Historic Home Museums of St. Augustine
Step back in time through some of St. Augustine’s special places.
Take a stroll through St. Augustine’s downtown, and experience remnants of the first town in the New World to be designed based on a Spanish royal decree of 1573. Aviles Street, the narrow brick street marked by the wooden arch, is a good place to begin your journey.
St. Augustine ranked #1 for Most Historic Homes in U.S. Southern Living Magazine (July 2020)
On your right is a tile mural, a recent gift from the Mayor of Aviles, Spain. Across the street is the Spanish Military Hospital Museum, and a bit further along your trek is the Segui-Kirby-Smith House, home to the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library. A variety of house museums and gardens are sprinkled throughout this area.
Other historic houses are operated as bed and breakfasts, shops, art galleries, and restaurants. As you walk along the bayfront north to experience the Peña-Peck House and more of the downtown, please enjoy viewing the private residences from the public rights-of-way.
Ximenez-Fatio House Museum, 20 Aviles Street
This year of 2021 marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Ximenez-Fatio House as a museum. The authentically-preserved house illustrates the multi-cultural heritage of Florida and demonstrates the important roles women played in St. Augustine’s history.
Named for two families who owned the property at different times, their descendants claim Spanish, Minorcan, English, Swiss, and Italian ancestry. The property’s first use as home for the Ximenez family expanded during Florida’s Territorial Period that began in 1821. A succession of enterprising women operated the property as a boarding house.
The last of those women was Louisa Fatio whose business acumen made Fatio House a most popular lodging establishment for a quarter century prior to and after the Civil War. Her descendants ensured the future of the property through its transference to the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Florida. The organization, which includes a number of Fatio descendants, operate the property as their state house museum.
Father O’Reilly House Museum, 32 Aviles Street
Father Miguel O’Reilly house dates from 1691, so this year (2021) the property is marking its 330th anniversary.
Miguel O’Reilly was the city’s parish priest and occupied the house after the Spanish regained Florida at the end of the American Revolution. He was a native of Ireland who was educated in Spain. The coquina and tabby construction of the building was typical historically, but rare to have survived to the present day. The building form reflects both Spanish and British influences.
In addition to the importance of the construction, the property is part of a complex that includes a Catholic Convent. In 1866, shortly after the end of the Civil War, eight nuns of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Le Puy, France came to teach and minister to the former slaves in St. Augustine. Fifty years later, in 1916, during the Jim Crow era, three nuns of the order were arrested briefly for teaching in an African-American school.
Gonzalez-Alvarez House, 14 St. Francis Street and Tovar House, 22 St. Francis Street
The building reflects a series of owners and their cultural traditions. Originally built in the early 1700s by Gonzalez, a Spaniard, modified during the brief tenure of the British in Florida, and enlarged by Alvarez when the Spanish returned to the state in 1784, the Gonzalez-Alvarez House is recognized as the “Oldest House.”
The building is the symbolic home of the St. Augustine Historical Society that purchased the property in 1918. The site developed over time and encompasses the adjacent Tovar House, also constructed in the early 1700s. The Society serves as steward for a third house of the same era, the Llambias House. To the north of the Spanish structures is the Dunham building that serves as the educational and administrative center of the complex.
Peña-Peck House/Spanish Treasurer’s House, 143 St. George Street
Now that your journey has brought you North of the Plaza, you are ready to experience the last of our 18th century Spanish colonial house museums.
The home of Spanish Treasurer Juan Estevan de Peña was built about 1750 as a one-story coquina stone structure. In 1763, when the British occupied St. Augustine, the building became the home for Governors John Moultrie, then Patrick Tonyn.
The property passed through a series of additional owners until 1837 when Dr. Seth Peck bought the property and constructed a second story for his family. Almost a century later, in 1931, his granddaughter Anna Gardner Burt died and donated the property to the City of St. Augustine to ensure its preservation.
The Woman’s Exchange of St. Augustine served as the steward for this house and now, nearly another century later, continues to operate the building as a museum and event venue. Perhaps equally important, the Woman’s Exchange has operated in St. Augustine for nearly 130 years fulfilling its mission of “Women helping Women.” The gift shop on the first floor of the building has handcrafted items that make unique gifts. Shopping there supports a local business and helps to give back to the local community.