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The City of St. Augustine is receiving a $50,000 grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources to fund a historic site survey of areas in West Augustine, as well as areas to the north around Fort Mose. In West Augustine the boundary is generally Whitney Street on the west, Ravenswood Drive and SR-16 on the north, Anderson and Arapaho on the south, and the San Sebastian River on the east. The Fort Mose area includes Fort Moosa Gardens and Saratoga Lake subdivisions. Some of the historical sites being surveyed include Zion Baptist Church (pictured, right), Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, the Dr. R.B. Hayling home, and Chase Funeral Home.
The survey has been ongoing and conducted by consultants with Environmental Services, Inc., a Terracon Company and directed by St. Augustine’s Historic Preservation Division. Surveyors with this company are architectural historians and conduct their work from public rights-of-way, without any interruption to property owners or occupants. Information from the survey will be used by the City’s Planning and Building Department to maintain current inventories, as part of a certified preservation program. It is important to note the survey results will not be used for property tax assessments.
“Since the survey phase only captures basic site information, we are asking for anyone with any knowledge about the people, places, and events that may have influenced the history and development patterns of the area to contact us,” said Jenny Wolfe, City of St. Augustine Historic Preservation Officer. “We can record that information on the historic resource forms or identify future areas of research that should be performed within the project report.”
The City is asking for residents and community members to share their own personal history, or knowledge of the areas being surveyed. More information on the African American heritage of this area, post-WWII subdivisions, and any events and places that shaped the past of these neighborhoods and its commercial center is greatly needed. Contact Jenny Wolfe, Historic Preservation Officer, at 904-209-4326 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, to help record this very important narrative of our city’s history.
Previous research from the city-wide survey in 1980 and the 2008 West Augustine survey conducted by St. Johns County provide some easily accessible historical context which this survey project will be able to expand. At the time of the first survey, 377 buildings were recorded from the pre-1930 time period. It is predicted that this survey could capture between 600-900 sites that were built from 1930-1975.
The early history of this area includes British and Spanish settlers using large land grants for agriculture, of which became further subdivided and re-subdivided for housing developments that we see today. A narrative account in the 1980 survey notes that a Don Jose Peso de Burgo, namesake for the reconstructed de Burgo-Pellicer House on St. George Street, developed a thousand-acre tract he acquired from two Triay brothers in 1798 with orange groves and a plantation home. Several plantations within this area benefitted from some amount of slave laborers, beginning a legacy of African American heritage. Larger tracts became divided into individual home lots, such as the 1874 development of Ravenswood by John Whitney, relative of Eli Whitney, who developed a local newspaper.
It was only in 1828 that a bridge was constructed along King Street across the San Sebastian River, and not until 1923 that this area, called “New Augustine”, was incorporated into the St. Augustine municipal boundary. Suburban-type housing developments occurred during the Florida Land Boom and after both the Great Depression and World War II time periods.
The previous historical research also noted that many residents in the West Augustine area were recorded by the Census Bureau in 1930 as employees of the F.E.C. Railway and several local service industries catering to downtown businesses in St. Augustine. This piece of information about the employment of early residents affiliates the survey area with historic St. Augustine’s nineteenth and twentieth-century tourism economy begun with Henry Flagler.
The cultural heritage of St. Augustine is broad, both spatially and culturally, and to study that history in more detail is the first step in updating the City’s inventory of historic resources. To share your story, or for more information, contact Jenny Wolfe, Historic Preservation Officer, at 904-209-4326 or email email@example.com.