Tovar House
22 St. Francis St.
St. Augustine

HABS Fl-140
Second Spanish Period
Editor's Note: What? Second Spanish Period we thought this was one of the First Spanish Period Houses. Years ago
when I used to work at the Oldest House I'd go into the Tovar House for a look. Notice what the descriptions say - Tabby
house. In no way is this a tabby house. It's coquina (and as you read through the documentation you're notice the split.
The old Historic Sites and Building survey however made no bones about this. They listed the house as 1791 which puts
it well within the Second Spanish period. You'll be told that the house has "elements" of the 1st Spanish period but if that
criteria were accepted we'd have a very big list of 1st Spanish period houses. It's never popular to confront this
backdating issue but houses have been exposed before so let the battle begin. (And we'll not even begin talking about
the cannonball.)

Address: 22 St* Francis Street at Charlotte Street, St, Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida.

Present Use: Part of a complex owned and maintained by the St, Augustine Historical Society. It is used as an
architectural and archaeological museum.

Present Owner: St. Augustine Historical Society.

Statement of Significane: The Tovar "Canonball" house is one of a very limited of St. Augustine's remaining First
Spanish Period houses. Although the
exact date of construction is not known, a substantial portion of the fabric
probably dates from the mid 18th century.

PART I. HISTORICAL INFORMATION
At the time of the first Spanish evacuation in 1763 many people were unable to sell their properties before their
departure. Don Juan Elixio de la Puente was appointed to dispose of all private property. He made a map in 1764 in
which he plotted every house and gave each one a number and made a list of property owners to identify them with
each house. This may be the earliest record of property ownership in St. Augustine as earlier records have never been
located. It is this map which identified this house with Joseph Tovar in Square k. No. 340, North-South 45 varas,
East-West 15 varas, and described it as a
tabby house. Puente was able to sell some real estate property but turned
the unsold houses and lots over to Jesse Fish, a resident of St. Augustine, who had convinced Puente that he would sell
the properties and then reimburse the Spanish owners. One piece of real estate of this transaction was the house of
Joseph Tovar which Puente sold to Fish for 40 pesos. (Puente Sale of House.No. 157)

In 1768 the Account Books of Jesse Fish show an entry of the sale made on November 1, 1768 of the Joseph Tovar
house to Juan Johnson for 147 pesos, 3 reales. (Accounts of Jesse Fish. Nov. 1. 1768. No. 62). Note: On November 10,
1768 Juan Johnson also bought the east half of this lot from Jesse Fish, No. 341. Sometime between 1768 and April 25,
1788, Mrs. Honoria Clarke acquired this east portion. It was sold to Francisco Pellicer by Mrs, Clarke's daughter and heir
on July 16, 1816 and later Pellicer sold to Geronimo Alvarez.

In 1783 Florida again reverted to Spain. The English were leaving Florida and much property was left behind which
reverted to the Spanish Crown.

In 1758, the Grown appointed Mariano de la Rocque, a military engineer, to plot another map of the town showing
ownership by St, Augustinians and all Crown property, Rocque Map designated the Tovar House as No. 249? Block 39,
and described it as a "house of
thin walls of tabby, in fair condition; house and lot owned by the Crown, occupied by
Josef Corina and Don Thomas Caraballo." Note; The 1786 Census showed Josef Coriina as a Canary Islander and
Joseph B. Hockey's East Florida 1783-1755, -page 1^8 lists Don Thomas Caravallo as Assistant in Surgery, 20 pesos
per month and two rations.

In 1790, Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada, governor of Florida, prepared to sell at public auction those houses that were
property of the Crown, A list was prepared showing the houses and lots and the appraisal price. The numbers of this list
did not correspond to the Rocque Map but could be easily identified with the map by description. The Quesada list
designated the Tovar House as Ho. 192, Block 27, and described it as a "
house of tabby and lot of the King occupied
by a Canary Island family, Jos/ Corurla, bounded on the front [Charlotte St.] Antonio Maestre, on the East by Geronimo
Alvarez, South by the Barracks, and North by the mulatto Bautista. Measures on the front. East-West 12 l/2 varas, depth
North-South 40 varas that at the rate of one and a half real per sq. vara amounts to 250 reales. 250 For the masonry of
the house and one chimney SO For the carpentry of doors, windows, floor and roof, 256 reales" 256 586 rr

Subsequent owners;
1791 April 14> 1791 - Geronimo Alvarez bought at public acution house with lot on Barracks St. listed as No. 192.
(Kscrituras.P. 103)

I8O4 This day was issued by this government title of possession and ownership of the above house and lot in favor of
Don Geronimo Alvares in pursuance of the royal cedula of 17 June 1801, remitting to those in debt for quitrents payment
of the capital and rents for the houses and lots they acquired when restored to the Royal domain. (Tax List, No. 192)

1834 Clements Survey No. 13 - Claimant Geronimo Alvares

1839 November 15? 1839 -
Geronimo Alvares to Antonio Alvarez and heirs of Teresa Llambias, together with other
property:

House and lot bounded North and East by lot conveyed to
Antonio Alvarez; V/est by Charlotte Street and South by St.
Francis Street, 70 feet E-W, 51 feet N-S. (Deed Book 0. _P 81 -St. Johns Countz

1871 Frances M. von Balsam bought at public sale April 8, 1871 above described property. Deed from Antonio Alvarez,
et.al. to Frances M, von Balsom. (Deed Book f. P. 198 r St, Johns County Records)

1885 April 22, 1885 - Lease - Mary Frances von Balsam -to Martin D, Hardin of Chicago. House and lot bounded north
by lot of Mrs. von Balsam, south by St. Francis Street, west by Charlotte St. and east by lot of Dr. Carver, measuring N-S
51 feet, E-W 70 feet, for ten years from October 1, 1885. Monthly rent $15 payable quarterly in advance. Option to
renew for 5 years, rent to be assessed by 2 people, chosen one each by lessor and lessee, as to fair amount. If sold,
Martin D. Hardin has option to buy. Any sale subject to lease. Hardin to make all improvements at his cost and pay
all taxes and insurance. Not to re-let for commercial purposes, etc. (Miscellaneous Book C. P. 4 -fit. Johns County
Records)

1893 March 20, 1893 - Lease - Mary Frances von Balsam and L. R. Hite to Martin D. Hardin. Above described property.
Lease to run ten years from Oct. 1, 1895. Also cottage and its lot to the north presently owned by L. R. Hite. The lessor
can have the cottage and lot from Oct. 1, 1893. Option to buy, etc. (Miscellaneous Book E. p._.271.. - St. Johns County
Records)

NOTE: In The Tatler for March 5, 1892, there is printed a detailed account of a ball given by General M. D.. Hardin
in honor of his guests. A good description of the interior of the house is given and portions of this article go as
follows:

"... The quaint old house of the General's one of the oldest if not the very oldest, has been repaired and made
thoroughly comfortable without changing any of its distinguishing features, consequently the long room us;ed for dancing
had bare time-stained rafters, plain white walls, and the bare floor was dark with age. The other rooms and quaint old
staircase are just as built three hundred years ago.': the guests were ushered into the quaint old dining hall with stone
floor, rafters black with age, old time mantel, where rows of candles were placed, improvised shelves around the room
holding other candles that gave the prettiest light. , ."

1912 April 8, 1912 - Warranty Deed from Louis R. Hite in his own right and only heir at law of Mary Francis von Balsom,
deceased, joined by his wife, Margaret K. Hite, to the South Beach Alligator Farm and Museum of Marine Curiosities, Inc.
Conveys both before described properties E-W 72 feet and N-S 32 feet; and house and lot corner of St. Francis and
Charlotte Streets, "being the whole of Lot 16, Block 27. (Deed Book 2.0. p. 299 St. Johns County Records). There is a
note on the abstract FLA that there is no estate of M, Francis Von Balsam on record SSSAOiin St. Johns County, 5W -
1918

October 31, 1918 - Warranty Deed from South Beach Alligator Farm and Museum of Marine Curiosities to St, Augustine
Historical Society and Institute of Science, (Deed B00& No, 40. p. 498 - St, Johns County Records)

The following is the text of the marker placed on this house in 1961:
THE TOVAR HOUSE
House of the Cannonball
So called because of the British cannon balls found embedded in the coquina wall, probably from the Oglethorpe siege
guns of 1740, Owned and occupied by Joseph Tovar, it was sold during the British period to a Scottish merchant.
Purchased by Don Geronimo Alvarez at public sale in 1790. After the Civil War, a Union General, Martin D, Hardin,
made it his home.
Preserved by the Saint Augustine Historical Society since 1918
1961

11
The Tatler for March 26, 1892 on page 4 there is printed a poem written by Mrs, £lien Hardin Walwrth, sister of
General Hardin. It is titled "Casa del Canonball."* The asterik is a footnote - "When this old coquina house was
renovated a few years ago by General Hardln for use as a private cottage two cannon balls of the very old Spanish
time were found embedded in the walls, hence its name.

Sources of Information: All of the above changes of titles and documented research on this property taken from St,
Johns County Records and Spanish documents cited, copies of which may be found in the library of the St. Augustine
Historical Society.

Date of erection: Pre-1763.

Builder: Unknown,

Prepared by Mrs. Doris C. Wiles
St, Augustine Historical Society
St. Augustine, Florida - August 196;


PART II. ARCHITECTURAL INFORMATION
A. General Statement
1. Architectural character:
The plan of the Tovar House is one of several types common in early St. Augustine. The
coquina masonry that dates from the First Spanish Period is also of considerable architectural and archaeological
interest.

2. Condition of fabric; Well maintained.

3. Description of Interior
1. Number of stories and bays: Two stories., three-bay front by four-bay side. Over-all dimensions: 27' x 45'}
rectangular (slightly irregular) layout.

2.
Foundations: Coquina (local shellstone) block plastered inside and out.

3. Porches: Covered wooden balcony across front (St. Francis Street elevation). Screened porch on rear (north).

4. Chimneys: Two coquina block chimneys.

5. Openings:
a. Doors and doorways:
One vertical board and batten door with W. I. strap hinges, east entrance; other
restored simple masonry openings with wooden doors and lintels and plaster reveals.

b. Windows and shutters: Six-over-nine double-hung wooden sash (restored). Wood re,1a restored on front window,
lower floor, Y/ooden vertical board exterior shutters on first-floor windows.

6. Roof:
a. Shape roof covering:
Gable roof with asbestos shingles.
b. Eaves: Open eaves with little projection.

C. Description of Interior
1. Floor plans
: First floor has four-room plan with wide entry stair hall. Second floor has three rooms and stair hall. The
attic is unfinished.

2. Stairways: Three; two-run wooden main stairway to second floor. Wooden stair on screened porch at rear. Narrow
wooden staircase from second floor "bo attic located in wide front stair hall (not continuous with main stairway).

3. Flooring: First floor, concrete; second floor, wooden plank (restored).

4. Wall and ceiling finish: Plaster on masonry, First floor ceiling has exposed joists. The second floor has a plaster
ceiling.

5. Doors; Entire first floor is used as museum space and interior door is eliminated. Second floor is unused but there
are no original doors.

6. Trim: No elaborate wooden trim. All openings have simple wooden frames in masonry *

7. Hardware: Restored except possibly strap hinges on east exterior door.

8. Heating: Central.

9. Lighting: Electric

Site
1. Orientation
: Faces south (St. Francis Street main axis N-S.)

2. Enclosures: Forms part of group of structures ("Oldest House," Webb Memorial, etc.).that are the property of the
St. Augustine Historical Society. All are loosely joined in a single enclosure and landscaped.

Prepared by Henry C. Edwards, Architect
National Park Service
August 1961
jM
June 1958
SOUTH (FRONT) AND WEST SIDES -
Don Joseph Tovar House,
22 Saint Francis Street, Saint Augustine, St. Johns County, FL
Photographer: Jack E.Boucher
Historic American Buildings Survey
Prime A. Beaudoin, Photographer
September 1961
SOUTH (FRONT) AND WEST SIDES -
Don Joseph Tovar House,
22 Saint Francis Street, Saint Augustine, St. Johns County, FL
The following three pictures are from Florida Memory. They were taken during the
1989 renovation of the Tovar House.
Historic American Buildings Survey
Prime A. Beaudoin, Photographer
September 1961
WEST (CHARLOTTE STREET SIDE WITH ST. FRANCIS BARRACKS TO THE REAR) AND
REAR ELEVATIONS -
Don Joseph Tovar House,
22 Saint Francis Street, Saint Augustine, St. Johns County, FL
Tovar House
2005

Photographer: Gil Wilson
St. Augustine from 1920s to WWII
St. Augustine from WWII to
1960
Casa Amarylla
St. Augustine Rebounds
Sequi-Smith House
Villa Flora
Public Market
Arrivas House
Villa Rosa
Canova deMedicis House
Ximenez-Fatio House
Villa Zorayda
Gonzalez Alvarez House
Seavy House (Union General)
Warden Castle
Garcia Dummitt House
Don Pedro Horruytiner House
Huertas-Canova House
(Prince Morat House)
DeMesa-Sanchez House
Father Miguel O'Reilly House
Bishops House
Archtectural Styles and Periods
Gaspar Papy
Don Pedro Fornells
Reconstruction Properties
Sanchez-Burt House
Tovar House
Pardes Segui MacMillan House
Don Manuel Solana House
Structure List
     
Custom Search
Like us on
Facebook