Back in the early 50’s my parents used to vacation annually in Florida. I was browsing through an old suitcase filled with photos. I ran across a picture taken outside St. Augustine’s oldest surviving Spanish colonial dwelling. A little history lesson. This house is one of the best-documented and most studied houses. The site of the oldest house has been continuously occupied since the early 1600’s. The first house was a crude building of logs and boards. This was replaced by a building made of coquina stone, which is a native shell stone. This is found across the bay on Anastasia Island. The original walls of the ancient house now form part of today’s “Oldest House”. Gonzalez y Hernandez, an artilleryman from the fort, lived in the house. Church records show that one of his children died in the house in 1727. Later, when St Augustine was taken by the British, Major Peavett lived in the house until he died and then his wife (who remarried) stayed on in the house. Her second husband was a gambler and because of his debts the house had to be sold in 1790. It was bought by a Spaniard Alvarez and he and his family lived in it for almost 100 years. From 1882 the house had several owners before it was bought for the St Augustine Historical Society in 1918. Since 1893 visitors have toured the house to see evidence of the Spanish, British and American occupations of St. Augustine and to learn how the residents lived. In 1970 the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the house a National Historic Landmark.
St. Augustine isn’t that far from where I live. Last week, my hubby and I drove up there for an afternoon. I wish we would have had more time and money. There’s a load of fun things to do there. After all, it’s touted as the Nation’s Oldest City! There are so many quaint shops in the old downtown district. There are museums galore and tours of the old buildings and architecture. There are ghosts and gravestones. There’s the Castillo de San Marcos Fort to visit. There’s a lighthouse. Not to mention the beaches. My goodness, it’s a tourist’s mecca! It’s definitely a place I will be returning to.
Now, to the point! My main purpose in driving up to St. Augustine last week was so hubby could take a picture of me standing in front of the Oldest House in the same spot as Mom. On the left is an early 1950’s photo featuring my Mom. On the right, is the picture of me standing in the same exact location where my mother stood SIXTY YEARS before! You can see the difference in the house in the photos. I couldn’t stand against the wall where she was standing because of the tourist signs they put in front. If you look closely at the house in the old photo, you can see that there was a second floor addition which extended over the arch (look at the “Oldest House” sign and you can see). The lady at the museum told me that when it was renovated in the mid-1950’s, they removed that section to put it back to the way it was in Colonial times. Apparently, at one point (she didn’t give the time period), the lady that lived there had the very first automobile in St. Augustine. They enclosed the area and the arch was the doorway to the garage. The second story was her husband’s office. Personally, I liked it better in the 1950’s photo.
We finished up our excursion and had a late lunch at the Café Alcazar in the basement of the Lightner Museum. The Café used to be a huge indoor swimming pool in the basement of the old Alcazar Hotel. Click here for interesting pictures and history of the Museum. The Café’s hours are short – 11:00 am to 3:00 pm – but the service is excellent, the food is superb and the cost is very reasonable. You can see the pool in the old photo. What a time that must have been. The Café entrance we used was on the side of the Museum building and went directly into the Café. The color photo is the one I took showing the Café when we were there. There are little antique shops around the sides of the Café. It’s all very quaint.