Ximenez-Fatio House - Letter February 2, 1972 (7 pages)


Material Information

Ximenez-Fatio House - Letter February 2, 1972 (7 pages)
Series Title:
Herschel Shepard Project Files
Physical Description:
Shepard, Herschel ( donor )
Publication Date:
Physical Location:
Folder: 7303 Ximenez-Fatio House


Spatial Coverage:
North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- St. Johns -- St. Augustine

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID:

Full Text


CH(ARLES E. PITEIISON, F. \.1 A. Archilectural Ilisorit(I. Reslorationist ain Planner

February 2, 1972

Mrs. Wm. G. Lockwood
Chairman, Study Committee
The National Society of the
Colonial Dames of America
5012 Yacht Club Road
Jacksonville, Florida 32210

Dear Mrs. Lockwood:


The undersigned arrived at St. Augustine by automobile about 11 p.m.
the evening of Sunday, January 2 and took a room at the Monson Motel on
the bayfront.

Following is an incomplete account of a very busy three days followed
by assorted comments and recommendations as to the present condition and
further possibilities for developing the Ximenes-Fatio House as an historic

Jan 3 In the morning I was met at the motel by Mrs. Ward Newell of
St. Augustine who led me to the X-F House and opened it. There I was soon
joined by Mrs. Judson Freeman (President of the Colonial Dames in Florida)
and Mrs. Win. G. Lockwood Jr., Chairman of the Study Committee, both of
Jacksonville. Not long after that by Miss Dena Snodgrass, Jacksonville

At our request Mr. Robert Steinbach of the Historic St. Augustine
Preservation Board came over to discuss the old maps of the city and Mr.
John W. Griffen, its Director, dropped by to say hello.

After a sandwich lunch at the house we went to Mr. Steinbach's office
where he kindly demonstrated.the problems of overlaying old St. Augustine
maps on modern ones to analyze the development of individual building lots.
Much has already been learned by that method but the concentration of
studies so far has been on the north end of the city.

Jan 4 Spent morning examining the X-F House with HABS measured draw-
ing of 1936 in hand. In afternoon visited the St. Johns County Courthouse
with Mesdames Freeman and Lockwood to get a first-hand idea of the records
pertaining to our house and to Francisco Pellicer, putative builder and
guardian of the Ximenes children. Certain relevant documents seemed very
elusive, but there is no question that they have existed in very recent

332 Spruce SIrvet
Social Hill
lhil hel ph i. Pa. 19100
21.1 \\ Mlfill 2-36f-23

2 -

At one point an interview was given to Miss Anne Carling who wrote
the news story on the house appearing in the St. Augustine Record for
January 8-9.

Jan 5 Made walking tour of house with Mesdames Freeman and Lockwood
- withtf ss Snodgrass making notes on details of trim, hardware, etc., as
discussed by me. Visited Historical Society again and talked with Mrs.
Eugenia B. Arana, translator. Discussed with Mr. Steinbach (who is by
trade an archeologist) exploratory excavations that could be made around
the old kitchen on the X-F property.

Left St. Augustine about 4:00 p.m. in Mrs. Freeman's car. Addressed
the Colonial Dames at a sherry party in Jacksonville. Took dinner with
Mr. and Mrs. Freeman and Miss Snodgrass at airport. Departed 8:25 p.m.
for Atlanta and Philadelphia, reaching the latter before midnight.

The ladies of the Society gave me every possible assistance in
studying the house and I am very grateful for their generosity.

Future Program

The two major questions about the Ximenes house now seem to be:

(1) What should be the objectives for future development?
(2) How can presently available professional and organizational
resources be used?

These will be discussed briefly below.

Ownership of this property by the Colonial Dames has insured the
survival of the house. It is an interesting one and plays an important
role in the streetscape of St. Augustine. Private projects of this sort
have been the leaders in the American historic preservation movement. In
this country the devoted amateur (often fighting with desperation) led
the way and finally won general acceptance of the idea. Only lately have
the governments at various levels admitted their own responsibilities.
with public funds becoming available it now becomes the duty of the stewards
of all such properties to see what can be secured in the way of financial
aid for optimum development.

The house now being secure and furnished enough to make it exhibitable -
there is time to consider if in its present state, it is realizing its full
potentialities. What has been a holding operation could progress to a high-
er level. It seems to me that the answer will emerge when the history of
the house has been thoroughly studied through all the various periods of its
existence. There is a lot to be done on this; the work has only started.

To this writer the historical truth has always been infinitely more
interesting than the folklore customarily purveyed around tourists centers
such as St. Augustine. What is the whole story of the X-F House? Who
actually built it and what was it used for? What was the background of
the builder? What other examples remain of his work? Was it intended to be


3 -

only a private house? What went on in the lower rooms and in the
other buildings? Why was the big wing added to the front building?

This writer does not pretend to an intimate knowledge of St.
Augustine people and buildings but some sample probing in the three
days there indicated that a great deal more can be learned about this
house than we now know.

My three-day engagement at St. Augustine did not permit a de-
finitive report and I now will have to make it as brief as possible.
I could write for a week on various phases of the development problem
but will have to confine myself to a few unsymmetrical essays on
things that might be done soon. The most encouraging thing is that
you ladies at once sensed the possibility and desirability of further
research. The big thing is to keep going and to study the documents
of the later periods, which will reveal a lot about the house in the
earlier days.

A curse that seems to hang over much of St. Augustine historiography
in the past is the disorderly and confusing mix of authentic data and
what is only folklore or opinion. I believe that you ought to build
up a solid file of hard data on your house in the form of transcriptions,
etc. Keep it in strict order of date and note the exact location where
each piece was found. Also, note on each item who found it and when,
so credit can be given (that is very important!). Supplementing the
source book of textual material would be a collection of clear prints of
old views, maps, etc., all precisely labeled and also kept in date order.

What is needed as much as anything else is a detailed report on
what the Dames did to this building after the HABS drawings were made
in 1936. This should be done while people now living can contribute.
For instance: what about that fire referred to on HABS Sheet Three as
"PLAN OF ATTIC BUPIED AND RE-BUILT 1926"? Somebody ought to remember
the fire and there should have been a newspaper notice.
Use of House

Hopefully the measurements of the house recorded on July 8, 1806
by Jose Lorente and Martin Hernandez, Master Mason and Master Carpenter
respectively to the local Spanish government, can be reconciled with
the present sturcture. The large number of items sold out of the place
on August 30, 1806 can probably be allocated to the various rooms in a
hypothetical way. Ximenes' license to keep a store and a billiard table
suggests that retail and recreation operations were carried out on the
ground floor and that the Ximenes family lived upstairs in the few years
before the first owner's death. This was very common all over Early
America, even in the big cities.


Billiards was a common form of recreation in the Spanish American
colonies. John Olivary had a table in Natchez in 1791 and they were
known in the Illinois Country, too, in that period. A sketch made by
Benjamin Henry Latrobe in Virginia in the 1790's shows what they looked
like with men playing.

I think it quite likely that the Ximenes orphans were moved out
of the X-F House and the whole place rented out or managed for the
benefit of the estate until it was finally settled in 1819. If the
place was an inn (the layout of the rear wing space which looks like
hotel rooms may well have been added before 1819) it would be inter-
esting to present the place as an early example of St. Augustine hospi-
tality. It may have been a pioneer in a long local tradition which was
continued through Louisa Fatio's management in later years.

I am not acquainted with the St. Augustine newspapers, but I think
some clues might be found if it had rooms to rent. They would probably be
licensed for inn-keeping, too. The study of the use of the buildings
should be continued through all the years.

Francisco Pellicer

To understand the X-F House we should know everything possible
about St. Augustine mechanics and the builder of this house in particular.
It seems quite possible that Francisco Pellicer, father-in-law of Andre's
Ximenes and later guardian of his three minor children could have been
the builder.

From hasty notes taken in St. Augustine, Pellicer was born in Parish
Leon, Minorca, in 1748. He arrived in Florida at the New Smyrna colony
about 1768 and moved to St. Augustine in 1777. There he was known as
a prominent builder living in the northern end of the city.

Pellicer was appointed executor and custodian under Ximenes' first
will (1802) but it seems from the list of witnesses that he was not pre-
sent at the writing of Ximenes' second and last will on April 10, 1806.
Nor was he appointed executor at that time. But the statement has been
made that he later took over the guardianship of the three Ximenes orphans
- his own grandchildren and in 1819 gave an accounting of the remainder
of the estate. All of that should be straightened out.

Some questions: (1) Where did FP learn the trade of carpenter?
Minorca? He could have completed an apprenticeship before he left there.
Or was it New Smyrna or St. Augustine? When do the records first call
him a carpenter? What else did he build in St. Augustine? Is his name
found in the building records at the Castillo or elsewhere? Is anything
else standing that he built? When did he die? What was in his inventory?

All of these things relate directly or indirectly to an understanding
of the X-F House. Learning about FP and his works at the very least should
help in understanding St. Augustine buildings in general. This is usual
methodology in architectural analysis anywhere.


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The Kitchen

For a trial project in the difficult and demanding field of restoration
I suggest that you take on restoration plans for the old kitchen.

I recommend that you ask Prof. Reeves of the University of Florida if
he could have some of his students make a special set of measured drawings
on HABS paper at the unusually large scale of 1/2" equals one foot. The
drawings would include:

1 cover sheet
1 floor plan
4 elevations
2 cross sections
1 longitudinal section
1 details

On these sheets (when they are rough-drawn so they can be printed) would
be noted a large number of details of interest for the consideration of
the architect designing the restoration. The little building is full of
tricks, as I observed in my short visit. The present roof, for instance,
is at least the third one. And the walls may be a survival of the pre-
Ximenes days.

I suggest that you offer the cost of transportation from and to Gaines-
ville and free lunches and maybe beer afterwards. If this fits in with
classroom assignments they may jump at it. But you should ask soon. The
school year will soon be over.

Also, I'd see if J. Erwin Page, who madethe 1936 drawings, is still
around. It is just possible. Perhaps he lived in Jacksonville.


Comparative cartographic studies using the old maps have been made
in St. Augustine for many years but it is a tricky business. Problems
include the variations in accuracy of the cartographer, the vicissitudes
of engraving, the exact meaning of the term vara etc. But a great deal
can be learned and the process should be employed for the study of the
X-F House and the immediately adjoining properties.

For the record the following maps were examined in Mr. Steinbach's
office:[I have never seen a list like this elsewhere]

de Solis engraved 1762 Berrio 1791
Jeffries 1762/3 Sanborn (fire insurance) 1890
de Puente drawn 1763 City Map (in several sheets) 1923
Moncrief 1765 Sanborn (fire insurance) 1958
de la Rocque 1788


Note: No mention was made of the 1764 Pablo Costello map
which is reproduced in Chatelain, Defences and it
seems to me that there ought to be more 19th century
maps. Has anyone searched the great collection at
the Library of Congress?

A recent plot was also located, apparently on a scale of 20' = 1"
titled "Plot Showing/FATIO HOUSE LOT/and/Adjoining Property/BLK 34 -
St. Augustine/ 4/14/39 Peter Kendrick Eng. Co.". This shows the property
to be 82' on Aviles Street and 105.83' on Cadiz. The angle between the
two is 890 36'.

This map will be important for the study of the X-F House, especially
the plotting of the grounds for any further excavations. A poor xerox
copy is enclosed for identification.

Exploratory Excavations

You will note I am not calling this "Archeology" for the moment. What
architects do around an old house is archeology, too, according to my

Artifacts First of all, I'd get back the objects excavated on your
lot next door and place them in a glass-top case, labelled as far as
possible. Then ask all your members to find whole dishes, etc. of which
you have the fragments. The members of your state organization could get
pleasantly involved in ransacking antique shops on both sides of the
Atlantic. Get the books of Ivor Noel-Hume, an Englishman now well established
at Williamsburg, with the identifications he has made of excavated objects.
You will find good articles by him in Antiques Magazine in recent years.
In fact, the February, 1972 issue (p. 355) actually illustrates a creamware
fragment found in St. Augustine. There is also John M. Goggin, Spanish
Majolica in the New World, New Haven, 1968 for earlier wares.

Stuff dug out of the ground is a sealed documents of times past which
has been set aside for you. It peculiarly belongs to the site not like
objects which have never seen the house until brought there by loving
donors. All this makes good display material.

Further Excavations I would offer at least the expenses for further
excavations this time around the old kitchen. One never knows what will
be found but I'd especially look for any possible remains of the old walls
extending out towards Cadiz Street.

You are unusually fortunate in having two experienced professionals
in St. Augustine (Messrs. Griffen and Steinbach) who know the local scene
well and how to prepare records of what they find. These are not common

A I .


Comparison with Other Houses

There is plenty of work to be done in studying the X-F house and
I think you will enjoy doing it.

One thing I didn't get into at all was the comparison of archi-
tectural details with those in other St. Augustine buildings of known

In the X-F House there are certain groups of details that look
like standard Anglo-American work of the Pre-Revolutionary period.
There is another and larger group of woodwork details that look like
standard work of say 1815. None of it is even remotely "Spanish".
Then there is the main stair that doesn't look quite like anything I
can remember. If such work is compared with that in other St. Augustine
houses whose date is known, meaningful interpretations can be offered.
This is where the architectural detective comes in but all that takes

That.old stone house to the bayward .might reveal some surprising
details of the evolution of St. Augustine houses. Without going inside
I adjudge it to be of the same period as the X-F House and it seems to
have an older type window sash in the rear. Those in the front of our
house don't appear to be original.

Wishing you all success, I am

Sincerely yours

Charles E. Peterson


Society Hill, Philadelphia
February 2, 1972