St. Augustine, Fla. – August 19, 2013 – St. Augustine’s Ximenez-Fatio House,
the state house museum of The National Society of The Colonial Dames of
America in The State of Florida (NSCDA-FL) has been ranked as the
#1 attraction on TripAdvisorR in St. Augustine.
TripAdvisorR is the world’s largest travel site which offers trusted advice
from real travelers. The site also awarded the St. Augustine destination
with a Certificate of Excellence in 2013 under the category of museums and
specialty museums. According to TripAdvisorR, the Ximenez-Fatio House is a
centerpiece of St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest settlement with the
property location along the city’s first platted thoroughfare, Aviles
Street. The site further acknowledges the house and museum as one of the
first historic properties to interpret 19th century women’s history. Visit
the website at
Built in 1798 by Andres Ximenez, a Spanish storekeeper, the original portion
of the coquina house and the detached kitchen became a general store,
tavern, private residence and fine boarding house for military officers, sea
captains, dignitaries and families from the north and south. The property
was purchased by NSCDA-FL in 1939 and became one of the South’s most
authentically preserved and accurately interpreted historic house museums
according to several national experts.
Most importantly, the property has always been owned and operated by women
including Margaret Cook, who bought the House from the Ximenez heirs in 1821
and operated the property with Eliza Whitehurst. Sarah Petty Anderson
purchased the House in 1838 and retained Louisa Fatio to manage the boarding
facility. Ms. Fatio bought and operated the House beginning in 1855.
Ultimately, the Dames purchased the property from a Fatio heir.
The historically significant Spanish architecture with lush gardens of
Florida flora and fauna, gates, patios, balconies, antique furnishings and
“American Plan” building design and rooms portray the original settlement.
The property is currently interpreted as an elegant Inn, or Boarding House
which flourished during Florida’s Territorial and Early Statehood periods
(1821-1861). The building is located at 20 Aviles Street, the corner of
Cadiz and Aviles Streets in historic, downtown St. Augustine. The historic
grounds date back to St. Augustine’s original town plan of 1572.
Some of the featured accoutrements in the House include Punkah fans which
are displayed above the 20 person, fine dining room table. The fans are
especially used in India and are made of cloth or palm fronds, bamboo, and
rattan and are hung from the ceiling and moved with pulleys by servants or
children to cool the guests during their three meals a day. English and
American china and table settings along with period pieces are exhibited in
the welcoming and gathering rooms, living areas and sleeping rooms.
A detached kitchen and original hearth and oven cooking area has been
preserved and is the only original 18th century kitchen structure remaining
in northeast Florida. The unique “frail ladies room” is a feature that
depicts the lifestyles of female guests who convalesced in the warm climate.
Men and women had separate accommodations and children stayed with their
mothers and caretakers. Modern plumbing was non-existent and chamber pots
were stored under the beds.
A staff of cooks prepared all meals and servants and housekeepers cleaned
the House and prepared lighting and wood-burning fireplaces for heat in each
sleeping and gathering room. Visitors arrived at the House from more than
eight miles away on the St. Johns River by steamboat and traveled by horse
drawn carriage to the bay front establishment. The lifestyles of these early
visitors to St. Augustine are exhibited in more than a dozen rooms.
Some recent activities at the Visitor Center include the production of an
educational video to be used in the newly remodeled museum gift shop and
learning center and for outside marketing. Featured in the museum learning
center is the archaeologically significant Caravaca Cross which was
discovered at the House in 2002. The small cross was retrieved from the
tens-of-thousands of items in an on-site archaeology dig. Careful treatment
removed a dark patina of encrusted salts to expose the white bronze material
and fine details. Named for a hillside town in southeastern Spain, the cross
design is believed to have become popular in the 17th century to celebrate
the end of the plague.
Private and public functions, weddings and tour packages are available along
with curriculums for local schools, Scouts groups and seniors programs. Non
profits, clubs and committees can hold meetings and tours along with
traditional food tastings and picnics on the grounds. The large courtyard
area has been landscaped and enhanced to accommodate up to 200 guests and a
large tent with access to an on-site modern kitchen, full electricity and
private off-street parking for weddings, parties, family reunions, club
events, dinners and receptions, to name a few.
Additionally, advertising rack cards have been produced for display in
Florida Welcome Stations along I-95 and
I-75, and in the St. Augustine Visitor’s Center.
The Ximenez-Fatio House was recently awarded a $50,000 Small Matching grant,
sponsored in part by the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of
Historical Resources, and Florida Department of State, and assisted by the
Florida Historical Commission to support continuing restoration of the
Ximenez-Fatio House. The State funds will help in restoration efforts with a
special technique using clay that will be used to help remove salt from the
coquina walls. The interior plaster finishes and ceilings on the main
building will then be restored and paint analysis will analyze the woodwork
where one grain painted door has already been discovered. The exterior walls
of the region’s only existing 18th century detached kitchen building will
also have the non-historic finishes removed and replaced with lime plaster
The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed
Sundays and Mondays. Guided tours are offered to the public and there is no
charge for St. Johns County residents. The Ximenez-Fatio House is listed in
the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic American Buildings
Survey. It is a Florida Heritage Landmark and is also recognized as an
integral part of the St. Augustine Town Plan National Historic Landmark
District. Ximenez-Fatio House is rated the #1 attraction in St. Augustine
by Trip Advisor. For more information, contact Julia Vaill Gatlin, Executive
Director at 904-829-3575 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the
website at www.ximenezfatiohouse.org.
About The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA):
The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA), founded in
1891, is an unincorporated association of 45 Corporate Societies with more
than 15,000 members. The NSCDA has been a leader in the field of historic
preservation, restoration, and the interpretation of historic sites. Today,
41 diverse properties are owned outright by the Corporate Societies of
NSCDA. 13 additional museum collections are owned by the Dames and 30 more
properties receive substantial volunteer and financial support from Dames.
The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in The State of
Florida was incorporated in 1899. The 1939, they bought the Ximenez-Fatio
House from the Fatio heirs to use as their state house museum. Considered as
one of St. Augustine’s best-preserved Spanish colonial dwellings, the museum
depicts the boarding house lifestyle of Florida’s Territorial/Early
Statehood Period. It is one of the first museums in American to interpret
19th century women’s history.