DOCUME;NTARY REPORT ONl HOUSE #$52 ST, GEORGIE STREET ST. AUGUSTINEI FLA.
( By Kenneth H. Beeson)
The property identified as the Rodrigues house is legally described
as Let 20 of Block 12, City of St. Augustine. The numerical designation of the
building is further identified as numbers 68, 52, and 52 st, George street, located
in St. Augustine, Florida2. This property is presently owned by a corporation
named Grawbuck Homes, Inc., whose address is l6650 Arapohoe Avenue, Jacksonville,
Florida, and houses a museum entitled Yesterday's Toys3
This three story coquina masonry house, typical of Colonial Spanish con-
struction in St. Angustine, faces to the east directly on St. George Street. There
is no sidewalk present. To the north of the building there is an adjacent strue-
ture, and an integral structure to the south. The house opens to the rear (west)
into a patio-garden, and there are three exterior doors on the east streett) facade.
The house and its grounds have been partially restored and remodeled in 1958, rand
are being kept in accellent repair
The preliminary investigation of the historic authenticity of the
building situated on the afore-described property leads to conclusive evidence shat
the building presently standing can be traced from the present to 1852.5 A survey
of ownership from the present to 9 June 1883 is most uninteresting, most unnecessary,
and most accessible in the form of a legal abstract. It is from the date 9 June 1883
that begins the narrative of the house attributed to Senor Rodri'gues and the com~pli*
cated, unusual ownership of the Watkins clan. Clarification is necessary here, for
the first Watkins to own the property was Mr. Tucker C., having purchased it from a
lady named Lizztie M. Smith. Mr. Tucker C. Wa~tkins of Halifax County, Virginia,
transacted this piece of business on 25 Maroh 187L for the sum of $b25oo,0oo .on
20 April 1876 Tucker presented the property in a deed of gift to his father William
J., and his sisters MEildred C., E~liztabeth T., and Margaret Watkins to provide them
with a comfortable home for the rest of their natural lives provided they abide
by a nine point condition inserted in the deed. To aid in the establishment of the
home and reside there with them, Tuckerts brother Isaac was appointed trustee.
The nine points outlined in the deed present a rather complicated arrangement On
the same date William J. (the father) et al deeded to Isaac R. (the trustee) their
authority to convey the house and lot. It seems that Mildred wanted to purchase
the house for some unknown reason and agred to pay the original purchase price .
Very complicated financial arrangements ensued, and Mildred was allowed a $900.00
exemprtion from the original purchase price of $b25oo.oo'. Meanwhile, Margaret watkina
married a gentlemlanl named George W. Gibbs and according to the conditions outlined
by Tucker she was no longer eligible to reside in the house. She dids however, ren
main an heir apparent to any monetary considerations arising from a. sale of the
property, and eventually her husband joined her and the others in heirship of com-
pensationl0 Nevertheless, on 9 June 1883 Isaac R. et al, and William J. et al
deeded the property to M~ildred C. Watki~ns in consideration of the sum of $250,00,
and the Watkins elan faded out of the picture after Mirldred l.
Prior to ownership by Tucker Watkins in 1871r, appears the nlame of
Lizzie M. Smith, stated niece of Mary A. Striachka. Mary deeded the property to
Lizzaie from the love and affection shown her by her niece. Lizazie owned and occupied
the house prior to selling it to Tucker Watkinsl2
On & January 1869 Mary Strischka purchased for the sume of $F1050.00,
the house and property in question from Margaret E. Perry and her husband Roscoe.
The deed was recorded by the Clerk of the County Court, Mt. Joseph Hernandeal3
19 June 1867, found the investigated property sold at a public auction
for the sum of $b600.00. The grantee was Margaret E. Perryr and the grantor was
James Hurlburt, the administrator of the estate of his wife, Ann. The entry of the
County Court Clerk describes the property as ...
House and lot bounded on the north by lot formerly belonging
to Mrs. Albert Nunes, but now 1M a. Romaalda Arnau, south by
lot belonging to Mrs. Margaret Arnau; west by Spanish Street,
and East by St. George Street, being one of the lots of
Estaba~n Arnan and by the _hirs of: the estate of said Arnau
conveyed to Alnn Hurlbert.16
Fifteen years prior to the public auction and purchase of the property
by Mrs. Perry, the heirs of Esteban Arnan sold the house to Mrs. Ann Hurlbert for
the sum of $65r0.oo. The heirs of Esteban are identified as James A. Mickler and
his wife Mary Ann, Paul Arnau and Romalda Arnau his wife, Antonia Hitchoock the
guardian of Stephen Norris and Elizabeth Norris the infant children of Mary Norris
Logical assumption is assigned ownership prior to the sale of the
property by the heirs of Estaban Arnau. It must logically be assumed that prior
to 1 June 1852, Mr. Stephen Arnau owned the cited property. Evidence is assigned
to his ownership in 183k, for in that year the government of United States settled
finally the question of land ownership in St. Angustine, Florida through a complete
survey of the township and its surrounding lands. Mr. Benjamin Clements and his
son elearlyr identify the investigated property as belonging to Eateban Arnau and
John SancheB. The property is clearly shown on the map, but no house. However,
no buildings whatsoever are shown on this map, therefore it must be assumed that
the building did exist in fact at that time.
In sum, more questions have been raised than have been answered. Who
owned the house prior to Esteban? Most certainly the next link in the chain was his
father Francisco, a M~inorcan who fled Dr. Turnbullts colony at New Snprna during the
British period. How about the previous link, the link in existence during the
British period? The statement that there are no known existing records of property
ownership during this period is a statement that surely needs no footnote. It
should be added that footnotes do not add authenticity to reported facts. Never
theless, the chain of ownership has been broken and any property notation and
title of ownership prior to 1836 anst be authenticated. These questions will un-
doubtedly be answered and many answers have been offered, but are these answers
accurate? Do they offer enough accuracy to even be considered historical evidence?
From this point on diplomatic must be used and every Spanish manu-
script dealing with property must be read and its contents weighed. Records of
property transactions during the British period anst be found and analyzed, for the
same property and house has been traced from 1961 to 1831r, and the next link in
the chain is still being searched for.
SThe term Rodrigues house is abrouded in rystery-. No evidence to date has been
found that would authorize the name Rodrigues to be associated with the building,
or property on which it is situated. Yet, the nomen exists, and it continues
to be referred to as such. From whence this name? This is most curious.
2 Tax Rolls of St. Johns County, office of the Tax Assessor, County Court House,
ItWillian A. Stewart, nThe Rodriguez house (unpublished architectural report to
the Restoration Cormmission, St. Angustine, Fla., 1960).
Abstract number 11981, Vol. I and II; Abstract number 11950, Vol. I and II,
St. Johns County Abstract Co., St. Augustine, Fla. The abstract maintained
by this company was the first reference investigated by me since all legal
aspects of the property in question are contained in the abstract. Any Lliti-
gation which might result concerning any piece of property would lead to an
immediate survey of an abstract. Any mortgage or lien would also be shown on
the abstract. Hence, an abstract must be considered a primary source of evi-
dence, and an unquestionable source at that. All entries in the abstract refer
to a Deed Book and the page number on which the entry is recorded. Very often
these entries will offer more information than presumed, and very often will
indicate the type and size of a building situated upon a piece of land being
investigated. The land is yet considered primary, for the building must neces-
sarily become dependent upon the property on which it stands. This is true
even today for it is the land we own which bears real property tar. When a
building is placed upon that land the government then considers this to be
taproved property and the amount of tax is increased. Furthermore, without an
abstract no one this date can be sure of a clear title to his land and the
The City of St. Angustine, Fla., presents a rather unique problem in regard to
ownership of real property. In the event of ownership of a rather old strue-
ture such as the one under investigation the owner cannot really be sure of
clear title to the land on which it stands. Most of the property in this
community can be abstracted to the beginning of the U. S. Territorial period
of its history, and very often to the second Spanish period. In very rare
instances it can be traced to the first Spanish. Documentation is therefore
very necessary and diplomatic is the science most lacking in this aspect.
It is the use of that science that is being attempted here in this investi-
gation, and any subsequent one conducted by me. Every entry in the abstract
regarding this piece of property was re-checked with the enity in the Deed and
Property Books by me. It is evident that the system of research from the
present to the inception of the property in question will at least establish a
clear chain of ownership and will, prove conclusively that the property remains
constant and unconfused with another.
It should be stated that the Deed and Property Books in the archives of the
County of St. John's, State of Florida, normally offer as information the
names of the grantor and grantee, description, often vague, of the property and
buildings; the method and/or amount of the sale, and the grantors or grantees
stipulations. If a chain of grantors coinciding with the property description
is found then we can be certain that the property is the same unless the same
grantor owns adjoining property with similar buildings. The latter must be
considered at all times, for this is possible and becomes most evident when
considering the Clements survey of 1836-35. Without a clear chain of grantors
I would assume that the described property in both documents and Deed and
Property Books might not be the property in question. I consider the unbroken
chain the most important considerat~Lon.
6 Deed Book U, p. 463, entry of 25 March 1874, Deed and Property Books, Archives
of St. Johns County, St. Augustine, Fla. Hereafter cited as Deed Book designa-
tion and page namber.
7 Deed Book W, p. 21s entry of 20 April 1876.
8 Deed Book BB, p. 186, entry of 20 April 1876.
10 Deed Book BB, p. 180, entry of 20 April, 1876.
11 Deed Book BB, p. 187 and 190, entry of 9 June 1883.
12 Deed Book T, p. 588, entry of 6 august 1870.
13 Deed Book R, p. 486, entry of 4 January 1869.
16r Deed Book R, p. 42, entry of 19 June 1867.
15 Deed Book R, p. 38, entry of 1 June 1852.
16Map of the survey of St. Alugustine, Fla., and vicinity by Benjamin Clemnents
and J. B. Clements, 1831-3S. This map is commonly referred to as the "Clemnents
Map." An extract is added to this report as Appendix I.
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