|Dr. Bronson's St. Augustine History Page
The Great Depression to World War II
ab urbe condita - 355 to 367
|Black Tuesday and the Collapse of the Stock Market
On October 24, 1929 (Black Thursday) the market lost 11% of its value. On October 28 (Black Monday) the
market lost another 13% of its value despite the attempts of the banks (Morgan, Chase and the National City
Bank of New York) to support the market. On Tuesday October 29(Black Tuesday) the market lost another
12% of its value. The trading volume of stocks traded would not be broken for 40 years. The value of the
market would not return to its peak closing value of September 3, 1929 until November 23, 1954.
"St. Augustine First" (St. Augustine Evening Record, Feb. 2, 1930)
"Consider St. Augustine First" has been suggested by the St. augustine Chamber of Commerce, as a suitable
slogan for all civic organizations for the year 1930.
A consideration of the community's advantages and problems and the rendering of distinguished public
service will bring men working together for good of the city.
Such cooperation will bring a determined effort toward growth and harmonious prosperity during the coming
This co-operation can be obtained through the Chamber of Commerce of which every business man, every
public spirited and progressive citizen is necessary for the good of the city.
The Old Spanish Treasury - Pena-Peck House Deeded to City
By the will of Anna G. Burt the house on the corner of St. George and Treasury streets was deeded to the city
in 1931 with the provision that it be maintained as an antebellum home. Since then the Women's Exchange
has run the house. The house was constructed in 1750 by order of the King of Spain to be the residence of his
royal Treasurer, Juan Esteban de Pena. It's one of the few surviving 1st Spanish homes today. In the British
period it was leased to John Moultrie who would become the Lt. Governor and the Acting Governor of Florida.
Governor Patrick Tonyn would also live in this house at the close of the British period. In the American period
the house would be passed on to Dr. Seth Peck and his family in 1837. Anna Burt was the granddaughter of
Dr. Seth Peck.
St. Joseph's Church (1931)
This church is located in West St. Augustine on Herbert Street as an African American Catholic church. The
church was organized in 1931 and incorporated in 1934. From 1906 to 1930 the church building was located
on the north side of Moses Creek west of route 1 near Simm's mill in Moultrie Florida. It served as a white
mission station for members of the Moultrie Community. Father Edward Knight received permission to move it
to West St. Augustine for an African American Catholic church. The building was a rectangular frame building
with a coquina stucco finish that was remodeled in 1931. It had no cornerstone, no bell, no organ or memorial
art glass windows but 3 altars and 3 statues. The church was a mission of St. Benedict's. In 1937 the Pastor
was Father M. J. Morrissey who was a graduate of St. Mary's Seminary in baltimore Md.
The Great Depression
1932 was the end of an era with the closing of the Alcazar and the Cordova. Of course, the most critical
closing was the casino, a major source of recreation and employment for local folks.
In 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order transferring the Forts to the National Park Service.
The WPA built the civic center which is now the visitor information center and built another civic center in
Hastings. The WPA also through its writers program spoke to people in St. Augustine and St. Johns County
and recorded their oral histories: St. Elmo Acosta, Rev. L. M. Anderson (1st Baptist Church), Bennett Family,
Martin Cross, Mrs. Elizabeth Dismukes, Margaret Pierson Hall, T. J. Marshall, Mary Elizabeth Moore, The
Olsens, Dr. Henry Perrine, Dr. Daniel Roberts and Dennis Potinos.
Mt. Carmel Primitive Baptist Church
This African American congregation was organized in 1933 in the Evergreen section of St. Augustine. The first
services were held in a small wooden building formerly a grocery store near the FEC Ry. about 1 mile past
the city limits. The new church was under construction in 1938 at the corner of Evergreen Ave, and Anderson
Street in West Augustine. The first pastor was Rev. J. S. McClendon from 1933-1934. In 1934 Rev. L.
Funderberk from Coffe County Georgia became the second pastor.
Walter B. Fraser elected mayor of St. Augustine
Walter B. Fraser (1888-1972) would serve as mayor in 1934 and 1942. He represented St. Johns County in
the senate from 1944 through 1948. He was the owner of the Fountain of Youth and the Oldest Wooden
Church of Christ (African American)
On September 3, 1935 a church of Christ was organized on King Street in Colee's Subdivision as a
unaffiliated Church of Christ. The church started in a room at 118 Washington Street from 1935-38. In 1938 the
congregation held service in Annie Cartier's house which was next to the Colee's Subdivision site. In 1939 the
Church began worship in the Colee site. The church was dedicated in 1939. It was a rectangular frame
building 20 x 25 not painted with no special architectural style. The first clergyman was R. E. Sanders from
1935-1937. In 1938 Freddie Britton became pastor. He was originally from Barnsville, S. C.
St. Augustine Primitive Baptist Church
This congregation was located on 75 South Whitney Street (corner of Anderson and Whitney) as part of
Sawannee Association of the Old School Primitive Baptists. The building was erected in 1927 as a white
rectangular frame building. This building was remodeled in 1935 and the first services were held that year. The
first settled pastor was J. H. Nims, from 1936-38. The new pastor was Elder G. B. Taylor who started in 1938.
In 1936 the Government house was redone by Florida architects Mellen Clark Greely and Clyde Harris. The
King Street entrance was made to look like the chapel at the Castillo.
Civic Center Built
In 1936 on San Marco Avenue a coquina building was erected as a recreational center. It was designed by
architect Frederick Henderich. The cost of the mission style building with its massive walls, arched loggias
and red tile roof was $92,000. The building was done by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration
(FERA). This organization was the parent of the WPA. On April 25, 2005 this building was added to the U. S.
Register of Historic Places.
In the beginning it was a great place for tourists. There was shuffleboard, tennis and roque courts, horseshoe
pitching and miniature golf courses (and of course St. Francis fields with football and baseball. The
membership to the tourist club was $3 per season.
The large auditorium in the building sat 600 to 700 people.
The Alligator Farm
Another big attraction in St. Augustine was the Ostrich-Alligator Farm on Anastasia Island. By the late 30s it
had been operating for almost 40 years. It started with only a few alligators and was located at old South
Beach (St. Augustine Beach. It was owned by George Reddington and Felix Fire. In the 1930s it was
purchased by Irvine Drysdale and F. Charles Usina, Jr. It was moved to its current location south of the
Lighthouse in 1921. The named curiosities included Old Ponce who weighed over 1,200 lbs. and could eat 75
lbs of meat at one mean. Old Jack was the meanest alligator in the world and there was an alligator that had
five legs. In the 30s there were 6000 alligators in the collection. The site also had a museum that exhibited the
world's largest Sunfish and Barracuda were located there. They also had snakes, birds and ducks.
Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
A new African American congregation was organized in Armstrong near the railroad in 1936. It was organized
an a two story dwelling with the services held on the first floor. The pastor also lived in the house.
Water Plant Finished
In 1937 the City completed a $172,000 extension and improvement program to the city's waterworks. The new
water plant with filtration equipment promised to deliver softer water that what was being produced. The
improved water plant was a WPA project with an outright grant of $77,000 and a $95,000 loan that was to be
repaid from waterworks revenue.
WPA Writes - Seeing St. Augustine
In 1936 the WPA established two historical surveys in St. Augustine. The first was the Historical Records
Survey and the other was the State Archives Survey. The purpose of these two surveys were to seek out and
record scattered privately owned historical material as well as to catalogue the public records of the county
and city to make them available for historic research. The first charters of St. Augustine with the signatures of
the incorporators were found.
Items found in the Clerk of Courts office included Spanish grants, original birth certificates, and maps
disclosing the exact location of fortifications maintained by the British during their occupation of Florida. The
state archives had A Description of the Plan of the City of St. Augustine, East Florida of 1788.
In 1937 the WPA with the sponsorship of the City Commission published Seeing St Augustine part of the
American Guide Series. The American Guide Series was a group of books and pamphlets published under
the auspices of the Federal Writers' Project (FWP), part of the WPA in the United States. The American Guide
Series books were compiled by the FWP, but printed by individual states, and contained detailed histories of
each state with descriptions of every city and town plus additional cities deemed important by the WPA. The
Guide was 76 pages long and indexed.
Seeing St. Augustine was the first of the American guide Series, by the Federal Writers Project, to be
published in Florida. The book was sponsored by the city commission. The preface is by Dr. Verne E.
Chatelain, director of the St. Augustine Restoration.
Pleasant Row Baptist Church
On June 3, 1937 an African American congregation of the National Baptist Convention was organized on S.
Dixie Highway. The parent church was St. James Baptist Church. In 1937 they built a square wooden frame
building painted white. The first pastor was Pastor A. W. Clayton who served in July 1937. The second pastor
was W. B. Berry who served from September 3, 1937
The City manager in 1937 was Eugene Masters. Masters lived at the north corner of Hope Street and San
Marco Avenue on the old Lyon property. The Lyons moved to 99 San Marco Avenue. 105 San Marco Avenue
was occupied at one time by General Dent the brother-in-law of General U. S. Grant.
Officials in 1937
Charles E. Benet was the harbor master. Dr. Herbert E. White was a local physician. Miss Elizabeth
Thompson was president of the Junior Service League. Clifford J. Noda was manager of the St. Augustine
Gas Company. Rev. A. E. Calkins was pastor of the Ancient City Baptist Church. Joseph Pinkeson was an
attorney. Miss Leone Rood was a teacher at Ketterlinus High School. The St. Augustine Mayor was Walter B.
Fraser with the Town Council of Glen Thompson, Ray V. Wilson, C. S. Smith and Charles Leyvraz. Hiram H.
Faver was clerk of circuit court.
National Committee for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic St. Augustine (See Dr.
Chatelain's Historic Features Report - 1937), (See list of Historical Features in St. Augustine and Vicinity),
(See pictures of Francis Benjamin Johnson), (See Thomas T. Waterman), (See Arrivas House), (See
Canova-deMedicis House), (Segui-Smith House), (See Ximenez-Fatio House)
On February 27 1936 the City Commission passed a resolution calling for the appointment of a committee of
not more than 25 citizens to investigate the possibility of making the old Spanish port of St. Augustine into a
restricted area for the protection of the picturesque narrow streets and quaint balconied houses. The
resolution also hoped to secure federal, state and private funds to carry on the work of preservation and
possible restoration. The resolution passed unanimously.
In 1936 the Carnegie Institution of Washington became interested in a project that would show the progression
in graphic fashion the successive stages of the grand story of the development of St. Augustine. Dr. John C.
Merriam, President of Carnegie Institution was named temporary chairman.
Mayor Fraser formed a National Committee for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic St. Augustine in
the summer of 1936. By 1937 it held two meetings one in Washington, D.C. (minutes) and one in St.
Augustine. The national committee had the following members: Dr. John C. Merriam, president, Carnegie
Institute of Washington; Dr. Verne E. Chatelain, director of the St. Augustine Historical Restoration; Hon.
Joshua C. Chase, president, Florida Historical Society, Winter Park, Florida; Hon. John J. Tigert, president,
University of Florida, Gainesville Florida; Hon. H. J. Eckenrode, director, Division of History and Archaeology,
Richmond Virginia; Hon. Harry F. Byrd, United States Senator from Virginia; Dr. Herbert E. Bolton, professor
of history, University of California, Berkeley, California; Dr. A. V. Kidder, division of history research, Carnegie
Institution; Dr. Herbert Kahler, National Park Service, St. Augustine, Fla; Hon. David R. Dunham, president, St.
Augustine Historical Society; Dr. Carita Doggett Corse, state director Federal Writers' Project, Jacksonville,
Florida; Hon. Wilbur C. Hall, chairman, Commission on Conservation and Development, Richmond, Virginia;
Hon. Scott M. Loftin, former U. S. Senator, St. Augustine, Miss Nina Hawkins, editor, St. Augustine Record;
The Most Rev. Patrick Barry, D. D., Bishop of St. Augustine; Dr. Waldo G. Leland, American Council of
Learned Societies, Washington, D. C.; Dr. Matthew W. Stirling, chief, Bureau of American Ethnology,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.; Dr. William E. Lingelback, professor of history at the University of
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa; John E. Pickering, editor, St. Augustine Observer; and Hon. Walter B. Fraser,
mayor of St. Augustine.
The first meeting in Washington on October 26, 1936 in Washington, D. C. resulted in the determination to
commence at once a preliminary historical survey to be directed by the Institution under the active supervision
of Dr. Verne E. Chatelain who had served previously for several years in charge of the historic sites work in the
National Park Service. The preliminary survey culminated in a second meeting of the National Committee in
St. Augustine on March 2, 1937. Two subcommittee reports one dealt with fact finding and outlined the method
and scope of future historical studies and the other on recommendations for the future physical development of
St. Augustine. Both reports were endorsed by the City Commission. A local planning body called the St.
Augustine Historical Planning Commission was created. On May 11 the St. Augustine Historical Preservation
and Restoration Association was incorporated and Dr. Chatelain was named Director of the general program
Dr. Verne E. Chatelain the director of the survey and program started November 15, 1936 by surveying
materials in the libraries in Washington. On December 7, 1936 he arrived in St. Augustine.
The general plan was to give the visitor the "feeling" of the centuries which have preceded. Built of coquina
windowless north walls, gardens and patios facing south, overhanging balconies, living rooms on the second
floor and the added English feature of gable roofs and chimneys. Besides buildings they would also study
folk-lore, traditions, religious observances to the end of staging historical play, pantomimes, pilgrimages that
these traditions, which are the heritage of this region and people may again become part of their
consciousness. This also included creative activity and the desire to preserve folk skills, home manufacturing
of handicrafts such as linen and lace making, traditional domestic foods and dishes, stories and literature will
all contribute. The cumulating piece was to be a museum.
The first major reconstruction project was the area around the Old City Gate. This included the reconstruction
of the inner line of defense north of the city, stretching from Mantanzas Bay to the San Sebastian River. The
entrance to the city through this line was by the ancient city gate and the coquina moat bridge was uncovered
and partially restored. The plans called for the digging out of the moat and the development of high earthen
defense work topped with palisade, planted with Spanish bayonets and intercepted at intervals by redoubts
mounted with guns. (Unfortunately this has never been completed but over the years gains were made. It was
also hoped to reconstruct an authentic Indian village on some one of the ancient sites at St. Augustine where
the visitor could easily visualize the communal life of the tribes.
A local planning committee was formed on March 17, 1937. The chairman was former Senator Scott M. Loftin,
and Dr. Chatelain was named secretary and survey director to carry on the work outlined in the Carnegie
reports. On May 7, 1937 the same group formed St. Augustine Historical Preservation and Restoration
Association, a non-profit corporation.
The restoration staff conducted an intensive research into every available written record, including
cartographic and pictorial materials, and a bibliography was compiled of all such sources in the United States
World War II would interrupt the work of this group, but Dr. Chatelain did use his findings to write a book
entitled The Defenses of Spanish Florida. The archaeological program produced no report and its data was
scattered and lost. (Every now and then pieces of documentation and photographs will appear.)
In 1937 the Florida legislature approved a special act granting the County of St. Johns and the cities and
subdivisions of it the power of eminent domain to protect historic sites and landmarks.
In 1938 the Carnegie Institute purchased the Llambias House and deeded it in trust to the City of St.
Augustine. From 1938 to 1940 Dr. Chatelain and associates prepared a basic historical plan. Before the war
three years of research had been accomplished, a zoning ordinance was created, and the state legislature
St. Augustine Record Celebrates Preservation and Restoration
The St. Augustine Record in it's July 4, 1937 issue celebrated the work of the Preservation and Restoration
Board. One of the paper's contributions was the a poem by Marjorie Meeker.
WPA Starts Church Survey
In 1938 the WPA started the Florida Church Survey where they went to churches to discover where the records
were kept and some general information about the churches in the community. For St. Johns County Mary P
Bagwell, V. C. Neville-Thompson and Eleanor Young among others surveyed the churches. The records can
be found on Florida Memory.
Carnegie Institution of Washington purchases the Llambias House for $12,500 (the St. Augustine Historical
Society paid $2,500 of that amount. Title in the property was vested in the City of St. Augustine The building
was placed in charge of a Board of Trustees appointed by the Carnegie Institution. The original appointees
were Waldo G. Leland, William E. Lingelbach, Newton B. Drury, David R. Dunham, Frederic A. Delano and
Louisa Y. King.
Return of Castillo de San Marcos
Congress restores the original name of the Castillo de San Marcos to old Fort Marion.
President Nathan Collier dies in February, 1941. He served as President of Florida Memorial longer than
Booker T. Washington had served at Tuskegee.
St. Augustine Airport
Following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, vast new sums were provided to upgrade the St. Augustine
Airport with an eye toward its possible military use.
Ketterlinus High School Class of 1939
Graduating in 1939 after years of the Great Depression this class was to face the new peril of World War II
---America's Greatest Generation. (See Picture)
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
1940 "Tea with Zora and Margie" a play about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Zora Neal Hurston
In 1941 Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings purchases Warden Castle and makes it a hotel. This will become Ripley's
"Believe It or Not" Museum."
HABAS and WPA
In the early 1940s the Historic American Building Survey had teams as part of the Works Progress Act to
research and document buildings in St. Augustine and prepare detailed as built drawings of buildings and
WPA and Veteran's Grave Registration
Another project of the WPA was a state by state veteran's grave location and registration program. It was not
finished due to World War II mobilization. 15 of Florida's counties were excluded from the final published
World War II to Current
|St. Augustine Civic Center
Photographer: Gil Wilson
|President Herbert Hoover
|Franklin Delano Roosevelt
|Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Library of Congress
Photographer - Carl Van Vechten
|Ketterlinus High School Football Team 1938
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|St. Augustine of Hippo