CALME ET FERME
St. Francis Inn
The history of St. Augustine began o September 8, 1565, when it was founded by Pedro Menendez and his band of colonists and soldiers. The first Catholic Mass on the North American continent was held on the spot where they landed. There are more than 72 points of interest to take the visitor back through 400 years of history. Camera buffs find the narrow streets lines with old buildings with overhanging balconies, the horse-drawn surreys and costumed natives to be perfect subjects. Nearby beaches, boating, fishing and a PGA golf course are all here for the out-of-doors enthusiasts.
The St. Francis Inn has been a part of the history of St. Augustine for almost 200 years and today is a classic example of Old-World architecture and charm. It is situated in the heart of the historic section of the oldest city on the North American continent. The entrance, Spanish style, faces a courtyard and garden containing lush banana trees, bougainvillea, jasmine and other tropical flowers and shrubs. There is a patio and a balcony overlooking the courtyard garden for the enjoyment of the guests. The main shopping area, post office and churches are all within short walking distance of the Inn. Those who choose to reside here enjoy a very convenient location, historical atmosphere and quest comfort; the perfect residence, whether for a short visit or an extended stay.
The story begins in the year 1791. Florida was still a possession of the Spanish Crown. it was also in that year, on May 16, 1791, to be exact, that Senor Gaspar Garcia received a Spanish Grant to a plot of land..."On San Francisco Street bounded in the North by the heirs of Vincent Casaly...East by house and lot of Juan Moreno and West by the Street of the Old Church," in the City of St. Augustine. Senor Garcia proceeded to build a house on his land. He used "coquina," a limestone formed of broken shells and corals cemented together found on Anastasia Island. Coquina was first quarried by convict labor shipped to Florida from Spain, later by slaves, and is the same material used in the construction of the Castillo de San Marcos, Oldest House and other ancient buildings.
On September 10, 1795, the house and land were transferred to Rafael Saavedra de Espinosa. The property then changed hands five times until it was purchased on October 10, 1838, by Thomas Henry Dummett, a former Colonel in the British Marines. Colonel Dummett was a native of Barbados, of British parentage, who had been a wealthy sugar planter there until the English passed the Abolition Act. An uprising of former slaves followed and Colonel Dummett places his family, slaves and movable property aboard three cargo vessels in order to flee. He found the Florida climate so much like his native Barbados that he decided to settle there and, in 1825, purchased two plantations totaling 3,579 acres in Tomoka, upon which he raised sugar cane. He subsequently had a sugar mill built on the property, parts of which are still standing.
All went well until the outbreak of the Second Seminole Indian War in December, 1835. colonel Dummett hastily buried the family silver and, with his family, fled to the comparative safety of St. Augustine.
St. Augustine was willed with refugees and housing was scarce. Colonel Dummett was lucky to be able to rent and old house, in need of extensive repairs, to shelter his large family.
The Dummetts lived in their rented quarters for over two years before the Colonel purchased the old house on San Francisco Street. The cottage behind the large coquina building was used as a slave quarters and, in later years, as a kitchen when Gaspar Garcia's old home became a boarding house.
Colonel Dummett died in St. Augustine on August 31, 1839. His family stayed on in the old house and, in April, 1845, his widow, Mary, conveyed the house and lot to their daughters Anna and Sarah. Anna operated the old building as a boarding house and it became known as the Dummett House until 1855, when the property was conveyed to her brother-in-law, Major William Hardee. For years after that the house was known as the Dummett-Hardee House. Major William Joseph Hardee, U.S.A, was promoted in 1856 to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned to the post of Commandant of Cadets at West Point. That same year he published "Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics" which became a text-book for military students for many years. He later became General Hardee, C.S.A. It is rumored that the Confederate spies operated out of the Dummett-Hardee House during the War between the States.
In 1869, Brinton's Guide Book of St. Augustine listed the boarding house of "Miss Dummitt." The rates were $15.00 to $20.00 a week. In "A Winter in Florida," by Bill Ledyard, published in 1870, it says that: "among the private boarding houses Mrs. Abbott's, Mrs. Gardner's, Madam Fatio's and Miss Dummett's are among the best known and are all pleasant homes and furnish excellent accommodations at about half the price of the hotels."
In May, 1888, the house was sold to Mr. John L. Wilson, who enlarged the building by adding a third story. It is said that during interior remodeling, a workman was setting tiles in a fireplace when he found a bag of doubloons. He was so excited by his find that he ran away with the treasure, dropping a few coins in his haste. He was never heard from again.
The old building changed hands once again before being purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas A. Graham in 1925 and renamed the Graham House. The Grahams installed a central heating system, bathrooms and a lavatory in each room. For the next 25 years the old house accommodated travelers from most of the United States and many foreign lands until the property was conveyed to Mr. and Mrs. Ralph G. Moody in 1948. The Moody's changed the name to the St. Francis Inn and continued to cater to visitors to St. Augustine from near and far, among them writers, artists and even some nobility, until they sold the Inn in 1954.
St. Francis Inn today is a classic example of Old-World architecture and charm.