The tera Rodrigues house is shrouded in ryatery. No evidence to date has been
found that would authorize the name Rodrigues to be associated with the building,
or proprt-y oni which it is Ytaate1. Yet, thno -'iner eiets, atrxl it cowtinues
to be referred to aa such. From whenoe this name? This is most curious.
2 Tax Rlls of St. Johns County, office of the Tax Assessor, County Court Hese,
4 jillijU A. Seowart, "The Rod-ig'ueo louse" (urpublisaed architectural report to
the Restoration Ceamission, St. Auguatia, Fla., 1960).
5 Abstract number 11981, Vol. I and II) Abstract number 11950, Vol. I and II,
St. John's County Abstrsct Go., St. Augu~tine, Fla. The abstract maintained
by this company was the first reference investigated by ae since all legal
aspects of the property in question are contained iu the abstract. Ay liti.-
gation which might result concerning any piece of property would lead to an
iindiat. survey of an absLract. Arry mortgage or lien would also be shown oe
the abstract. Hernce, an abstract nut be considered a primary source of evi-
dence, and an unquestionable source at that. All entries in the abstract refer
to a Deed Book and the page number on which the entry is recorded. Very often
these entree will offer more information than presumed, and very often will
indicate the type and aise of a building situated upon a piece of land being
investigated. The land is yet considered primary, for the building must neces-
sarily become dependent upon the property on which it stands. This is true
even today foe i is 1 ,3 e land we own which bears real property tax. ihen a
building is placed upon that land the government then considers this to be
improved property and the amount of tax is increased. Furthermore, without an
abstract no one this date can be sure of a clear title to his land and the
improvem.nte the .
The City of St. Augustine, Fla., presseat a rather unique problem in regard to
ownership of real property. In the event of ownership of a rather old stru-
ture such as the one Wuner investigation the owner cannot really be sure of
clear title to the land on which it stands. Most of the property in this
oemunity can be abstracted to the beginning of the U. S. Territorial period
of its history, and very often to the second Spanish period. In very rare
instances it can be traced to the first Spanieh. Documentation is therefcre
very necessary and diplaematie is the science mnoe lacking in this aspect.
It is the use of that aoiaene that is being attempted here in this investi-
gation, and any subsequent one conducted by me. very entry in the abstract
regarding this piece of property das re-checked within the entry in the Dead and
Property Booka by m. It is evident that the system of research from the
present to tho inception of the property in question will at least establish a
clear chain of cwership and will prove oonclusively that the property remains
constant and unoonfused with another.
It should be stated that the Deed and Property Books in the archives of the
County of St. John's, State of Florida, normally offer as information the
names of the grantor and grantee, description, often vague, of the property and
buildinDs iUhe methodod and/or amount of the sale, and the :rair's or granitee'
stipulations. If a chain of grantor's ooinciding with the property description
is found then we can be certain that the property is the same unless the same
rTantor owns adjoining property with similar buildings. The latter must be
03conxsiderfed at all ti se, for thi1e is pc--iiblz imd b=s most, evileat waen
considering ; the Clements survey of 1834-35. Without a clear chain of grantors
I would assume that the described property in both documents and Deed and
Property Books might not be the property in question. I coialJer the unbroken
chain the iont important crenideration.
6 Deed Book U, p. 463, entry of 25 March 1874, Deed and Property Books, Archives
of St. John's County, St. Augustine, Fla. Hereafter cited as Deed Book designa-
ticn ard u-d ncr
7 Deed Book 'W, p. 21, entry of 20 April 1876.
8 Tr.ei Bok 142, p. 4, er.tr of 2C April 8376.
SDeed -'lok Or P. 17, tr : ctrr c 20 April, 1876.
11 Deed Book BB, p. 137 and 190, entry of 4 June 18833.
22 Deed 3cok T, p. ?-, ertry of. 6 ..u- st 1370.
13 Deed ..'ook A, p. 486, entry of 4 January 1369.
14 Deed Book p. ;2, entry of 19 June 1367.
15 Deed Book R, p. 38, entry of 1 June 1852.
16 NMap of the eurve7 of :.. Auguatine, Fla., arOd vici-ity by 3Befjanin Cleients
and J. B. Zlenants, 183)-35. This map is commonly referred to as the "lements
Map." An extract is aided to thiv report as Appendix I.
Bemj-aia ClJents and I. B*
Clesanta. 1B34 and 1835
DOOUMOETARY REPORT ON HOUSE #52 ST. GEORGE STREET, ST. AUGUSTIN, FLA.
( By Kenneth H. Beeson)
The property identified as the Rodriguez house1 is legally described
as Lot 20 of Block 12, City of St. Augustine, The numerical designation of the
building is further identified as numbers 48, 52, and 52 St. George Street, located
in St. Augustine, Florida2. This property is presently owned by a corporation
named Crawbuck Homes, Inc., whose address is 4650 Arapohoe Avenue, Jacksonville,
Florida, and houses a museum entitled Yesterday's Toys3.
This tlhee story coquina masonry house, typical of Colonial Spanish con-
struction in St. Augustine, faces to the east directly on St. George Street. There
is no sidewalk present. To the north of the building there is an adjacent struc-
ture, and an inte 'ral structure to the south. The house opens to the rear (west)
into a patio-garden, and there are three exterior doors on the east (street) facade,
The house and its grounds have been partially restored and remodeled ii. 1958, and
are being kept in excellent repair .
The preliminary investigation of the historic authenticity of the
building situated on the afore-described property leads to conclusive evidence that
the building presently standing can be traced from the present to 1852.5 A survey
of ownership from the present to 9 June 1883 is most uninteresting, most unnecessary,
and most accessible in the form of a legal abstract. It is from the date 9 June 1883
that begins the narrative of the house attributed to Senor Rodriguez and the compli-
cated, unusual ownership of the Watkins clan. Clarification is necessary here, for
the first Watkins to own the property was Mr. Tucker C., having purchased it from a
lady named Lizzie M. Smith. Mr. Tucker C. Watkins of Halifax County, Virginia,
transacted this piece of business on 25 March 1874 for the sum of $25000.0 6. On
20 April 1876 Tucker presented the property in a deed of gift to his father William
J., and his sisters Mildred C., Elizabeth T., and Margaret Watkins to provide them
with a comfortable home for the rest of their natural lives provided they abide
by a nine point condition inserted in the deed. To aid in the establishment of the
home and reside there with them, Tucker's* brother Isaac was appointed trustee.
The nine points outlined in the deed present a rather complicated arrangement* On
the same date William J. (the father) et al deeded to Isaac R. (the trustee) their
authority to convey the house and lot. It seems that Mildred wanted to purchase
the house for some unknown reason and agreed to pay the original purchase price .
Very complicated financial arrangements ensued, and Mildred was allowed a $900.00
exemption from the original purchase price of $2500.009. Meanwhile, Margaret watkins
married a gentleman named George W. Gibbs and according to the conditions outlined
by Tucker she was no longer eligible to reside in the house. She did, however, re-
main an heir apparent to any monetary considerations arising from a sale of the
property, and eventually her husband joined her and the others in heirship of com-
pensationI0. Nevertheless, on 9 June 1883 Isaac A. et al, and William J. et al
deeded the property to Mildred C. Watkins in consideration of the sum of $250,00,
and the Watkins clan faded out of the picture after MildredIl.
Prior to ownership by Tucker datkins in 1874, appears the name of
Lisszie M. Smith, stated niece of Mary A. Strischka. Mary deeded the property to
Lizzie from the love and affection shown her by her niece. Lizzie owned and occupied
the house prior to selling it to Tucker Watkins12
On h January 1869 Mary Strischka purchased for the sume of $1050.00,
the house and property in question from Margaret i. Perry and her husband Roscoe.
The deed was recorded by the Glerk of the County Court, Xr. Joseph Hernandes .
19 June 1867, found the investigated property sold at a public auction
for the sum of $600.00. The grantee was Margaret 6. Perry and the grantor was
James Hurlburt, the administrator of the estate of his wife, Ann. The entry of the
County Court Clerk describes the property as ...
House and let bounded on the north by lot formerly belonging
to Mrs. Albert Nunes, but now Mrs. Romalda Arnau, south by
lot belonging to Mrs. Margaret Arnau; west by Spanish Street,
and East by St. George Street, being one of the lots of
Estaban Arnau and by the heirs of the estate of said Arnau
conveyed to Ann Hurlbert.14
Fifteen years prior to the public auction and purchase of the property
by Mrs, Perry, the heirs of Esteban Arnau sold the house to Mrs. Ann Hurlbert for
the sum of $50.00. The heirs of Esteban are identified as James A. Mickler and
his wife Mary Ann, Paul Arnau and Romalda Arnau his wife, Antonia Hitchoock the
guardian of Stephen Norris and Elisabeth Norris the infant children of Mary Norris
Logical assumption is assigned ownership prior to the sale of the
property by the heirs of Esteban Arnau. It must logically be assumed that prior
to 1 June 1852, Mr. Stephen Arnau owned the cited property. Evidence is assigned
to his ownership in 1834, for in that year the government of United States settled
finally the question of land ownership in St. Augustine, Florida through a complete
survey of the township and its surrounding lands. Mr. Benjamin Clements and his
son clearly identify the investigated property as belonging to Esteban Arnau and
John Sanohes. The property is clearly shown on the map, but no house. However,
no buildings whatsoever are shown on this map, therefore, it must be assumed that
the building did exist in fact at that time.
In sum, more questions have been raised than have been answered. Who
owned the house prior to Esteban? Most certainly the next link in the chain was his
father Francisco, a Minoroan who fled Dr. Turnbull*s colony at New Smyrna during the
British period. How about the previous link, the link in existence during the
British period? The statement that there are no known existing records of property
ownership during this period is a statement that surely needs no footnote. It
should be added that footnotes io not add authenticity to reported facts. Never-
theless, the chain of ownership has been broken and any property notation and
title of ownership prior to 18'4 eust be authenticated. These questions will un-
doubtedly be answered and many answers have been offered, but are these answers
accurate? Do they offer enough accuracy to even be considered historical evidence?
From this point on diplomatic must be used and every Spanish manu-
script dealing with property must be read and its contents weighed. Records of
property transactions during the British period must be found and analysed, for the
same property and house has been traced from 1961 to 1834, and the next link in
the chain is still being searched for.