THE. LBERT MANSION
In 1854 Nathan Cobb, of New York, purchased a house and lot on Picolata
[now King] Street for $650. His widow sold the property for $8,500 in 1866
to Abijah. elbert, a retired merchant from New York, who had come to St. Aug-
ustine in 1865. During the war the mansion had been used for a hospital.
A year after Mr.' 6lbert bought it, it was called "perhaps the handsomest
place in the County." The grounds had been newly laid out, and numerous
orange trees and ornamentals set out.
The Census of 1870 listed four Gilberts in the house, with Anna W.
filbert as housekeeper. There were two female immigrant servants and a
In 1885 Mrs. A. W. Gilbert lived there with her daughter, winters,
when the mansion was filled with Northern guests. The place was described
in Webb's Florida this way:
The grounds comprise about seven and a half acres handsomely laid
out, and in general appearance evidencing the utmost care and
attention. Upon the place is a full-bearing orange-grove of 500
trees, beside numerous young trees approaching maturity. The
oranges are all of the finest kinds and the product is very satis-
factory. Other tropical and semi-tropical fruits are successfully
cultivated, while beautiful flowers and shrubs are grown in profusion
about the place. The residence, a three story structure with its
wide halls and spacious verandas on the first and second stories,
presents an excellent illustration of the typical Southern mansion,
a style of architecture fast becoming obsolete.
The January 21, 1893, Tatler called the 61bert mansion on King Street
"one of the handsomest homes in the city and at the same time one of the
most comfortable." It said that the house had been partially closed recently
due to the ill health of its owner, Miss Maria Gilbert. On January 13, 1894,
the Tatler reported that the Gilbert mansion was being rented out for the
season. According to the Tatler on March 19, 1898, the Gilbert Mansion
had just been remodeled and refurnished by Mr. and Mrs. Murray Swinyard.
Mrs. Swinyard was a former Miss. gilbert. The house began to be called the
From an account of a garden party held there in 1899 we learn that the
mansion had an east veranda, temporarily enclosed for the presenting of a
play, and a south porch, where the Alcazar Hotel orchestra played for guests.
In 1917 the house was offered as headquarters for the local Red Cross.
The place where the house stood, 105 King Street, is now occupied by an
A & P parking lot.
HISTORIC ST. AUGUSTINE PRESERVATION BOARD
To -_. _Department
From // _Department
y~ ^ 7
HSAPB Form No. 20
NOV 24 2381
HISTORIC ST. AUGUSTINE
f DPA4RTMEJyT QF STATE
OFFICES OF ORLANDO, FLORIDA
MUNICIPAL PLANNING BOARD
PLANNING DEPARTMENT 32801
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION
November 20, 1981
Mr. William R. Adams
Historic St. Augustine
P. O. Box 1987
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
I am enclosing a recent letter from a cousin, Mrs. Frederick R.
Mangold of Gilbertsville, New York. The Gilbert matter came to
my attention when we were abstracting the Master Historic Site
File. I was surprised to find the Gilberts heavily invested in
Orlando real estate in the 1870s. Further, I find the reference
to "Aunt Ann's" home in St. Augustine of some interest. Further
inquiries into the matter from diaries indicate that top soil for
her garden and lawn in St. Augustine was used as ballast in the
family's intra-coastal shipping business on the southbound trip.
Research with Dorothy Dodd of Tallahassee yesterday revealed that
Abijah Gilbert was very much a carpetbagger, and although respected
personally because of his generosity during the reconstruction
period, was heartily disliked by most Floridians. Aunt Ann, with
her family connections going back to early 17th century, Virginia,
& So. Carolina, seems to have fared somewhat better in terms of
I am going to look up the location of the Gilbert residence in
St. Augustine in the 1880 census. Several of my doctoral course
work papers were based on the architectural program of the Gilbert
family. They patronized all of the luminaries of the 19th and
Mr. William R. Adams
20th centuries. I would like to determine the form and substance
of the St. Augustine residence.
My opinion of DAHRM as of yesterday's long visit is: Don't expect
With very best regards, I remain,
Bruce T. Sherwood
Historic Preservation Commission
enc.: copy of letter dated 11/4/81
to B. T. Sherwood
- 2 -
November 20, 1981
PLANING Box 31
DEPARTMENT PO. Box 3
~ New York 13776
November 4, 198E
What a surprised I'll answer, even though it's not easy towrite
in my hospital bed in my living room!
John Henry Gilbert was my grandfather, one of the grandsons of
Abijah, the pioneer. He and his wife often went to Florida as well.
as New Orleans, etc., in the winter (as did many other members of the
family) to visit his older brother Abijah, who lived in St. Augustine
in quite a nice place.
Abijah Gilbert 2nd was later a U.S. Senator from Florida (1868-
1874). My older brother once told me we would be quite: rich if it
hadn't been for the. Orlando property, since it was orange trees, and
a hurricane or a deep freeze came along I think, a hurricane.
Although John Henry was one of the brothers who stayed in G'ville
and owned farms;, I also know of investments he made in Northern N.Y..
State, Pennsylvania, and Southern Ohio coal mines. The latter explains-
my growing up in Columbus, 0., in the wintertime, since my father left
banking to join the Black Diamond Coal Co., along with a Mr. Earnshaw,
and others. My father said once that his father was "no judge of. men"
and Mr. Earnshaw was one! He kind of rooked my father and, I believe,
helped cause his rather early death.
So there you are. Again, what a coincidence!
All the best to you and report about you sometime.
(Doug McKee is kindly typing this for me and will include the dope:
about Sen. Abijah and John Henry that appears in Helen Gilbert Ecob's
book, Reminiscences of Early Days).
EXTRACTS FROM REMINISCENCES OF EARLY DAYS, Compiled by Helen Gilbert
Abijah Gilbert, the eldest son,* lived for many years in Brooklyn,
N.Y. After the Civil War he bought a place in St. Augustine, Florida,
where the family always afterward resided. Many of the fourth generation
recall with pleasure the winters spent in that beautiful, hospitable house.
At that time.it was thought that the state of Florida could produce only
oranges and sweet potatoes. Grapefruit was not marketable and was consid-
ered only "niggers' oranges." Mrs. Abijah Gilbert, "Aunt Ann," recognized
the.possibilities of Florida fifty years before the present boom. She was
the.:first to raise strawberries and small fruit. Her garden, the soil for
which was brought from the. North in schooners, boasted all the New York
Abijah Gilbert represented. the State of Florida in the United States
Senate. from 1868 to 1874, during the presidency of General ULysses S.
* Note by Anne: Gilbert Mangold: "Abijah Gilbert first kept a store in
South New Berlin (see notes of Presbyterian Church records)."
John Henry Gilbert prepared for college in the Academy at Homer, New
York. He entered Hamilton College but owing to ill health remained only
two years. After his marriage he bought "Locust Hill," the old: Samuel
Cotton home, then owned by Dr. William Lathrop.* This was the birthplace
of Dr. Lqthrop's daughter, Elizabeth Ann, who became Henry Gilbert'swife.
He always remained in Gilbertsville. though his business interests reached
out into other areas. He was a man of broad sympathy, independent judg-
ment and intelligent interest in the problems of his day. In an environ-
ment strictly orthodox, his study of the early Unitarian writers Chan-
ning, Emerson, Parker and Bellows brought him to an assured acceptance-
of their liberal faith.
* Note by Anne Gilbert Mangold:: "This should read: "then owned by Abijah
Gilbert, who had purchased it from Dr. William Lathrop."
Abijah Gilbert (1806-1881)
John Henry Gilbert (1817-1901)