The Oldest House - St. Augustine, Florida
The Oldest House - St. Augustine, Florida
|The Oldest House
The oldest standing Spanish colonial home in
Florida, the Oldest House dates from the early 1700s
and has been a museum since 1893.
The Oldest House
The bottom or stone part of
the house was built by the
Spanish. The upper or wood
floor was built by the British.
Historic Kitchen Exhibit
The Oldest House is part of a
museum complex featuring
two museums, a gallery, a
garden and special exhibits.
Oldest House Museum - St. Augustine, Florida
The Gonzalez-Alvarez House
|Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: November 15, 2013
Franciscans and Timucuans
A statue in the Oldest House
garden commemorates the
relationship between the early
Franciscan priests of St.
Augustine and the Timucuan
Indians they sought to convert.
Oldest House Garden
The historic garden has been
a feature of the site since the
1600s. It is an important part
of the complex.
The Oldest House is a musem complex in
St. Augustine, Florida. It preserves the
historic Gonzalez-Alvarez House, Florida's
oldest Spanish colonial home.
Located at 14 St. Francis Street across from
the St. Francis Barracks, the Oldest House
stands on a site that has been in use since
at least the 1600s. It first opened to tourists
in 1893 and the complex includes the first
structure built for museum purposes in the
During its first 150 years, St. Augustine was
subjected to repeated attacks and families
lost their homes to the torch many times
over. The completion of the Castillo de San
Marcos in 1695, however, marked a major
step forward in the security of the city.
The massive coquina fort withstood a 52-day
English siege in 1702, although the city went
up in smoke. The successful defense of the
Castillo demonstrated to Spanish officials
that they could hope to defend St. Augustine
itself against future attacks. A wall of logs
and earth was built to protect the city and
inhabitants started to rebuild their homes in
more permanent fashion.
It was during this period in the early 1700s
that the dwelling known today as the Oldest
House is thought to have been built.
The records of the Cathedral Parish note that
Tomas Gonzalez Hernandez was living near
the Convent of St. Francis when his infant
son was buried on August 17, 1727. In later
years the Convent was converted for military
use and is known today as the St. Francis
Barracks. The barracks are the headquarters
of the Florida National Guard and stand
opposite St. Francis Street from the house.
A 1760s map shows the location of the home
of Tomas Gonzalez Hernandez, confirming
that it was the structure known today as the
Oldest House. Exactly when it was built is not
clear, but Tomas arrived from the Canary
Islands in around 1721 at the age of 22.
After two years as a sailor, Gonzalez
Hernandez married Francesca de Guevera,
whose family had been in St. Augustine for
three generations. Not long after the wedding
the young groom enlisted in the city's military
garrison. He may have served under his
father-in-law, Corporal Manuel Guevera.
Tomas eventually served 36 years in the St.
The house and family survived the 1740
siege of St. Augustine by English troops
under Gen. James Oglethorpe. The city held
and the Georgia founder was forced to sail
away without achieving his objective it.
While English cannon and troops were
unable to reduce St. Augustine, the city was
lost to its Spanish residents just the same in
1763. Spain had allied with France in the
Seven Years War, known in North America as
the French & Indian War, but the English
prevailed in that conflict and gained Florida in
the peace treaty that ended the fighting.
Tomas and Francesca, advanced in years
and in poor health, were unable to secure a
fair price for their home as they prepared to
evacuate with most of their neighbors. They
placed it in trust with the Spanish official
appointed to inventory the town's buildings.
In a heartbreaking scene, the Spanish
families left for Cuba. Behind they left their
homes and the graves of ancestors who had
founded St. Augustine two centuries before.
At the time of the mass exodus, the Oldest
House was a one-story masonry structure.
Placed in the hands of an English trader
named Jesse Fish, it was sold in 1775 to
Major Joseph Peavett. The second floor of
the house was added by Peavett during the
The nation's oldest city was the British capital
of East Florida during the Revolutionary War.
but was never attacked by American forces.
The powerful Castillo - now called Fort St.
Marks - was used as a prison for some of the
signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Spain sided with the fledgling United States
during the war and regained Florida when
the fighting ended in 1783. Major Peavett and
his family by this time had acquired 3,000
acres of land and 47 slaves. They decided to
stay behind when most other English citizens
left and swore loyalty to the King of Spain.
Joseph Peavett died in 1786 and his wife -
Mary - remarried an Irish native named John
Hudson. He showed disrespect to the local
government, however, and was imprisoned
in the Castillo and then exiled from the city.
By the time of his arrest in 1790 Hudson had
squandered his wife's fortune. The Oldest
House was confiscated and disposed of at
public sale to cover some of their debts. The
buyer, Geronimo Alvarez, was an employee
of the hospital who purchased not only the
Oldest House but the adjacent Tovar House
He was still living there when the United
States took possession of Florida in 1821
and remained influential in local business
and political circles over the years to come.
The Oldest House survived the Second
Seminole and Civil Wars as well as the
march of time. It is now approximately 300
The historic dwelling opened for tours in the
1890s and was purchased by the St.
Augustine Historical Society in 1918. The
Society still owns today, preserving the
Oldest House and adjacent Tovar House as
part of a museum complex.
The museum complex is open to the public
daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with guided tours
available every half hour. The entry fee is $8
for Adults, $7 for Seniors (55+) and Military
with an ID, and $4 for students 6 and up.
The Oldest House is located at 14 St. Francis
Street in St. Augustine. From the Plaza de la
Constitucion, take Avenida Menendez south
along the bay until it makes a 90 degree turn
to the west and becomes St. Francis Street.
The house will be just ahead on your right.
Drive past the house through the Charlotte
Street intersection and you will see the
parking area on your right. The map at the top
right of this page will provide better directions.
Please click here to learn more about the
Oldest House and museum complex.
The Tovar House
The St. Augustine Historical
Society also owns the Tovar
House, an adjacent structure
to the Oldest House, was the
home of Spanish soldier
Historic Homes in Florida