When Pedro Benet moved his store to the southwest corner
of St. George and Guna streets in 1840, the United States flag
had flqwu over St. Augustine for not quite two decades. Over
2400 inhabitants were
hald of the/papatattmanuXl still of SpanishA or Minorcan extrac-
tion, and evidences of the Hispanic heritage were still strong.
Trade, however, was largely with other portions of the United
Since 1835 war had been raging with the Seminole Indians,
and even the outskirts o;f St. Augustine were zxxzXngzrxxuT attack.
But this in itself created a minor "boom" in the little city.
Regiments of the United States Army and various militia units
swelled the population, and brought buying power with them.
And the M oung officers considerably enlivened the so; cial scene.
Despite the war, the first trickling of tourists had begun
to reach the city. Most of these were invalids seeking respite
from northern winters. A weekly steamboat began service between
Charleston and St. Augustine, but most ;marine transport was still
In contrast to the growing reputation of winter heaulness,
yellow fever struck A9m in the fall 96 1839 Between 800-900
cases were reported, of which' 39 proved fatal.
There were three churches, two newspapers, one bank, a
reading room and a circulating library, a dancing school, a
soda fountain and two ice-cream establishments. There were seven
dry goods stores, thirteen groceries and six boarding houses.
Once-source indicates six physicians, tweluw lawyers, and "lots
of loagers@. And there were places where gentlemen could drink,
discuss politics, and "critically investigate their neighbor's
business, to the great benefit o; f their own".
This was the setting within which Pedro Benet operated his
small store', after moving it from across the street (Benet House).
ActI1ve as Pedro Benet was in St. Augustine in his long and varied life
it was his eldest son/his descendents who; added/lustre to the Benet
name. Stephen Vincent (Benet (grandfather of the poet of the same
name) was twelve when the Benet store .opened. At this time he was
reading Blackstone's Commentaries at his father's insistence in order
to prepare fo; r a law career. At age 14 he left St. Augustine to
guxtz school/in Virginia and later at the University of Georgia.
In May, 1845, he became the first Florida apointee to West Point,
graducating th ird in his class.