it?"
Their idea of fun was to serve food to tourists
and home folk in. the charming historic atmosphere,
refreshingly off-beat for these fast moving times.
Mrs. Pearl Show, now. a young 76 and going
strong, took over the big kitchen wing, "cooking
by ear."
In the winter, season there are weekly luncheons
served by the blue-smocked board of managers :and,
except for the hottest weather, there are drop-in teas
from 3 to 5 each weekday, and special coffees arid
luncheons upon reservation.

Polly Sometimes Swore

ELIZABETH BURNS, dignified Negro -maid, has
assisted in the shop :and in serving since 1932.
Her mother Rebecca, now in her 80s, worked in the
house for 10 years before Miss Burt's.death and she
tells many stories of the old place, some handed down
from her husband George who was there long before
. George drove the family-phaeton and riding be-
side him always was Miss Burt's pet parrot Polly.
(Polly was "miiddle-aged" when Miss Nanny got her
and her upbringing was unknown.)
Rebecca says it was hard to understand how
the patrician, religious Miss Nanny put up with
Polly. One time a prominent lawyer came to discuss
business with Miss Btrt.
"They sat- in the garden," says Rebecca, "and
while the gentleman tried to get down to serious talk,
Polly hung from- a tree overhead screaming, 'It's a
lie. It's -a damned lie!'"
Polly also rode the handle of the lawnmower as
'gentle Charles Finney, Negro gardener, made' his
rounds. One day someone .called a cheery ,"Hello
Polly" over the garden wall.
"Go to Hell!"'said Polly blithely continuing her
Another day in the life of Miss Nanny must
have been fairly exciting. That was Nov. 11, 1918.
St. Augustine folk were whooping it up with a vic-
tory parade through the city. But inside the Burt
house Miss Nanny was entertaining ladies at tea.
Suddenly some enthusiastic parader shot off his
gun and the bullet whizzed right into Miss Nanny's
Today guides show tourists the white spot in the
oil painting of a madonna where'the bullet lodged.
There are hundreds of other rare objects for the
guides to point out: Dr. John Peck's "St. Francis," an
oil by Ribera, bought in Spain in 1857, a visa for a
trip to Europe signed "25, Feb. 1851 by Dan'l. Web-
ster, Secretary of State'," delicate Sheraton chairs, a
Savery-Chippendale highboy, a Goddard and Goddard
block front Chippendale lowboy, English tambour desk.
And of course the strong room of the Treasury itself.

OVER ALL THESE the Woman's Exchange mem-
bers stand guard, working as clerks, hostesses or
guides. And for the privilege of working they pay dues
to their Exchange.
But this gift of time and energy yields the women
the satisfaction of knowing that other women are
being helped through their shop and that when St.
Augustine marks its 400th anniversary, the old Span-
ish Treasury will play a leading role as one of bhe
city's 10 oldest houses. r

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