St. Augustine group highlights top 10 threatened sites

More than a decade ago, Citizens for the Preservation of St. Augustine culled a list of St. Augustine’s Most Threatened places.


After going dormant and recently reviving, the group is now highlighting the Top Ten Threatened Sites in the city — which came about from nominations from those in the community and conversations between members of the volunteer group.

Sites are considered threatened for a variety of reasons, said group member Tom Day. Some are visibly deteriorating. Others have been considered for demolition or put up for sale, or they are in some kind of situation that could put their future in question.

But what they all have in common, according to group members, is significance worth preserving because of the structures themselves or the people who inhabited them.

“These houses hold stories of the lives of the people who lived in them and helped make St. Augustine the city it is today,” according to a presentation from the group. “The style and architecture of each contributes to the character of their neighborhood. Their loss is the loss of a piece of the multi-layered history that creates St. Augustine unique appeal. The maintenance, preservation, and restoration of these sites is important to the fabric of St. Augustine.”

Aside from houses, the list includes other buildings such as Trinity United Methodist Church at 84 Bridge St. The church, which has a cracked steeple that is held up by support poles, has been closed for years. It was a rallying place during the civil rights movement and has a history that stretches back to the 19th century, according to the nonprofit group ACCORD, the Anniversary to Commemorate the Civil Rights Demonstrations.

There’s also the Yallaha Plantation, a former commercial orange grove on Bridge Street. The house on the property dates back to about the mid-19th century, according to the group.

“That is the oldest building outside of the Colonial walled city area, with the exception of Fort Matanzas,” said Charles Tingley, senior research librarian at the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library.

Also on the list: small houses that served the workforce from 67 to 69 Osceola St., The Edson-Buell House at 36 Magnolia Ave., Echo House at 100 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., the Wisteria House at 32 Granada St., the former St. Benedict the Moor School at 86 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., the Alexander-Mullis House at 56 Water St. and the Howes-White House on Ponce de Leon Avenue on Anastasia Island.

Creating this list raises awareness about the importance of the sites, and also establishes a case for their protection if they ever go before the city for possible demolition, said group member Melinda Rakoncay. An extension of that mission will be with paid trolley tours of the sites on Saturday with historian David Nolan, who has researched and written about St. Augustine’s homes.

Day said the group wants to get residents interested in preservation, and fighting for historic buildings.

“It’s got to come up from the bottom,” Day said.


The Top 10 Threatened Sites in St. Augustine, as chosen and researched by the Citizens for the Preservation of St. Augustine:

Housing from 67 to 69 Osceola St.: Laborers and servants lived in these rental homes in the 19th and 20th centuries, some serving as domestic help in large homes on Water Street. They represent a time when homes of African-Americans were located close to their places of work in Abbott Tract.

Yallaha Plantation, 115 Bridge St.:The house was built around the mid 19th century, and the property was the site of one of the first commercial orange groves in Florida.

Trinity United Methodist Church, 84 Bridge St.:The now-shuttered church with a cracked steeple was a rallying place during the civil rights movement in St. Augustine.

The Edson-Buell House, 36 Magnolia Ave.: One of the first houses built in its subdivision, this was the home at separate times of both a prominent local physician and the former general manager of The Record.

Echo House, 100 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.: This building, now partially torn down, was built in the 1920s and was a community center that also served as a nursing home that cared for homeless African-Americans.

Wisteria House, 32 Granada St.: Artists Antonio Vedovelli, whose art was featured in a New York City gallery, is a former owner of this building, an example of Victorian architecture that was recently spared from demolition. An agreement to save the building could be finalized on Monday.

St. Benedict the Moor School, 86 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.: This was one of the first Catholic schools for black people in Florida.

The Alexander-Mullis House, 56 Water St.: Built in the 1870s, this is one of the homes Lucy Abbott built in Abbott Tract — she was of the first women to become a real-estate developer after the Civil War.

The Howes-White House on Ponce de Leon Avenue: The former postmaster of Anastasia and a railroad executive are among the former owners of this 1890s building in Lighthouse Park. Each story of the building has different siding.

Casa Mia, 108 King St.:Formerly the winter home of a prominent Rhode Island banker and a descendant of Mayflower Pilgrims, this building features an architectural style that is modern but includes Spanish touches such as arches and a tower.

Trolley Tour

A trolley tour of some of the sites with historian David Nolan will be held at 9:30 a.m. and noon on Saturday beginning at Eddie Vickers Park parking lot at 399 Riberia St. The cost is $20 per person, and advance registration is required. Call Kathy at 808-1886.