Today we’re shining a spotlight on the first restoration project completed by the St. Augustine Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission; the Arrivas House! Located at 46 St. George Street, it has a long and varied history, with a long list of owners and uses. It is one of our favorite buildings because of its interesting backstory and eclectic architectural style.
The first known structure on this property was built between 1650 and 1680 of ripio, a shell concrete mixture. In 1725, this structure was replaced by one made of coquina. The Elixio de la Puente map of 1764 lists Don Raimundo de Arrivas as the property owner in that year.
St. Augustine was occupied by the British from 1764-1784 as one of the stipulations of the 1763 Treaty of Paris. The Arrivas House was placed under the custody of British agent Jesse Fish during this time. When Florida reverted back to Spanish control in 1783, the Arrivas heirs claimed ownership of the house. Mariano de la Roque’s 1788 map shows that the building had evolved into an L-shaped masonry house, similar to what stands on the lot today. From 1824 to 1960 ownership of the house changed more than twenty times. Owners added a second story and balconies.
A notable resident of the Arrivas House was Paul Arnau, St. Augustine Collector of Customs and Superintendent of Lighthouses. He darkened the St. Augustine Lighthouse when St. Augustine was under Confederate control during the American Civil War. In November 1861 he was elected mayor of the town, but resigned once the Union sailed into St. Augustine.
The St. Augustine Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission bought the Arrivas House in July 1960 and decided to restore it to its Second Spanish Period appearance in anticipation of St. Augustine’s 400th Anniversary celebrations in 1965. An extensive archaeological dig preceded any construction. The architecture is decidedly Spanish, but the influence of the British and American occupations in St. Augustine can be seen in the Arrivas House, making it a unique example of architecture in the city.
When the work on the Arrivas House was completed in 1963, then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson came to the house and spoke from its balcony at a formal dedication ceremony. During the operating years of living history museum San Agustín Antiguo, the Arrivas House functioned as an interpreted historic site where costumed interpreters showcased spinning, weaving, and candle making. The second story was briefly the administrative offices for the Preservation Board before they moved into Government House in 1968.
Today the Arrivas House is retail space occupied by the Panama Hat Company on both floors. Today when we pass by 46 St. George Street, we are reminded of the beginnings of the Preservation Board, its dreams for a re-imagined historic downtown, and a Vice President ushering in the age of St. Augustine’s living history village.