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O'REILLY HOUSE DEVELOPMENTAL HISTORY
The Don Miguel O'Reilly House is one of the oldest standing
structures in Florida. Portions of the building date to the First
Spanish Period perhaps as early as c. 1700. However, documentation
of the date of construction, ownership, and physical development
are difficult to determine and perhaps problematic prior to 1785.
In 1785 Father Miguel O'Reilly acquired the property and from that
point forward, title to the property is unbroken and a matter of
public record. Moreover, following the Civil War, the physical
appearance of the building is graphically documented in plan and
elevation through photographs, drawings and maps. Below is a draft
chronologically summary of the physical development of the house
and surrounding property.
c. 1700-1764--No documentary evidence has been found for this
period because of the absence of property records for the First
Spanish Period. The physical evidence for this date is the tabby
structural wall system. The traditional interpretation of the use
of tabby in St. Augustine is that it pre-dated coquina as a
material for private construction. Upon completion of the first
phase of the Castillo de San Marcos in 1692, the use of coquina
became widespread and in theory supplanted tabby. Therefore, the
northern portion of the O'Reilly House could possibly date to the
1764--Juan Elixio de la Puente Map shows a masonry building
on the approximate location of the O'Reilly House.
1765--James Moncrief Map, house belonging to Mr. Watson
1785--sale of house from John Mowbrary to Don Miguel O'Reilly
1788--Mariano de la Rocque Map refers to two story masonry
house in fair condition.
1790--Quesada's Property Assessment of 1790--rubble work
1800--Tax List describes as rubble work masonry house.
1813-will of Father O'Reilly leaves the house in trust to his
brother, James, with the stipulation that the building be used to
house nuns for education.
1827-1870--wardens of the parish held the building in trust
and maintained it.
1870--property is transferred to the diocese of St. Augustine
under the authority of Bishop Augustine Verot.
1876--property is transferred to the Sister's of St. Joseph.
c. 1880-first clear photograph of the O'Reilly House shows the
north and east elevations of the building. The building appears in
good condition as if recently renovated. A stepped garden wall,
which no longer exists, is located on the east property line. The
wall is similar in design to the extant wall on the south side of
the building. It appears to be constructed of coquina with a stucco
finish, a boarded window opening, and stone coping along the top
of the wall. The building has a gable roof finished with small,
wooden shingles. The roof has no exposed eaves on either the north
or east sides of the building. An interior brick chimney with a
hooded chimney cap extends from the north wall plane through the
roof. The balcony appears in good condition and freshly painted.
Most of the structural members are painted a dark color, perhaps
the existing green, while balusters and the chamfered portions of
the posts are white. The door openings on the east elevation first
floor are higher at the top than at present. The fenestration
pattern on the east elevation is the same, and all window openings
are shuttered. The opening on the south garden wall has not been
1885--Bird's Eye View Map of St. Augustine--The Bird's Eye Map
shows the east elevation as described above including the north
garden wall with its window opening. A one story building, probably
a kitchen, is located near the southwest corner of the O'Reilly
House. It is connected to the O'Reilly House by a wooden breezeway.
c. 1890--photograph facing north--This photograph shows the
south garden wall and more importantly the recessed door opening
including a header. The full height of the south door and the
remainder of the fenestration pattern of the east elevation are
also show and unchanged since the earlier photograph. The opening
in the north garden wall appears to have been filled in. The upper
sash of the second floor window on the south elevation is shown as
9 lights rather than the present 6 lights.
1893--Sanborn Map--an accurate plan of the O'Reilly House
shows window location and the breezeway connecting the building to
the detached building at the rear.
1899-Sanborn Map--map indicates an additional window on the
north side. The breezeway and porch around the detached building
have been enlarged. The north garden wall is still in place.
1904--building is unchanged.
1910--the rear detached building has been removed as has the
north garden wall. The convent was also extensively enlarged during
this period, indicating a period of major construction at the
c. 1927--north parapet wall altered, additional height added.
Eaves of roof have been extended beyond the wall plane on east
elevation. Brick chimney remains on north side of building.
post-1942 photographs, other documentation--building shown
essentially in its present appearance. Chimney was removed. Door
openings on east elevation shortened. Upper sash window on south
elevation changed from 9 lights to 6. New tile floors were laid.
Cypress ceilings replaced. Plumbing and electrical systems were
installed. Roof deck replaced and asbestos cement shingles
installed. Coquina fireplace on west elevation either added or
rebuilt. Some hardware on doors was brought from England.