Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Review: The Houses of St. Augustine

Nolan, David, Jean Ellen Fitzpatrick, and Ken Barrett Jr. The Houses of St. Augustine . Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL. 1995. 102 pages, index, bibliography, color photos and illustrations. ISBN 9781561640690 $24.95.

Founded in the mid 1500's the city of St. Augustine, FL is heralded as the oldest continually inhabited city in the nation. It has survived several changes in "ownership", war and peace, boom and bust, and progress and preservation. The architecture of the city is a testament to these changes and author David Nolan along with artist Jean Ellen Fitzpatrick and photographer Ken Barrett, Jr. take us on an educational, fun, and at times moving tour of the city.

What we have here is part travel guide, part art/photography book, and part history. This slim and handsome volume melds the three together well. The chapters are broken into seven time frames each of which contains a descriptive essay and many photos of houses corresponding to the essay. Each photo includes a description some of which are in more depth than others.

Like most cities with a historical significance St. Augustine can boast of houses with a wide variety of influences. The Victorian era includes houses with towers and turrets features seldom, if ever, used in building today. The late 19th century brought about an interest in the Moorish Revival style and St. Augustine is home to one of the largest collections of this Hispanic influenced style of building. The early part of the 20th century brought the Bungalow style house to the city and with modern stylings the condominium and subdivision have taken root.

Not all has been a historical preservation success however. As author David Nolan points out the city has been through what is called "preservation by bulldozer". In a rush to recreate historical looking buildings true historical homes and buildings have been lost. Nolan points out the example of the main tourist area, St. George St., that features many new buildings featuring the look, but not feel, of Spanish Colonial architecture. These buildings are the home to many t-shirt, souvenir, ghost tour, and other tourist related shops. Lest we feel that developers are the only ones destroying architecturally significant buildings. Flagler College has played a role as well having torn down a building known as "The Shingles". Built by impressionist painter Felix de Crano the home served as an artist haven before being used by a local hospital. Despite its significance as the last "shingle style" house in the city it was demolished in 1994.

While maybe a bit dated in feel this is a fascinating book for those interested in historic preservation and for those wanting to take a deeper look at our "Oldest City". A map, or maybe several, would be an improvement for this book. If you are wanting to take a walking tour to see some of these houses a map would make planning the journey a whole lot easier. The photo captions do include addresses so modern GPS makes finding the locations easy however.

A reminder: Most of the locations included in the book are private. Please respect the owners privacy!

Villa Zorayda Museum. A fine example
of Moorish Revival Architecture in
St. Augustine.

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