Group Title: Historic St. Augustine: Block 12 – Lot 20
Title: Personal Report of Preliminary Research Investigation of Historic Sites and Buildings in St. Augustine, Florida
Full Citation
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 Material Information
Title: Personal Report of Preliminary Research Investigation of Historic Sites and Buildings in St. Augustine, Florida
Series Title: Historic St. Augustine: Block 12 – Lot 20
Physical Description: Report
Language: English
Creator: Beeson, Kenneth H.
Publication Date: 1960
Copyright Date: Public Domain
Physical Location:
Box: 4
Divider: Block 12 Lot 20
Folder: Avero B12-L20
Subject: Saint Augustine (Fla.)
52 Saint George Street (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Rodriguez-Avero-Sanchez House
Toy Museum
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Saint Johns -- Saint Augustine -- 52 Saint George Street
Coordinates: 29.896151 x -81.313211
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00094128
Volume ID: VID00069
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: B12-L20

Full Text

I `

December 15, 1960

Personal, Report of Preliminary Research Investigation of Historic Sites and Buildings
in St. Augustine, Florida.

TO: St. Augustine Historic Restoration and Preservation Comrmission
St. Augustine, Florida

Approximately three weeks ago I was commissioned by Mr. Douglas Picht to

determine the historic authenticity of five private dwellings located in the

historic section of the city of St. Augustine, Florida. This determination was to

be arrived at through the historical research process, and was to be as thorough

as time would permit. Time, in this instance, was to be the governing factor.

Mindfull of this, I respectfully submit the following preliminary report:

Myr initial approach to the problem was to consider that the property did

indeed exist. This task was a very simple one, for the present tax rolls of St.

John's County verified the fact and offered the legal description of the properties

in question.

After obtaining this information, I considered that a good approach, and a

logical one, would be to isolate one of the properties and attempt to reverse the

research procedure. Common logic will readily show that the building and its

property are physically present today. The system of accounting for property within

the governmental structure of city, county, state, and if necessary the federal,

government agencies of the Uni~ted States are more or less uniform. Bearing this

in mtind, and considering also the dates that usually divide the historical evo-

lution of St. Augustine, I assumed that there would be little difficulty in compil-

ing an abstract of ownership, and other data if offered, from the present date to

about 1821. From this date back I was not too sure of exactly what to expect.

Preliminary Research--2

I further assumed that an isolation of one of these properties would reduce the

amount of time I felt would be necessary to devote to the preliminary phase of

investigation. An isolated selection of one piece of real estate reduced the bulk

of paper, allowed more freedom of work, aided tremendously in the very necessary

compilation of a rather unique bibliography (the tool of a historian), would

assist in establishing a cordial liaison with the keepers of the records locally

(and other documents that would be necessary to survey from time to time). In

sum, to make a thorough reconnaissance, or even better, to get the feel of this

type of research.

My selection for isolation was a piece of property cited to me as

Number 5;2 St. George Street commonly referred to as the Rodriguez House. I quickly

determined that the correct numerical designation of this property is numbers k8

through 52 St. George Street. The legal description is Lot 20, Block 12, located

in the City of St. Augustine, and owned presently by a corporation named Crawbuck

Homes, Inc., whose address is 16650 Arapohoe Avenue, Jacksonville, Florida. This

building presently houses a museum entitled Yesterday's Toys. The initial appear-

ance of this building indicates that it is one of the oldest in the city and I

feel quite sure that this building was constructed by the Spaniard during his first

occupation. This is merely a feeling and bears no historical evidence at this time.

MY first contact, after obtaining the legal description, was with the

St. Johns County Abstract Company, and I was most fortunate to obtain from that

off ice a chronological listing of ownership citing the Deed and Property Book

and page number from the present date to June 9, 1883. From this point on I

gathered all the information recorded in the Archives of the County of St. Johns

concerning this property to June 1s 1852. The entry in Deed Book R, pages 38-41

Preliminary Research--3

indicate that the property was sold by the heirs of Esteban Arnau to a Mvrs. Ann

Hurlburt for the sum of Sk450.oo. Incidently, this is the oldest recorded entry

in the official abstract. Every entry from 1960 to the year 1852 describes the

same piece of property. From 1852 back presents another problem. I am quite cer-

tain that the owner of the building and lot prior to Esteban Arnau was Francisco

Arnau, his father, though the index to the Deed and Property books fail to cite

either Francisco or any other as a Grantor. Neither does it cite Esteban as a

Grantee prior to this entry.

In order to ascertain the owner prior to Esteban other sources were exa-

mined. I was most fortunate to obtain a scale copy of the Clements map of 1836-

1835 of most of the area presentlyr designated as the historical section, and from

it I have determined that a John Sanchez; and Esteban Arnau are assigned the property

under investigation.

From this point on nothing but conjecture and assumption, notwithstanding

considered logical conclusion, is assigned this building and its land. When compared

with the copy of the Clements ma~p many often cited references to Deed and Property

books do not bear them out as accurate references. I am, however, very optimistic

about the possibility of finding ownership of the property through the second

Spanish period (to 1783). An abundance of primary sources exist that contain a

veritable wealth of information. The East Florida Papers, the Spanish Land Grants,

the Stetson Collection are but a few. But, when dealing with the afore cited time

cannot be of the essence for they contain several thousand folio pages of Spanish

text. With a review of these an excellent bibliographyr can be compiled.

In regard to tracing the property through the British period. Only through

the smile of good fortune do I expect to be able to keep this building isolated,

for there are no known existing records of property and property transactions during

Preliminary Research -- 4

this period. As. Doris Wiles of the St. Augustine Historical Society has recently

written the British Archives to determine if any :Laformation of this sort is available

or not. If it is available the Society plans to microfilm all of these records.

With this information property research may continue with a high degree of accuracy

and discount conjecture.

Quite a different matter prevails throughout the first Spanish period.

This was Spainis experimentation with coloniz~ation. The Archives of the Indies

in Sevilla are bucnting at the seams with manuscripts that have been bundled up,

stored, and never recorded much less read. The same holds true of the photostats

in the Stetson collection at the University of Florida of Spanish correspondence

during the second occupation. It has been my experience when dealing with the

Spanish manuscripts that the Spaniard never breathed without a notary public notar-

iming the fact that a breath was breathed. The Spaniard was above all a lawyer;

his governmental system required that of him. Thus, more information than I am

able to tell. of will be revealed when this thin surface has been scratched. This

is the task of a research team to say the least, and a most necessary one.

In summary, I must say that I consider the approach I am currently using to

be the best possible. Every enbry must be carefully examined and re-examined taking

great care that chronology (and not genealogy) is strictly adhered to. This study

is leaning far to that of an institutional, and not social by any means. Reverting

back to inacocurate evidence momentarily, several instances were found in which the

Index to the Deed and Property books cited incorrect information regarding the en-

tries made. These entries were recorded in Spanish text and upon a close examilna-

tion revealed almost the opposite to that which was cited.

All is not gloom as pictured however. It is my feeling that patience will

reward all with accurate evidence, if chronology is adhered to. It would be a

Preliminary Research--S

simple matter to merely copy the entries made on the properties file cards located

in the St. Augustine Historical Society on the one hand. 141ile on the other it

would be mere folly. Each entry must be closely checked, and this I must do

through ethical principles of the profession. A philosophy of this research problem

is far less important than pure scientific research investigation.

St. Augustine, Florida

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