A Redevelopment Study for
Saint Joseph Convent
REDEVELOPMENT PLAN FOR SAINT JOSEPH CONVENT
SAINT AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA
Doyle R. Harper
Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, 1975
Iowa State University
A terminal project submitted to the
faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Florida, in partial
fulfillment of the requirements for
the degree Master of Arts in Architecture.
The author wishes to express his sincere appreciation to
Mr. F. Blair Reeves, Mr. Phillip P. Wisely, and Mr. Forrest F. Lisle
for their guidance in preparing this thesis.
The author extends his sincere appreciation to Superior General
Sister Mary Christine Zimorski, S.S.J., Sister Mary Albert Lussier,
S.S.J., Sister Mary Josepha Butterfield, S.S.J., and all the Sisters
of Saint Joseph's Convent for their assistance and for allowing him
to use their site as a project location.
I also wish to express appreciation to my parents, Clifford
and Phyllis, and to my in-laws, O.J. and Luana, for their encourage-
ment throughout the project.
And, a special thanks must go to my loving wife, Karen, for
without her tireless encouragement and support this project would not
have been possible.
Doyle R. Harper
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . . . . . . . . .*
LIST OF MAPS . . . . . . . . . . . .
1. INTRODUCTION . . . . . .
2. SAINT AUGUSTINE HISTORY . . ...
3. HISTORY OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH
4. HISTORY OF THE SAINT JOSEPH ACADEMY ..
5. HISTORY OF THE SITE. . . . .
6. THE CLIMATE CF SAINT AUGUSTINE . .
7. REDEVELOPMENT DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS .
The Problem . . . . . .
Design Considerations . . . . .
Present Needs . . . . . .
Future Directions . . . . .
Preliminary Design Assumptions . .
Basic Recommendations . . . . .
8. PROGRAM DESIGN DATA . . o . ..
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8. PROGRAM DESIGN DATA . . . .
Residential Facilities . . .
Convent Support Facilities . .
General Comments and Design Criteria
9. THE DESIGN SOLUTION . . . .
10. CONCLUSION . . . .
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BIBLIOGRAPHY .. . . . . . . . . .
APPENDIX 0 o 0 0 o o o 0 a 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0. .
LIST CF MAPS
1. Location of the Site . . . . . 20
2. Boazio . . . . . . . . . 22
3. Sixteenth Century Area .. . . . . 23
4. de la Rocque ....* .. .. . 25
5. de la Puente . . . . . . . . . 26
From the first experience of Saint Augustine, one
becomes aware of the unique character of this historic city. The
charm of the small houses with walled gardens and courtyards, along
narrow, winding streets can only compare to that found in some Euro-
pean cities. The city, its history and previous preservation
activities provide a perfect experience and example for the student
In January, 1978, it was announced that Saint Joseph Academy
would close unless adequate facilities could be obtained. In March
of that year when it was determined that a new school would be built,
I became concerned that the future of the present academy and convent
buildings might be in jeopardy. My enthusiasm for the charm of this
part of the city and my desire to be involved with a real project
involving many planning and architectural problems, led me to inquire
about the future of the convent site.
My involvement with this project began in September, 1978,
when I learned that the Sisters of Saint Joseph were also very con-
cerned about their site and that they needed some suggestions as to
future uses. My suggestion of using their problem for this
academic study project received overwhelming approval. The approach
to this project, therefore, has been toward a realistic solution
based on the changing needs of the convent and its ability to imple-
ment such a program,
SAINT AUGUSTINE HISTORY
Saint Augustine is the nation's oldest continuously occupied
city. Its interesting history is interwoven with the people's fate
and fantasies of many nations.
Florida was discovered by Don Juan Ponce de Leon, former
governor of Puerto Rico, on Easter Sunday, March 27, 1513. On that
day Ponce de Leon sited the eastern coast of Florida while on a trip
in search of gold and silver. In the following half century Spain
attempted no less than six times to settle Florida, but all failed.
In 1564, the French were successful in establishing a fort and
settlement at the mouth of the Saint Johns River. Feeling the threat
that this development had on Spain's treasure fleet which sailed along
Florida's coastline, King Philip II named Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles
governor of Florida and instructed Menendez to explore and colonize
On September 8, 1565, Menendez set foot on the shores of
Florida, naming the site Saint Augustine in honor of the Saint whose
feast day it was when the shore was first sighted. Menendez quickly
followed King Philip's instructions, doing away with the French
garrisons on the Saint Johns River, and successfully established a
permanent colony, Indian missions for the church, and perimeter
fortifications for the town.
Forty-two years before the founding of Jamestown and fifty-
five years before the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, Saint
Augustine was founded. It remains today, the oldest permanent Euro-
pean settlement in the continental United States.
From the beginning the history of Saint Augustine was not a
quiet one. Maintaining the colony and military base was a mighty
task against unequal odds. The town was pillaged and burned in 1586
by Sir Francis Drake, the English corsair. In 1668, the pirate,
Captain John Davis, and his English buccaneers plundered the homes and
left sixty citizens dead in the streets.
Disputes between the Spainards and the British became more
frequent with the establishment of English colonies in South Carolina
and Georgia. In 1672, work began on the coquina fortress now called
Costello de San Marcos. The fort was nearly completed in 1696 but
was not dedicated officially until 1756. The fort successfully pro-
tected the city, for in 1792, Governor James Moore of South Carolina
had a two month siege without success, and in 1740, British General
James Oglethorpe of Georgia led an even stronger attack, but he too,
met with defeat.
The city was never taken in battle, however, in 1763, by a
stroke of a pen, Spain gave Florida to Great Britian in return for
recently conquered Havana. The British ruled over Saint Augustine
and the territory for twenty years. The British Period included the
span of years of the American Revolution. The citizens of Saint
Augustine remained loyal to the Crown and their number increased as
loyalists fled from the northern colonies.
In 1783, again by treaty, East Florida and Saint Augustine
returned to the Spanish rule. This Second Spanish Period lasted
thirty-seven years. On July 10, 1821, two hundred fifty-five years
after Menendez set foot on the shores of Saint Augustine, Spain sold
Florida to the United States of America. The condition of the town
at this time was pathetic. Poverty of the closing years of the
Spanish Period left apathy among the citizens. Many of the buildings
were run down or in total ruins. With American occupation,
speculators arrived to take advantage of the situation. The mellow
charm of the city with its narrow streets, latticed gates, and serene
courtyards intrigued the Americans. Many distinguished visitors came
to Saint Augustine despite the problems of reaching the city.
The Seminole War of 1836, interrupted the new awakening of
Saint Augustine. With its end, Saint Augustine once more became a
favorite resort for visitors taking advantage of the mild climate.
Saint Augustine prospered through the years of statehood (1845) up to
the eruption of the Civil War. In 1862, a Union blockade squadron
appeared off the inlet and demanded that the city surrender. From
that time on the city was occupied by Union troops.
At the end of the war in 1865, Saint Augustine was three
hundred years old. The privation that the war caused took some time
to wear off, but visitors almost immediately returned to the city.
Facilities were very bad, so work was begun to improve travel
By 1883, Saint Augustine was connected to Jacksonville by
the completion of the Jacksonville-Saint Augustine-Halifax River
Railway. During the winter of 1883-1884 Henry M. Flagler visited the
city and was impressed with the city's charms. As a result, the
Ponce de Leon Hotel was built, as were the Alcazar and Cordova Hotels,
and the wealth and fashionable flocked to Saint Augustine. From
Saint Augustine, Mr. Flagler expanded his Florida East Coast Rail-
road south to Palm Beach and on to Miami by 1896.
Saint Augustine continued to progress as a resort city in
the years that followed. This progress, however, brought doom to
much of the early architecture. It was believed that progress could
only advance by removing the old and worn out, replacing it with
fashionable modern homes. In addition to inevitable "progress," two
fires helped destroy remnants of the earlier city. The cathedral and
most of the block north of the plaza were destroyed by fire in 1887
and another conflageration in 1914 cleared most of the buildings bet-
ween the plaza and the old city gates.
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century Saint
Augustine expanded northward, westward, and across Matanzas Bay onto
Anastasia Island. During these years tourists continued to visit
the city, encouraged by the abundance of attractions geared to their
interest, although not necessarily historically accurate. Uncontrolled
tourist attraction development became a major problem for the city
as many individual groups attempted to profit from the tourist trade.
Finally, in 1959, the State of Florida, persuaded by local organiza-
tions who had the foresight to realize their own inability to
successfully control, preserve, and restore the historic city, establish-
ed the Saint Augustine Historic Preservation Board. This state funded
Preservation Board may acquire, restore, and preserve historic prop-
erties within the Saint Augustine area for the benefit and education
of the general public.
The Preservation Board's early efforts were directed toward
the development of a master plan which called for restoration of an
eight block area depicting the growth of Saint Augustine throughout
its changing periods of occupation. A 1976 master plan extends this
activity toward the preservation of the colonial city plan. The
Preservation Board has been fairly successful considering the great
task set before it. Although hindered at times by internal friction,
lack of direction, and inadequate operating capital, the Preservation
Board has been the primary mechanism behind the architectural
restoration and reconstruction of Saint Augustine's historical past.
Problems revealed through the study of the preservation
effort in Saint Augustine illustrate the need for a united effort of
all preservation interests to address the problems of meeting the
needs of a living, viable twentieth century community, while at the
same time retaining the city's historic character of the past.
HISTORY OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH
The historical significance in Saint Augustine and Florida
of the Sisters of Saint Joseph may only be understood if one starts
at the beginning of that Congregation in Le Puy, France, in 1650.
Shortly after 1643, Father Peter Medaille, S.J., Procurator
of the college at Saint Flour, became acquainted with a group of
pious women who desired to retire from the world, and at the same
time engage in works of charity for the good of their neighbor.
Father Medaille conferred with the Right Reverend Bishop Henri de
Maupus of Le Puy concerning the organization of this group of
religious women, and received a sanction for the organization of the
group. Bishop de Maupas gave the group the official name of the
Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph at Le Puy in 1648. Appro-
bation for the group was granted by the Holy See on October 15, 1650.
On that day the first Sisters of Saint Joseph assembled, six in
number, to devote themselves to the direction and education of the
girls at the orphanage of Le Puy (McGoldrick, 1961).
On March 10, 1651, Bishop de Maupas published the official
act which gave to the Congregation of Saint Joseph the approbation of
the Catholic Church and dedicated the Congregation to the welfare of
the poverty stricken, the disabled, and to the Christian formation
of the youth.
The Congregation's work in America came about through the
foresight of the Most Reverend Bishop Augustin Verot, the first
Bishop of Saint Augustine. In 1865, the Sisters of Saint Joseph
received an invitation from Bishop Verot, a native of Le Puy, to come
to Florida in order to educate the newly liberated Negro slaves.
On July 27, 1866, eight Sisters selected from sixty volunteers,
left the Motherhouse in Le Puy, France, for the mission field of
post-war Florida. After a several week voyage, the Sisters arrived
in New York on August 18. They continued on to Savannah and then to
Picolata, Florida, where they went ashore on September 1, 1866. One
more night and day of confusion passed before the stagecoach, engaged
by Father Aubril of Saint Augustine, made the two trips necessary
from Picolata, landing on the Saint Johns River. The Sisters were
reunited at the quarantine station on the San Sebastion River, and
entered Saint Augustine on the evening of September 2, 1866.
The Congregation's start in Saint Augustine was assisted by
the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy. However, because two religious
communities could not be supported in Saint Augustine the Sisters of
Mercy returned to Hartford, Connecticut in 1869.
During the first decade, the Sisters experienced a succession
of changes in residence, including the Convent of Mercy abandoned by
that group of Sisters in 1869. The house willed by Reverend Father
O'Reilly, in 1789, to a religious community was deeded to the Sisters
of Saint Joseph by Bishop Verot. This building, abandoned for seventy-
seven years, faced east on Hospital Street (now known as Aviles) and
included property extending to Saint George Street. This became the
first permanent home for the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Florida. It
was a three-story stone house surrounded by an orange grove with a
number of ancient stone edifices standing in the area. Today, the
Father O'Reilly House is considered one of the older houses in Saint
Augustine and remains useful as a Florida museum maintained privately
by the Congregation of Saint Joseph.
Construction on the present convent began in 1872. Based
on simple plans, prepared by Mother Marie Sidonie Rascle, and a simple
hand-written contract, a three-story stone structure was built to house
the convent, school, and novitiate. Archives of the Congregation at
Saint Augustine tell the story of the building process. The coquina
stone was quarried on Anastasia Island and hauled to the Matanzas
River. Here it was loaded on boats and ferried across to the western
shore to be unloaded and hauled to the convent site. In the evenings
after days of toil and teaching, the Sisters worked squaring the
stones, readying them for the masons use the following day. The result
of this effort was a beautiful "C" shaped building of natural coquina
trimmed with brick coursing and window trim. The style, included
both gothic and romanesque arched, shuttered windows, reminiscent of
the architecture of Le Puy, France.
The Florida foundation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph be-
came permanent when they opened their first school in 1867. This
school was established for Negro children and white boys, and was
only the first of many endeavors by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. In
1868, a mission was started in Mandarin, Florida, and the following
year the Sisters took over operation of the Saint Augustine School
for Girls and established Saint Joseph's Academy in Saint Augustine
and Jacksonville. The first decade also saw other schools opened in
Fernandina Beach, Palatka, and five communities had been firmly establish-
The remaining years of the nineteenth century brought
continued expansions for the Congregation. A foundation was opened
at Saint Ambrose (Elkton), an orphanage for girls was established
in Jacksonville, an; Indian school was conducted at Fort Marion for
prisoners held there, a mission and school was started in Orlando, and
a Latin School Mission was established in Ybor City.
Upon the recommendation of Bishop John Moore, the Florida
foundation separated from the Motherhouse in Le Puy, France, in October
of 1899. Reasons for this move were first, inconvenience of communica-
tion--long, tedious, expensive voyages for representatives of either
the Motherhouse or mission; second, increase in number of subjects
from United States, Canada, and Ireland; third, increase in number
of communities; and fourth, decrease in number of Sisters from France
HISTORY OF THE SAINT JOSEPH ACADEMY
Saint Joseph Academy of Saint Augustine has occupied a
number of buildings throughout its history. During the early years
it used small houses restored by the Sisters for classroom space.
Later, once the Motherhouse was constructed in 1874, the school
occupied the Father O'Reilly House and several other small houses
facing Saint George Street. By 1906, the growth of the school and
number of resident students required expanded facilities. On
November 11, 1907, ground was broken for construction of two four-
story academy buildings at a cost of twenty-five thousand dollars
(McGoldrick, 1961). The new buildings were situated directly north
of the 1874 convent and were connected to one another by wooden
In 1926, two additions were planned for the school. A
thirty foot by ten foot brick addition, housing a stairway and toilet
facilities, was built to the east of the north wing building; and a
fifty foot by twenty-one foot, four-story addition was planned to be
added to the south wing building of the academy, but this addition
was never built.
Major alterations and additions occurred in 1946. At that
time the wooden porches were replaced by a concrete arched arcade
and a stair and elevator tower was added between the north and south
wings. Later alterations included removing the pillared entrance
porch of the academy and the wooden entry of the convent facing
Saint George and replacing them with concrete substitutes similar in
design to one another. The concrete arcade and new entrance porches
were altered to visually unify the academy building and the convent.
In more recent years as needs have required, the Sisters of
Saint Joseph have expanded their physical plant. Neighboring property
was purchased on the west side of Saint George Street for athletic
playgrounds, housing for the novitiate Sisters, and additional class-
By 1966, space limitations required the discontinuation of
the boarding school. Resident students were no longer accepted as
Saint Joseph Academy became entirely a day school with an enlarged
enrollment. The rapid increase in demand for positions in the school,
and the realization of their limited site and finances, encouraged
the Sisters of Saint Joseph to initiate a joint planning board for
Saint Augustine and Saint Joseph Academy. This board, made up of the
Congregation, parents, and local businessmen, became sponsor for
some funding. The many expenses of the previous few years had drained
the convent financially and reserves had even been used to meet the
Severe termite damage in the 1906 academy building became
apparent in 1970. At this time immediate emergency measures were
undertaken to reinforce the building structurally. While classes
were moved and conducted at the Episcopal Church, structural steel
beams and columns were installed to support the deteriorating build-
ing. Although these measures allowed the building to meet the
required floor loads continued use could only be temporary as fire
and safety hazards prohibited continued use as a school facility
without major alterations.
In early 1977, a "Quality of Space Survey" was conducted
by the architectural firm of Robert G. Graf and Associates of
Tallahassee, Florida. This study was to determine the cost of
rehabilitating the facilities to conform with current construction
and safety standards and the potential for converting the buildings
to a new function.
Mr. Graf stated (1977, p. 1)
the "Quality of Space Survey" included a detailed field
inspection of each building and the various sub-systems
or building components to evaluate and rate on a uniform
basis the degree of building absolescence and to establish
the general construction budget necessary to upgrade
the existing school facilities to conform with exist-
ing school construction as established by the State
Department of Education.
As a result of this study, the joint planning board made
its decision and announced in February, 1978, that unless new
facilities could be found Saint Joseph Academy would close at the
end of the 1978-1979 school year. An area wide fund raising program
was started and plans have been made for construction of a new
school facility to be located at the western edge of Saint Augustine.
SITE OF- THE
STr. JWEI!P:IH k? aNDEMY
Map Pinpoints Site Location
Until the new school is completed and ready for occupancy,
the Sisters continue to teach in the 1906 building. Where possible,
classes are held in other structures on or near the site and only a
few classes continue to meet in the old building, most of it now
HISTORY CF THE SITE
The site of Saint Joseph's Academy consists of three
individual parcels of land fronting on South Saint George Street in
Saint Augustine. All lie within the historic district number one and
each has a unique and interesting history.
The largest portion is bound by Saint George Street on the
west, Bridge Street on the south, Aviles Street on the east, and
Cadiz Street on the north. It includes the property estates of Father
O'Reilly and several minor properties purchased by the religious
foundation through the years. The past history of this site cannot
be overlooked. Recent research by Paul E. Hoffman and Eugene Lyon
into the location and layout of 1580 Saint Augustine has determined
that the early city was located to the south of the present Artillery
Hoffman and Lyon stated that documents told that there were
a plaza, the fort, a church, a shrine on the plaza, several streets,
a number of houses, and a marina. They knew that two of the fort's
guns were aimed towards two of the streets, and the 1597 Boazio engrav-
ing provided visual evidence for locating the early sity. Early laws
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Location of the site, Historic District Number One.
detailed the size of the plaza and the placement of the church and
governmental structures. Based upon this knowledge, Hoffman and
Lyon drew a preliminary plan of the city showing the plaza and the
nine blocks based on the legal norm. Noting that the blocks between
the Plaza of today and Bridge, Marine, and Saint George Streets were
smaller than all others in the old city, they converted the dimensions
of the modern blocks to the "foot" of the sixteenth century--about
eleven inches. They found that most of them fit the specifications
of the 1563 law, within ten feet either way. Evidence, supplied
by Dr. Kathleen Deagan via her sub-surface survey of 1976, confirmed
Hoffman and Lyon's theory. Her survey suggested Artillery Lane to
be the northern boundary of the settlement--which made a city of nine
blocks--one now closed up by the Convent of Saint Joseph. And, the
line of Artillery Lane seemed to agree with the Boazio engraving
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Boazio, map of Saint Augustine at the time of the attack by Drake, 1586.
il_ St. Augustine
16th Century Area
On the basis of existing street locations, the Boazio engrav-
ing of 1587, and Dr. Kathleen Deagan's 1976 archaeological survey, Dr.
Hoffman locates the heart of the post-1572 town site in the area
bounded by Artillery Lane, Marine, Bridge, and Saint George Streets.
Directly across Saint George Street from the Convent Mother-
house lies the next largest portion of convent property. This property
consists of three lots, two of which run from Saint George Street to
Cordova Street. On this site the Sisters have built tennis courts
and playground for the academy and the new housing for novitiate
Sisters (1975) adjacent to the Villa Flora (circa 1893-1899).
According to Spanish records and maps of the period, the first church
was located on this site and attached to it was the first hospital
built in what was to become part of the United States.
Governor Mendez found a small frame hospital being
constructed adjoining a wooden church. Because he
felt it of great benefit to the garrison, he gave it
his best support toward completion. Governor Mendez
said if there had been no hospital during the summer
of 1597, many soldiers, Indians, and Negro slaves
would have died from a fever which swept the community.
This first hospital was attached to the Hermita
de Nuestra Senora de La Soledad which, according to the
Juan Jose de La Puente map of January 22, 1764, and
the Mariano de La Rocque map of April 25, 1788, was
located on the west side of present-day Saint George
Street and a short distance north of Bridge Street.
The property is now owned by the Sisters of Saint
Joseph (Florida Health Notes, 1968, p. 31-32).
The third and final portion of the site has a much more
recent historical significance. This parcel, known as the Mary Lucas
Hart property, runs along Bridge Street between Saint George and
Cordova Streets. Documented evidence, including correspondence bet-
ween owner and architect, found in the archives of the Sisters of
Saint Joseph reveal that the house on the property was designed by
nineteenth century architect Alexander Jackson Davis. Davis (1803-1892)
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of the firm of Towne and Davis, was an influential architect in
American architecture. He produced some of the grandest Greek revival
buildings in America, including capitols for Indiana, Ohio, Illinois,
and North Carolina. He was one of the founders of the American
Institute of Architects and of the villa estate of Llewellyn Park,
New Jersey (1857).
A family friend of the bride, Davis was asked to design a
vacation cottage for a young married couple named Donaldson. Original-
ly from New York, the couple had traveled through Saint Augustine,
while visiting her father, Judge Bronson, in Palatka, and decided to
settle in the city because of its beauty and mild climate. Strictly
by correspondence the couple expressed their needs and ideas to Davis,
who sent sketches and notes for their approval. The importance of
the house results not only from the fact that Davis designed it, but
also that this was the first recorded northern interest to settle or
vacation in the town. Being built circa 1875 this was fifteen or
twenty years before the big building boom of the 1890's.
Any solution for the re-development of Saint Joseph's Convent
must consider all three sites and the history behind each of them.
THE CLIMATE OF SAINT AUGUSTINE
The chief factors of climate control for Saint Augustine
are its latitude and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and inland
Summers in the city are long and relatively humid. Winters,
although punctuated with periodic invasions of cool to occasionally
cold air from the North, are mild because of the Southern latitude
and relative warm adjacent ocean waters.
July and August are the warmest months with a mean maximum
temperature of ninety degrees Fahrenheit and a mean minimum of
seventy-three degrees Fahrenheit. The summer heat, however, is temper-
ed by sea breezes and frequent afternoon thundershowers. January and
February are the coldest months with mean maximums at sixty-eight
degrees Fahrenheit and mean minimums at forty-five degrees Fahrenheit.
The city enjoys an abundant rainfall with a mean annual
percipitation of fifty-two inches per year, of which about one-half
falls during the "rainy season" from June to September. Humidity
varies from fifty to sixty-five percent in the afternoons to eighty-
five to ninety-five percent at night and early mornings. Saint Augus-
tine's location receives Northeast prevailing winds of approximately
seven miles per hour, but these winds tend to switch more Northernly
in winter and to the South/Southeast during the summer, making the
city vulnerable to hurricane activity.
Although the soil is sandy and low in natural fertility,
it does support a lavish growth of native flora and fauna, provid-
ing beauty year around. This mild climate, and the fact that the
sun shines about sixty to seventy percent of all daylight hours,
makes Saint Augustine an inviting resort for Northern tourists.
REDEVELOPMENT DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
To evaluate the situation at Saint Joseph's Acadmey and
Convent one must first have an understanding of the functional
arrangement of the present plan. Until the new academy is complete,
classes are held only in rooms that provide egress directly to the
exterior porches of the 1906 building. The kindergarten and several
other classes are held at the Mary Lucas Hart property in the
Bronson-Donaldson House and some classes meet in the two-story build-
ing adjacent to the Father O'Reilly House.
Housing for the Sisters occupies the third floor of the
1874 convent, the third and fourth floors of the 1902 academy, and
the Villa Flora and its addition. Lourdes Hall provides convales-
cent care for those that need it. The central kitchen is located in
the upper level of the old laundry building and the central dining
hall is on the second level of the 1906 south wing.
The Administration Offices for the Florida Congregation of
the Sisters of Saint Joseph are located on the second level of the
1874 convent. These include the Office of the Superior General, the
Office of the Archivist, and large and small meeting/conference rooms.
The convent chapel is located on the first floor level of the
Other functions on the site includes A craft shop in the
Gaspar Papy House, the Florida History Museum in the Father O'Reilly
House, and a maintenance shop located in two adjoining structures on
the east edge of the main site. Other main features of the site
are the out-of-service swimming pool and the athletic playfield
adjacent to the Villa Flora.
The Sisters of Saint Joseph soon will be confronted with
making a decision about the future use of their buildings and property
in Saint Augustine. The Sisters have basically two major alternatives:
They may sell their property in Saint Augustine and relocate to a
new convent that would be located on land they now own near Jackson-
ville; or, they may follow any of several routes of upgrading their
present facilities and remain in Saint Augustine.
Any decision they make must be based on careful considera-
tion of all factors involved, assuring a successful future for the
convent and its work. Not only must the Sisters consider their hous-
ing accommodations, but they must also provide a source of income to
meet their individual personal needs. Because their convent is the
Motherhouse and administrative center for the missions of Florida,
any decision must consider adequate space for and accessibility to
these administrative offices.
It is the purpose of this study to identify some of the
major concerns facing the Sisters and to propose an architectural
solution based on this criteria.
There are several reasons for maintaining the convent site
in Saint Augustine. First of all, this site has been the historic
center for all mission work in Florida. Not only is Saint Augustine
important for the Sisters of Saint Joseph, but for all Florida Catholics
as well. Throughout history, the center of the Catholic Church in
Florida has been Saint Augustine. The tradition continues today with
the Saint Augustine Cathedral. In recent years, however, the business
offices of the diocese have been moved to Jacksonville, making it
more accessible by air and rail service.
Secondly, the Sisters in residence at Saint Augustine like
their location. They are close to their work in the academy and other
mission work and within walking distance to most of their needs. Also,
Saint Augustine is a beautiful city with a character of its own, an
asset much enjoyed by many of the older Sisters. Jacksonville
location has no particular aesthetic value and is quite remote from
many of the services required by the convent.
Finally, cost becomes a factor. Even if the Saint Augustine
location requires some demolition and/or new construction, the cost
of building all new facilities and moving to Jacksonville would be
more expensive than a redevelopment of present facilities in Saint
Assuming that redevelopment is the most desired approach,
problems of the site and facility must be considered to determine
the best avenue of approach. The residents of the site are most
aware of the problems that confront them. A discussion with the
Sisters quickly reveals these concerns.
Changing demands put upon the aging buildings have made
them inadequate in many ways. Although termite damage has tempo-
rarily been solved, the 1906 buildings remain a problem in not
meeting present day fire and safety codes. Adaptive use of the
present buildings, in the present configuration, creates a function-
al problem. Changes in floor levels, exterior passage connections
and below grade storage areas which often flood create extreme
problems for total usage of the facilities by the Sisters.
As a result of the site location being the oldest part of
the city with very narrow streets, a problem arises as to accesibil-
ity to services. Because of one-way narrow streets and sharp
obstructed corners large delivery trucks cannot reach the site.
Presently all garbage and waste must be carried to the west end of
the Mary Lucas Hart property to a dumpster accessible off Bridge Street;
fuel delivery must be pre-arranged for night time delivery so the
fuel truck can gain passage down streets cleared of cars by the city;
other delivery including food stuffs arrive to the site via backing
the delivery -trucks several blocks and hand carting the boxes onto
the site. Even small vehicular traffic to the site is limited. The
county must maintain a special ambulance small enough to travel in
this congested area to reach the convalescent center. A number of
times, critical time has been lost in transporting the extremely ill
Sisters because the wrong ambulance was sent, and unable to reach the
site, another one had to be called--delaying the needed medical care
of the hospital. Also, parking is limited on the site, not even meet-
ing the everyday demands of the ten cars operated by the convent.
In planning for the future one must begin by looking at the
present needs. The Sisters of Saint Joseph have a primary concern of
providing adequate housing for a minimum of seventy residents.
Being the Motherhouse for the missions of Florida and the
historic center of the Congregation, periodically most of the Congre-
gation returns to the site for annual meetings and festivities.
Presently, these visitors are housed in overcrowded, substandard
dormitory space in the 1906 academy building, this space setting unused
throughout much of the year. There is a need for a large multipurpose
space that could be used for sleeping by setting up beds usually
held in adjacent storage areas. Throughout the rest of the year the
space could be used for other day-to-day activities.
A library and listening center is needed to hold the convent's
reading collection. It would provide the Sisters with better access
to the books and would provide recordings for the elderly who have
difficulty in reading.
The Administrative Offices for the foundation, being locat-
ed in the convent, creates some difficulties. Facilities are
inadequate to some extent and their location within a particular
convent itself seems to give that convent special status. Also,
working and living in the same building, the Superior General has
little opportunity to get away from her work and relax. Moving the
administrative offices to another building would help eliminate these
problems and could provide better accessibility. Any plan for the
administrative offices should include expanded office space for the
Superior General and an office with secure storage for the archivist.
Also needed, are both large and small meetings rooms required for
administrative planning and evaluation sessions.
Other present needs to be considered are laundry facilities
near living areas and a convenient central kitchen and common food
storage area. Parking and site accessibility for services must also
During the past decade the Catholic Church and convent life
have changed greatly. Perhaps this is most visible in the absence of
the habit as Sisters are allowed to wear ordinary street clothes instead.
But there have been many other changes not visible to the outsider.
Where once strict rules were enforced concerning the cloistered life
and silence, modern norms are more lenient.
As the Sisters of Saint Joseph reflect on the past and plan
for the future, they predict that their number will remain constant
or only increase minimally. They see a move toward some decentraliz-
ing of the convent population. Through experience, they have found
that traditional convent life has had its short comings in terms of
the social needs of the residents. Seventy women living together,
sharing common facilities, does not allow for many close relation-
ships. The present trend is toward smaller "family-like" groups
living in the typical family setting of an apartment or detached
home. The Sisters of Saint Joseph predict that in the future they
will decentralize as groups of four to six Sisters leave the main
convent to live in the family setting nearer their mission work.
For example, those involved in teaching at Saint Joseph's Academy
may, in the future, make their residence in a typical home built on
or near the new site at the west edge of Saint Augustine. Under such
conditions the Sisters may get to know one another and share concerns
of their common interests.
As always, the Sisters of Saint Joseph are looking for ways
to expand their work dedicated to the welfare of the poverty stricken,
the disabled, and to the Christian formation of youth. When they
identify needs of the community they must evaluate their ability to
meet those needs, and at all times the Congregation must be aware of
the financial ramifications of a project.
In this time of high inflation and price uncertainty, the
Sisters of Saint Joseph are in need of several income producing pro-
jects. It is very appropriate then, that they consider these as
they plan for the future of the facility.
Presently two on-site activities provide a small income to
the Congregation. These are the Florida History Museum and a craft
shop located in the two historic houses on Aviles Street. Two income
producing alternatives that the Sisters have considered are a fine
arts school and a Montessori School. The fine arts school would of-
fer instruction in music, dramatic arts, and possibly drawing, painting,
sculpture, and dance to any residents of the Saint Augustine area for
a set tuition fee. The Montessori School would provide training for
young children emphasizing free physical activity, informal and
individual instruction, with early development of writing and reading,
and extended sensory motor training. This too would be funded by a
set tuition for each child in attendance.
Upon some research into the needs of Saint Augustine and with
a knowledge of the resources of the convent, several compatible projects
may be proposed. A day care facility caring for children of working
mothers is much needed in Saint Augustine. The Sisters could provide
the necessary experience and background to operate such a facility.
Another service that the convent could offer to Saint Augus-
tine would be a Community Life Center. Under this program a number
of services could be offered. Elderly residents of the city would be
offered a hot, nutritionally balanced meal at a cost based on the
individual's ability to pay. The meal program could be similar to
the congregate meal programs set up in other cities with hblp from
the government. The program would be on a three or five day a week
basis and would include morning or afternoon activities such as lec-
tures, seminars, games, and social hour. The advantage of the
Community Life Center is that it could offer extra benefits of use
of the convent library and listening center to the participants and
it can be established using common facilities and spaces that the
convent uses only at certain times. It could also greatly benefit
the large number of single elderly residents living very near the
convent site. It would give them a chance to get out and socialize
by enjoying the activities and it would help supplement many inade-
Both the day care center and the Community Life Center could
benefit from the close proximity to the large number of semi-retired
Sisters living on the site. These Sisters would be able to join in
on the activities at both of these programs to the benefit of both
the participants and the Sisters.
One final income producing project that could be considered
as an alternative for the future would be the development of a European
type pension. This boardinghouse arrangement could be considered if
future years of decentralization and declining population result in
a large vacancy in the living accommodations at the convent. Its
location in the older section of Saint Augustine provides a prime
location for tourist housing. For a small fee the convent could pro-
vide overnight accommodations and a breakfast. Here again this
function, if ever implemented, could share facilities with the other
functions of the site.
Any:decision by the Sisters of Saint Joseph that would
change the use of their site must be made to conform to the city
ordinances for Saint Augustine. Lying in historic district one (HP-1),
the city code states allowable uses to include: Single family dwell-
ings, schools, boarding and rooming houses, museums, libraries,
military and religious structures, churches, multiple family dwellings,
and historic structures with related adaptive uses. Any of the
proposals for future projects mentioned above are compatible with the
historic character of the area.
Preliminary Design Assumptions
It is beyond the limitations of this academic study to fully
analyze and architecturally design the facilities for Saint Joseph's
Convent. It is therefore necessary to make several recommendations to
the Sisters of Saint Joseph and based on the assumed implementation
of these proposals, design a facility capable of meeting the present
and future needs of the convent.
For the purpose of this study, let us assume that the 1906
academy buildings and their respective additions be demolished. Al-
though the Graf Quality of Space Survey (1977) recommended retaining
the buildings for non-educational convent use, it is felt that
structural problems, life safety hazards and floor level changes
create a great obstical in any adaptive use project of these buildings.
Also, any of the proposed new uses suggested by the convent require
functional space and accessibility not obtainable in the present
1. Continue use of historic houses on Aviles Street
as craft shop and Florida History Museum.
2. Restore Donaldson-Bronson House and use as Ad-
ministrative Offices for the Sister of Saint Joseph
in Florida. Room size and arrangement are quite
suitable to this adaptive use/restoration and the site
has potential accessibility and parking space.
3. Provide ambulance access and parking for Lourdes
Hall off Bridge Street. The west entrance of the convales-
cent center could become the main entrance for an arm of
the Community Life Center offering convalescent care
for a limited number of neighborhood residents on a
4. Remodel two-story structure between the Father
O'Reilly House and Gaspar Papy House for use as a self-
contained Montessori School.
5. Remodel third floor of 1874 convent to accommodate
sixteen residents in modern living "family type" units.
6. Remodel second floor of 1874 convent adaptive use as
fine arts school. Variety of space sizes would nicely
accommodate their new function: Smaller rooms for lesson
sessions and practice rooms, larger spaces for recital
and studio functions.
7. Restore chapel in 1874 convent removing panel-
ling to expose original walls, gothic windows, and French
8. Continue residential use of the Villa Flora
and its addition.
9. Provide on-site parking where athletic field
now exists, between Saint George and Cordova Streets.
Access should be from Cordova Street to minimize traffic
congestion on Saint George Street. This would supply
the required easy parking access needs of all convent
10. General maintenance and upkeep: Replace
aluminum rectangular windows with proto-type of original
gothic casement windows. Level floors where pos-
sible. Replace jalouse windows in doors to eliminate
drafts. Insulate attic space with at least twelve
inches of insulation.
11. Construct a new facility to meet present and
future unmet needs of the convent and its programs.
This building would include residential facilities
for thirty-two Sisters, a central kitchen and dining
facility, a library and listening center, a multi-
purpose room, day care facilities, and common storage
and service facilities.
PROGRAM DESIGN DATA
The Residential Facilities
The Living Unit: As mentioned earlier, the current trend
in convent living is toward smaller groups of Sisters living to-
gether as a family unit. Under this arrangement each group has the
opportunity to determine their own schedule and social activities.
Each living unit should have four to six members, sharing common
facilities of kitchen, living area and bathroom, with each member
having her own sleeping room.
Sleeping Rooms: The sleeping room is each member's private
space. Here the Sister sleeps, dresses, and may find solitude for
study and prayer. Each sleeping room should include a small closet,
a vanity sink, a dresser, a single bed, and a writing table and chair.
Cross ventilation is preferred and flexible furniture arrangements are
desired. Space should be provided for storage of a trunk or large
foot locker holding the personal belongings of each resident.
Bathroom: Each living unit should have one bathroom to be
shared by the unit members. It should include water closet, a
lavatory, and a shower/tub.
Unit Kitchen: A minimum of two meals per day will be pre-
pared in the unit kitchen. Since members take advantage of common
purchasing, little storage space is necessary. Food stuffs may be
gathered daily from the convent's central food storage. The kitchen
should include standard kitchen equipment such as refrigerator, stove,
and a two-compartment sink. Dining space should accommodate all
unit members with the possibility of expanding for visitors.
Unit Interaction Space: This area provides the opportunity
for interaction and discussion by the unit members. It should in-
clude comfortable seating and adequate lighting for reading or close
Unit Devotional Area: This space may be separate from the
living area or it may be as a spiritual corner within the larger liv-
ing space. It provides the opportunity for unit members to conduct
prayer and devotional services as a "family" group. It should contain
a "unit" altar and may include kneeling benches.
Common Storage: Each unit should contain a common storage
area for storage of household cleaning equipment and any additional
trunk storage of personal belongings.
Mechanical Closets Each unit will require its own heating/
cooling system, ergo, a utility closet/mechanical space must be provid-
ed. This may be omitted if a central heating/cooling system is
included in the design that provides zoned individual control in each
Laundry and Sewing Room: Laundry facilities need to be
available with close proximity to each living unit. Since the amounts
of soiled laundry to be cleaned is not excessive, several living
units may share the common household types of washers and dryers.
This space should also contain several ironing boards with irons and
several sewing machines. Storage should be provided for cleaning
detergents and folding tables should be available for individual use.
Common Interaction Space: This room provides a common
area for interaction of members from different living units. It
should provide accommodation for twelve to twenty residents for
television viewing, radio listening, or other small group activities.
As it is shared by several living units, it should have a central
location in relation to these units.
Convent Support Facilities
Dining Hall: This common area provides space for large
group eating and fellowship of all convent members. It will be used
for at least one meal per day and for many special occasions. It
should have a seating capacity of seventy to one hundred persons and
space for portable cafeteria type serving tables.
Central Kitchen: Meal preparation for all dinners served
in the dining hall will be prepared in this kitchen. It will also
prepare the noon day meals for the Community Life and day care programs.
This commercial kitchen should be capable of serving one
hundred fifty people on a daily basis (noon meal) and up to two
hundred on special occasions. Since it will serve various distinct
age groups in different dining areas, food service must be provided
to each remote area. This can be accomplished by using portable,
cafeteria-type serving tables and tray retrieval carts.
The kitchen itself should be adjacent to the central food
storage area where the primary dry and cold storage could be located.
Secondary storage units located in the individual areas within the
kitchen would provide easy access to frequently used food stocks.
The kitchen should be divided into separate individual areas
for the preparation of vegetables and salad, meats and fish, and pas-
try items. A specific area should be provided for cooking and baking.
An enclosed dish washing room is required as is a pot washing area.
Space should be provided for ample storage of portable serving carts
and tables, and the cook should be provided with her own locker and
Central Storage and Receiving: The space must be adjacent
to the central kitchen and accessible to all residents as it contains
all food stuffs and paper goods. It should be easily accessible for
delivery trucks arriving via Saint George Street. The space should
have adequate shelf storage for dry foods and small refrigeration units
for cold storage.
Multi-purpose Room: This space will be used periodically for
sleeping space for large group visits. However, on a day-to-day basis
the space will be used as the main activity space for the Community
Life Center. This program will use the space for both planned group
activities and for dining. It will have other various uses such as
large recitals and other activities in conjunction with the fine arts
school. Because of its multi-purpose nature, this room must be very
adaptable. It should be able to expand to meet the space requirements
for each function. It should be adjacent to adequate storage areas
for chairs, tables, and other equipment.
Library and Listening Center: This space should be located
on a relative quiet area of the site. It will be'used by the Sisters
and the participants of the Community Life Center. It will con-
tain a collection requiring a minimum of three hundred linear feet of
shelving and a record collection of five hundred records. Reading
tables and chairs must be provided and two listening centers are
Convent Reception Area: This space is provided for greeting
all visitors and answering incoming telephone calls. Usually staff-
ed by semi-retired Sisters it provides a waiting area for those
wishing to see on of the residents. It should be centrally located
to all convent project areas and may act as a foyer to the fine arts
Maintenance and Mechanical Space: The maintenance area should
provide space for repair of small objects and storage for tools and
lawn and garden equipment. It should be near the receiving area of
the site and accessible to service-type motor vehicles. The mechanical
area must accommodate the equipment necessary for heating and cool-
ing the main functional spaces.
Community Life Center: This project draws upon resources
already present for the daily functioning of convent life. It will
occupy the multi-purpose space for its general activities and dining
area and it will utilize the facilities of the commerical kitchen,
and library/listening center. In addition to these already present
facilities, it will require toilet facilities. The Community Life
Center should accommodate up to one hundred twenty-five people for
daily meals and related activities.
Day Care Facility: This project, because of its inherent
nature require it to be self-contained and apart from all convent
activities. It should be on ground level and close to the parent drop
off point and off street parking.
A day care center is defined as "any facility for the care
of children for less than twenty-four hours a day" (Waligura, 1971,
p. 9). The day care center conducted by the Sisters of Saint Joseph
would be directed to normal children of working mothers. The facility
should be planned to accommodate fifteen to twenty children between
the ages of two and seven years of age.
The group activity area is the hub of the day care center.
Arranged around it are the different interest centers that may expand
into it as necessary. This space acts as a general multi-purpose area
allowing full participation of all children. Music activities, dramatic
plays, story telling, and indoor physical activity take place here.
For pre-school children, play provides various learning
opportunities. To encourage active participation of each child,
different play alternatives should be provided. These include play
areas for blocks, manipulative toys, housekeeping, and dramatic
play (dress up). These areas should be separated from the general
circulation area to provide uninterrupted play, but adjacent to the
general activity area so they may expand as need arises.
Arts and craft activities are a favorite of young children.
An area for this activity should be provided with clean surfaces and
A science and nature center should be provided including space
for an aquarium, bird and animal cages, a terrarium, and potted plants.
This space should be adjacent to outdoor spaces so the children may
relate their projects to the natural forms in nature.
A reading and listening center should be available for use
by the children. It should include storage and display of reading
material and should be visually distinctive from other areas. An
intimate, special atmosphere should prevail to encourage use of this
specific unique area.
Toilet facilities should be provided within the classroom.
This encourages the children to acquire self-sufficiency in personal
care and frees teaching personnel for more important activity guidance
Each child should have an individual cubical for storage of
coat and cap or other personal belongings. This should be near both
the main entrance and the outdoor recreation area, and it should
provide a sitting area for children to put on their boots.
Other specific needs of the day care center include a tutor-
ing booth for individual instruction and testing, an observation booth,
and a staff preparation area.
Dining may be in the general activity area, or if other pro-
graming allows, the children may use the convent dining hall.
Napping and resting may also use the general activity area.
Storage must be provided for floor mats or cots, and the tables and
chairs may need to be moved and stacked to provide adequate space.
The design of a successful day care facility must consider
the psychological variables of color, light, accoustics, and surface
textures. Particular attention must be given to the scale of the
space, its flexibility and climate control. It must be remembered
that these spaces will primarily be used by and should benefit the
General Comments and Design Criteria
Since this facility is multi-functional, great care must be
given to the individual needs of each function. A delineation must
be made between the private and public spaces in the building. It is
most important to maintain the reverent character of the convent set-
ting. Although through the day the facility will take on a public
atmosphere, during the evenings and nights it will revert to the private
convent environment of reverence and solitude.
THE DESIGN SOLUTION
The following pages illustrate the architectural solution
to this study project*
A Redevelopment Study
Saint Joseph Convent
Doyle R. Harper
5 3D 0 60
PROPOSED SITE PLAN
ADMI NIS"TATE O5 0 iO I
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DAY CARE CENTER
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The purpose of this study project was to gain experience in
contemporary architectural design in a fixed historical environment.
The goal throughout the project was to experience, as nearly as
possible, the limitations and constraints put upon the architect in
a non-fictional project. This problem was very successful in that
respect. Involvement with the Sisters of Saint Joseph, as they
considered their building alternatives, was a tremendous learning
experience. The complexity of and variety of functional activities
required by the convent, and its programs, considering the site,
and locational restraints, made a very challenging study.
Due to the numerous, complex design research alternatives
of this project, several recommendations were made as to the direction
the Convent of Saint Joseph may take to solve their present and
future building and economic needs. Based on preliminary assump-
tions, a design program and solution was prepared.
The design solution combined the residential and spiritual
space needs of the convent with that of its income producing projects.
The design considered all site and location restraints, paying
particular attention to visual compatibility with the 1874 convent
and the general character of the residential neighborhood.
Alberta, Sister M., S.S.J. "Study of the Schools Conducted by the
Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Diocese of Saint Augustine,
Florida 1866-1940." Unpublished Master's Thesis, Graduate
School, University of Florida, 1940.
DeChiara, J. and Hancock, J. Time Saver Standards for Building
Types. New York: McGraw-Hill Books, Company, 1973.
Graf, R.G., and Associates, Architects, Planners and Consultants,
P.A. "Quality of Space Survey for Saint Joseph's Academy."
Tallahassee, Florida, May, 1977.
Guralnik, D.B. (ed.). Webster's New World Dictionary of the American
Language, (2nd edition). New York: The World Publishing
Hoffman, P.E. "Saint Augustine 1580, The Research Project." El
Escribano, XIV, 1977, pp. 5-19.
Kilpatrick, W.H. The Montessori System Examined. New York: Arno
Press and the New York Times, 1971.
Manucy, A. The Houses of Saint Augustine. Saint Augustine, Florida:
The Saint Augustine Historical Society, 1978.
McGoldrick, Sister T.J., S.S.J. "The Contributions of the Sisters
of Saint Joseph of Saint Augustine to Education 1866-1960."
Unpublished Master's Thesis, Graduate School, University of
National Fire Protection Association. Life Safety Code, 1976.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Climate of the
States. New York: Water Information Center, Incorporated, 1974.
Orem, R.C. and Colurn, M.J. Montessori: Prescription for Children
with Learning Disabilities. New York: G.P. Putman's Sons, 1978.
Pevsner, N., et al. A Dictionary of Architecture. Woodstock, New
York: The Overlook Press, 1976.
Ramsey, C.G. and Sleeper, H.R. Architectural Graphics Standards,
(6th edition). New York: John Wiley and Sons Incorporated,
Reps, J.W. The Making of Urban America. Princeton, 'New Jersey:
Princeton University Press, 1965.
Schoonover, R.A. (ed.). "First Hospital--U.S.A," Florida Health
Notes, LX, No. 2, 1968.
Sisters of Saint Joseph. Living Waters. Saint Augustine, 1966.
Southern Building Code Congress International Incorporated. Standard
Building Code. 1976 edition with 1977-1978 revisions. Birming-
ham, Alabama, 1976-1978.
Southern Building Code Congress International Incorporated. Standard
Plumbing Code. 1976 edition. Birmingham, Alabama, 1976.
Waligura, Randolph L. Environmental Criteria MR Preschool Day Care
Facilities. College Station, Texas: Research Center, College
of Architecture and Environmental Design, Texas A & M University,
Wolfe, A.D. A Parents' Guide to the Montessori Classroom. Altoona,
Pennsylvanniat Montessori Learning Center, 1975.
Ah A k..A
Aerial View of Site
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Convent: I'est Elevation
Convent: South Elevation
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b) Rear Elevation
Villa Flora Addition
Villa Flora Meditation Garden
Convent-Lourdes Hall Connection
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Convent Service Court
Garden Northeast of Lourdes Hall
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Garden Space Between Lourdes Hall & Classroom Building
Rear of Gaspar Papy House
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West Entrance-Lourdes Hall
Gaspar Papy & Father O'Reilly House
Wall & Fatio House
Aviles Street--East Side
Aviles Street--Looking South
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Fatio House--Aviles Street
Fatio House--Cadiz Street
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Fatio House--Rear Elevation
Small Residences on Cadiz Street
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Cadiz Street Looking West to Saint George Street
Saint George Street West Side
Prince Murat House, Saint George Street at Bridge Street
Early Saint George Street
1874 Convent Before Alterations
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