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A. NARRATIVE DESCRIPTION OF SITE
The southeast wing of the Monson Motor Lodge, built in 1961, is a
reconstruction of a first Spanish period building which was destroyed by fire in 1914. The remaining walls were leveled, but the distinctive coquina escarpment along Avenida Menendez survived and was used as a garden wall until incorporated into the reconstructed building almost half a century later.
This section of the motel is two stories high with a clay tile roof of north-south orientation and an end exterior hidge chimney on the north side decorated with the Spanish royal coat of arms. Wall surface is smooth stucco, with the exception of the curved coquina escarpment at the base, which shows traces of former stucco coatings but is largely exposed stone. Space for a doorway is cut into the escarpment, with two masonry steps leading up. The door, which is currently blocked off, has three panels with decorative turned spindle insets.
Windows on the first story are double hung 6/6 with wooden gratings and ornamental (non-functional) vertical board shutters. Windows on the second story are double hung 9/6. Window sills are of exposed or painted brick.
There is a shed-roof balcony with chamfered posts overlooking the bayfront. Two pairs of 10-pane French doors lead to it. The window at the center of the balcony has been stuccoed over.
Projecting wooden rejas cover two wall air conditioning units; a third is uncovered. There is an attic louver on the south side.
A low coquina wall runs along Treasury Street, a narrow lane closed to
traffic and paved with brick, that runs along the south side of the property.
An open rear staircase leads to the second story of the motel, which continues from the reconstructed section to run west and then north along Treasury and Charlotte Streets.
Comparison with a 1902 photograph of the original building before the tq/i fire shows essentially the same lines as the reconstruction, though the original had a wood shingle rather than clay tile roof, and an extra door on the south side. The photograph shows no balcony, though it is possible that one existed earlier. The steps through the escarpment were wood rather t -- -rd t 4- or -4;1-.z inset rather than fluslh, in a cr-oss cttern
panels. The earlier window sills were wood rather than brick, and the escarpment was mostly stuccoed, with only small sections of exposed coquina.
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A. NARRATIVE DESCRIPTION OF SITE (continued) Page 2
The section of the colonial city of St. Augustine bounded on the north
by Hypolita Street and on the south by Cathedral Place is today an area that combines a commercial business district, tourist attractions, and some residential units. The buildings date from colonial times to the present, with a sprinkling from each period, with no one style having a visual dominance in the area. The neighborhood has been touched by restoration efforts over the years. Some older buildings have been remodeled and some new ones have been constructed in the St. Augustine Colonial Revival style. The ambiance of the area is different than that found in the restored area just to the north. This area has narrow colonial street patterns and six colonial buildings which are scattered along five streets. But as a business district it is faced with modern problems of traffic and parking--the result being that large areas have been leveled and blacktopped for parking lots. The streetscape has been damaged by the destruction of landscaping, and the putting of backs of buildings on public display. A once-famous colonial stretch on the east side of Charlotte Street, for instance, is now mainly taken up with the backs of motels. The eastern section of this area was burned over by major fires in 1887 and 1914, leaving developments in later architectural styles in an area earlier known for its colonial ambiance. The area is bordered on the west by the Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) and on the east by the seawall and bayfront, long a famous secnic attraction. It is part of the National Landmark District, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
B. DISCUSSION OF SIGNIFICANCE
This remnant of a Spanish colonial building was constructed of native shellstone (coquina). The narrow streets with houses and their courtyard walls built to the street line reflect requirements of royal decrees for New World towns. Except for a two-decade interlude (1763-1783) of British ownership, St. Augustine was a Spanish colonial outpost for two and one-half centuries. In 1821, when ceded to the United States, the city's Iberian defensive environmental elements were well established and have retained that character to the present.
C. HISTORY AND BIBLIOGRAPHY OF PAST WORK AT SITE
This section of the walled colonial city traditionally has been one of the main commercial and hotel districts in St. Augustine since the mid-19th century. The area was first developed in the late 17th century as the colonial community expanded northward towards the newly-completed Castillo de San Marcos. The entire city was destroyed n 1702 by the invading South Carolinians, but by mid-century, the Rosario defense line had been erected along present-day Cordova Street and numerous residences had been rebuilt on all streets, particularly between Charlotte Street and the bay. By the end of the colonial period (1812), this area was one of the most densely populated in the city, and a number of buildings from the Spanish era have survived: Fornell, Sanchez, Joaneda, and Perez-Snow Houses.(l) In the Territorial Period, the huge Florida House was constructed along Treasury Street between Charlotte and St. George Streets, and the Methodist Church was located immediately to the north on Charlotte Street. The post-Civil War years brought intense commercialization to St. George, Charlotte, and part of Hypolita Streets. The Magnolia Hotel on St. George Street and the County Courthouse on Charlotte Street were also constructed by the late 19th century. By this time Spanish Street had become one of several Black residential neighborhoods outside Lincolnville with its school on the Dragoon Barracks lot and its own church south of the Magnolia Hotel. The bayfront was a residential area with several boarding houses, and a bathhouse and yacht club projected into the bay from the seawall. This section of the colonial city, particularly the blocks between the bay and St. George Street, was ravaged by major fires in 1887 and 1914, and consequently it has the lowest percentage of 19th century buildings within the old city. The older structures lie along Spanish Street and the west side of St. George Street south of Treasury Street, two areas untouched by the devastating fires.(2)
C. HISTORY AND BIBLIOGRAPHY OF PAST WORK AT SITE (continued) Page 4
The coquina escarpment of the reconstructed building at 40 Avenida
Menendez was part of a first Spanish period building that belonged in 1763 to Antonio Rodriguez Arsian, a soldier those family had lived in St. Augustine for several generations, intermarrying with the families of governors, treasurers and other high colonial officials. When the Treaty of Paris in 1763 provided for Britain to take over Florida, Rodriguez Arsian left with his family for Campeche, Mexico.(3)
A glut on the real estate market was created by departing Spanish subjects trying to sell their property. Rather than lose the property for failure to sell within the prescribed time limits, secret arrangements were made with British subjects to take it in trust until they were able to sell it, forwarding the money to the previous owners. One of the most active figures in these schemes was John Gordon, a Catholic merchant from South Carolina, who raised capital to buy many properties outright with his partner Jesse Fish, and who was given others in trust, including the Catholic Church, Franciscan Monastery, La Leche Chapel, Bishops House--and the house of Antonio Rodriguez Arsian on the bayfront. Gordon's claims were so extensive (over 4,000,000 acres, including those of Jesse Fish) that the British Government disregarded them in making grants to others. Gordon went to England in 1772 to press his claims, but died in 1778 without being successful.(4)
When Spanish rule returned in 1784, the heirs of Rodriguez Arsian, who had since died, moved to reclaim the house on the bayfront. In 1788 it was listed as belonging to the King, but occupied by John Leslie (1749-1803) of the firm of Panton, Leslie and Co., which came to dominate the Indian trade in the southeast during the Second Spanish Period. Lesl.ie was born in Scotland, but had been an Indian trader in South Carolina until his Loyalist sympathies compelled him to flee to St. Augustine in 1777. In 1781 he was one of 19 men elected to the Commons House of Assembly in East Florida. One of his partners, Thomas Forbes, was nephew and heir to John Gordon, and another, William Panton, had gotten his start as Gordon's apprentice. The Panton, Leslie firm stayed in Florida when the Spanish returned, becoming even more influential than they had been under the British. Panton went to Pensacola to head the business there, while Leslie stayed in St. Augustine to manage the East Florida operations.(5)
Bt 1790 the government declared the house occupied by Leslie to be the
legitimate property of the Rodriguez Arsian heirs. Leslie bought the property just to the north of it and continued his operations from there.
In 1793 Francisco Xavier Sanchez, a native Floridian with large cattle and real estate interests made a conditional sale of the property to his wife's nephew, Havana-born Francisco Xavier Miranda. Sanchez lacked the necessary papers from the Rodriguez Arsian heirs making him their agent, so the conditional sale was not finalized until they arrived in 1795. Miranda, whose family owned other houses in the neighborhood, evidently used this one as rental property, as Jose Gonzales is listed there in 1800.
In 1803 Miranda sold two coquina houses, this and the one directly behind it on Charlotte Street, to another of his.wife's uncles, Bernardino Sanchez.(6)
After Sanchez's death, his heirs sold the property in 1827 to Reubin Loring, a contractor who had come to St. Augustine from Wilmington, N. C. after Florida
C. HISTORY AND BIBLIOGRAPHY OF PAST WORK AT SITE (continued) Page 5
became part of the United States. His wife was a member of the Kenan family, one of whose relatives would later become the third wife of Standard Oil partner and Florida developer Henry M. Flagler. His son was the one-armed Confederate General William Wing Loring.(7)
Reubin Loring mortgaged the property a year later to Samuel Reed, Jr. of Maine, and soon lost it.(8)
In 1829 Reed sold it to Augustus Poujoud (1779-1860) a French-born
Charlestonian who became a plantation owner in East Florida and whose wife was the daughter of Bernardino Sanchez. It stayed in the Poujoud family for many years, presumably as rental property. Post-Civil War photographs show it being used as a restaurant and ice cream parlor. The 1855 Horton sketch of the waterfront lists the occupant as "Mr. Boyand," to whom no further reference is found--though it may be a corruption of the frequently misspelled "Poujoud."
A famous St. Augustine landmark, Capo's Bathhouse, was built projecting out from the seawall in front of this house.
In 1887 a suit was filed to divide the estate of Augustus Poujoud's widow,
and this house and the one behind it became the property of Hortensia Sallas.(lO)
She leased the bayfront house to Dr. John Vedder, uncle of the famous
American artist Elihu Vedder (1839-1923). He operated it as a museum, menagerie, and old curiosity shop--a true forerunner of modern Florida tourist attractions. A promotional brochure urged tourists: "Don't fail to See Dr. Vedder's Collection of Wonders of Creation in Florida. From the Land and Sea. ... Entrance through one of the Oldest Spanish Buildings--Never been Remodeled." It also gave this "Brief Sketch of a Self-Educated Naturalist Who is Known by Reputation Throughout the Country":
Dr. Vedder's occupations have been varied: his success is unquestioned.
He is now the owner of a Museum and Zoological Garden in St. Augustine,
Fla., in which, it is said nearly all the wonders of creation may be seen.
He was born in Schenectady, N. Y., July 22, 1819, and was one of the
early master mechanics and engineers of motive power. At the age of 20 he had worked at five trades successfully-blacksmith, molder, brass founder,
machinist and locomotive engineer.
In 1839 he was employed by the Utica and Syracuse Railroad Company as
an engineer (motive power) and had charge of and ran the snow-plow engine
in 1839 and '40--Syracuse being the terminus of finished railroad West.
In 1839 being the youngest engineer on his division, and today he is doubtless the oldest living engineer in the United States. He was the inventor
of the cut-off valve in sand-box in 1841, similar to those now in use.
While a resident of the city of Schenectady, N. Y., he was elected
alderman, and was chairman of the committee on land and buildings when
several important municipal improvements were planned and erected.
In 1863 he studied dentistry and practiced it successfully in the city
of Utica, N. Y. Some years later he opened dental parlors in St. Augustine
and practiced for several years, but owning to asthmatic trouble, quit
dentistry; and, having a love for nature, he studied Natural History, and
is now looked upon as authority in the profession. He also learned the
art of taxidermy, and today he owns one of the finest and rarest collections
of live animals, birds, mounted fish, reptiles, crustaceans, etc., in the
C. HISTORY AND BIBLIOGRAPHY OF PAST WORK AT SITE (continued) Page 6
At the age of 16 he enlisted in a military company under Cpatain
Platt Porter, advanced from corporal to sergeant, to ensign, and at the age of 20 had command of a company of Governor's Guards of Schenectady.
Being an expert in the manual exercises was chosen fugal man and instructor by the colonel for general parade.
Such is the history of a man who at the age of 80 is conducting a
Museum and Zoological Garden amid the sun-kissed environments of St.
It must be acknowledged that the doctor's earlier education was
apparently not of a character calculated to prepare him for the occupation which he now pursues, the successive steps from black-smithing to dentistry, and then to zoology, being generally regarded as transitions of a somewhat abrupt character. But in view of these circumstances in
his life and his ultimate success, the doctor's career forces itself upon
the attention as affording a remarkable exhibition or versatility.
Dr. Vedder was a colorful St. Augustine character, but not always a popular neighbor. In 1887 a local newspaper reported:
"Last Saturday morning Miss Minnie Sanchez went into the yard as is
her custom to feed some young ducks, which were kept in a small coop.
Before opening the door of the coop she stopped to look in and what was
her amazement and horror to see an immense moccasin snake coiled with
head erect ready to strike. She immediately called an employee of the
ice house, who despatched the monster. The snake was six feet long, and probably escaped from Dr. Vedder's Museum in the adjoining yard. It was
a narrow escape."(12)
The same issue, reporting on the city council meeting, noted:
"A complaint was received from Mrs. J. R. Sanchez in regard to
reptiles and animals escaping from Dr. Vedder's Museum and the stench
therefrom. The Council ordered Dr. Vedder to remove his menagerie outside of the city limits until the Ist of December."
After Dr. Vedder's death in 1899, the collection, minus the live animals, was bought by the St. Augustine Institute of Science and Historical Society (predecessor of today's St. Augustine Historical Society) for $600. Dr. DeWitt Webb, the Society's president, loaned the money, and was not repaid for years. The Society continued to operate the museum, giving "The Vedder Collection" top billing on the sign outside. By 1911 the additional items acquired required more space, so the Sallas house on Charlotte Street, directly behind this one, was also leased. In 1912 W. J. Harris, a talented photographer and operator of historic tourist attractions was hired as the Society's curator, a post he would hold until his death in 1940 (when he was succeeded by his son J. Carver Harris). Harris moved his photographic business into the bayfront building.(13)
Then on April 2, 1914 a fire that began in the wooden Florida House Hotel on Treasury Street spread and destroyed many of the old colonial buildings on St. George and Charlotte Streets and the bayfront. The Sallas house with the Historical Society collectidhs valued at $25,000 was consumed, and, the press reported:
C. HISTORY AND BIBLIOGRAPHY OF PAST WORK AT SITE (continued) Page 7
W. J. Harris, the photographer, was particularly unfortunate and
suffered heavy loss. His postcard stock in 'The House of History' (the Vedder building), valued at $2,500, was a complete loss; no insurance."
Harris also lost his own nearby home, as did his parents.(14)
St. Augustine at the time was a winter headquarters for silent movie
makers, and they took advantage of the ruins to depict scenes from the war then raging in Europe.(15)
The remaining walls of the Vedder building were leveled, but not the distinctive coquina escarpment.
The property was bought by the Monson Hotel, already in its third incarnation. Begun in the 1880s as a boarding house by Capt. A. V. Monson (who also rented boats and sold boots and shoes in multiplicity of occupations not rare then in the Ancient City) and his wife, it was destroyed by fire in 1895. A second Monson, composed of several wooden buildings on the bayfront replaced it, only to be destroyed in the 1914 fire. A third Monson, this time of masonry and designed by architect Fred A. Henderich, was begun soon after. This hotel adopted as its emblem the phoenix, with the words "Rising from the Ashes"-using it both on its letterhead and the front of the building. Mrs. Monson's brother, Charles E. Young, Sr., took over the management, later to be succeeded by his son. Distinguished guests included cartoonist Bud Fisher ("Mutt and Jeff"), aviator Glenn Martin, auto manufacturer Henry Ford and opera star Mary Garden (who praised the apple pie).(16)
The hotel was successful enough to expand with a south wing in 1917,
built on the former Sallas property. The site of the Vedder building became the hotel garden, with the miraculously surviving coquina escarpment serving as a wall in front of it. The cut-out section in the middle, which had led to the old door, was used as a gateway with an arched wooden arbor over it.
The hotel was taken over by the Coast Guard in September 1942 and, like many others in Florida, used for military training. It reopened to the public in November 1945.(17)
In 1947 the Monson was purchased by William W. Faw who continued to operate it until the age of the motel threatened to make hotels obsolete.(18)
At the end of 1960 the hotel was razed. That was a time when the efforts to restore and recreate colonial St. Augustine were just getting underway, and many businesses cooperated by erecting buildings in the colonial style. As the new Monson Motor Lodge was planned, its contribution to the joint effort was to reconstruct a section of the motel along the lines of the old Vedder building, incorporating the surviving coquina escarpment.(19)
The new motel was:completed in time for the celebration of the city's 400th anniversary in 1965 but became embroiled in the heated civil rights struggle which focused international attention on St. Augustine just prior to the historical celebration.
Dr. Martin Luther King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference came to town and announced that he would take part in a sit-in at the Monson
C. HISTORY AND BIBLIOGRAPHY OF PAST WORK AT SITE (continued) Page 8
on June 11, 1964. According to a 1985 book on the subject:
Sit-ins had been conducted regularly by SCLC and local leaders
against the Monson restaurant, which was managed by James Brock. His motel became the target because Brock was prominent in the motel and
hotel business, serving as president of the state association and past
president of the St. Johns County association, and because a large group
of reporters stayed at the Monson. Publicity would thus be easy to
At 12:22 p.m. King arrived with seven aides at Monson's for lunch.
The press had been forewarned by SCLC of what was to occur, and King and
his party were "surrounded by a horde of cameramen." Brock, a short,
mustachioed man, had also been notified of King's arrival. He stood on the red welcome mat in front of the restaurant waiting for King's party.
As the crowd of demonstrators and reporters descended upon him with King in the center, Brock announced that this was private property. He then turned toward King and asked, "What is your name?" "Martin King," came
the response. Brock introduced himself and the two tried unsuccessfully to talk privately but mircophones were jabbed between them. With cameras
flashing and clicking, King told Brock, "You're going to have to integrate."
Brock, a rather mild-mannered, religious man who suddenly found himself
thrust into the middle of the civil rights controversy, said he would if you have a "federal court order or if a group of St. Augustine businessmen prevail upon me." Then, as if hoping that King would suddenly go
away, Brock asked, "Won't you leave?" King, wearing a black button with a white "Equal" on his lapel, had no intention of leaving. "He was there to be arrested," reported Gene Miller of the Miami Herald. In this carnivallike atmosphere King began to sermonize, "We are standing here in a nonviolent manner." He was interrupted by a white man who hollered to Brock, "Are you open or not?" "Yes," Brock replied. With that the man
shoved the Reverend Ralph Abernathy forward knocking him into King. The
white man turned to King and called him a "black bastard."
Reporters and television cameramen meanwhile had created a sideshow
of their own as they circled to get the most audible comments or take the
best picture. Shouts of "Duck your head," "Out of the way," and "Get that flashgun down, you're blocking the (television camera) lens" were heard as
reporters jockeyed for position.
Within a few minutes Police Chief Virgil Stuart arrived and asked
Brock if he was "lookin' for us?" Breathing a sigh of relief, Brock told Stuart that he had asked King and his aides to leave three times and that
they were trespassing on his property. Stuart told the group: "You're
under arrest. Follow me."
With King's arrest, SCLC accelerated pressure on the federal government
to intervene in St. Augustine.
Another dramatic development came a week later, on June 18, 1964, when SCLC planned a "swim-in" at the Monson pool:
...The demonstration began with the arrival of an integrated group
at the doorway of Monson's restaurant at 12:39 p.m. Led by several rabbis who had come to St. Augustine at the invitation of King, they were greeted
by Brock, who announced that his business was segregated and they would
not be permitted in. The constant demonstrations at the motel were beginning to take their toll on Brock. Normally a mild-mannered, gregarious
C. HISTORY AND BIBLIOGRAPHY OF PAST WORK AT SITE (continued) Page 9
person, Brock appeared nervous and irritable as he greeted the integrated
group. Demonstrations had been conducted almost daily at the motel for
the past month and not only was Brock subjected to pressure from the civil
rights forces, he was also being encouraged strongly by the white community
and the segregationists not to surrender. During the previous week Brock had received several threats against his life and his business. In addition, his mother-in-law had suffered a heart attack following one demonstration at the motel.
The confrontation between Brock and the rabbi-led group deteriorated
quickly. The rabbis knelt to pray for Brock when he refused to admit them.
As the integrationist group started praying, Brock, a deacon and superintendent of the Sunday School at the Baptist Church, suddenly lost control
of himself, grabbing the rabbis and shoving them off his property.
At 12:47, eight minutes after the rabbis had approached Monson's, five
blacks leaped from a car that had just pulled up and jumped into Brock's
swimming pool with two white men who were registered at the motel. Brock
immediately left the rabbi-led group and told the two whites in the pool
"You're not putting these people in my pool." "These are our guests,"
came the reply. "We are registered here, and want these people to swim
with us." Brock ran to his office and returned with a two-gallon container
which he announced Was acid as he poured it into the pool. During the
demonstration, King, Abernathy, and their aides stood across the street on
the sea wall. King was heard to say, "We are going to put Monson out of
...The demonstration at the Monson pool appeared on the evening
national television news and on the front page of most of the nation's
leading newspapers. It was also pictured in the foreign press, including
the front page of Izvestia. King seized upon these developments to wire
Attorney General Robert Kennedy, complaining about the "raw brutality" of
local police and urging the use of federal troops.
St. Augustine was Dr. King's last major campaign before the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. A few months later he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
James Brock became the owner of the Monson after William Faw's death in 1980. In 1987 he was named Florida Hotelier of the Year by the 900-member Florida Hotel and Motel Association. Actor Richard Boone, who played Paladin in the television series "Have Gun, Will Travel," retired to St. Augustine and for a time operated a theatre at the Monson.(22)
1. Juan Jose Elixio de la Puente, "Plano . de la Plaza de San Agustin," January 22, 1764; Mariano de la Rocque, "Plano Particular de la Ciudad de San Agustin," April 25, 1788; East Florida Papers, Escrituras, 1784-1821; John Bostwick, et. al, "A Sub-Surface Archaeological Survey of the Northern Colonial City." (St. Augustine: HSAPB, 1978); Albert Manucy, The Houses of St. Augustine, 1565-1821 (St. Augustine, 1962), pp. 22-25 and 41-47.
2. Anon., "Copy of a Plan of the City of St. Augustine," 1833; 1885 and 1894 Birds-Eye Views; St. Augustine Record, April 7, 1914; July 4, 1937; February 5, 1950; May 14, 1950; Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1884-1958; St. Augustine City Directory, 1885, 1899, 1904.