There are a plethora of art galleries in downtown St. Augustine. But none perhaps have the same unique history as those inside the Florida Heritage House, or the Wakeman House located at 11 King Street. This building, with its hard-to-miss second floor balcony, is a reconstruction of a late Second Spanish Period home built in the nineteenth century.
Archaeological excavations were conducted at this site in the 1970s that showed the Wakeman House property held burials dating back to the sixteenth century. These burials had occurred near the Catholic church of the time, south of the modern day plaza. A 1972 excavation also showed burials dating back to the eighteenth century at the site of the Wakeman House, which could very well be linked to the Spanish Military Hospital located on Aviles, or on Hospital Street, just south of the Wakeman House.
Around 1852, a building called the City Hotel was built on this lot, owned by Seth M. Wakeman, a merchant from Connecticut. He operated a grocery store in the building along with his hotel. Union troops occupied the City Hotel during the Civil War in St. Augustine. In the 1880s, the building operated as a store. The 1884 Sanborn Insurance Map shows it as a three-story dry-goods store that went out of business by 1888. By 1893 it is a veneered concrete building known as Lynn’s Hotel. This becomes the Chautauqua Hotel by 1910.
By 1964, St. Augustine was gearing up for its four hundredth anniversary celebrations and the State of Florida approved a loan to build a Florida exhibition center at the Wakeman House. At the time, the site was known locally as the Bernstein Building. The St. Augustine Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission bought the building and began to reconstruct the original Wakeman House, a project completed in 1965.
The Florida Heritage House, as it became known during celebrations, housed exhibits on American Indian cultures, Florida’s Seminole Wars, and Spanish colonial life in the city of St. Augustine. Artifacts from recent archaeological digs were put on display along with gifts given to the city on behalf of Spanish governmental agencies.
The Wakeman House, therefore, has a long history of displaying goods and artifacts, while some have not been for purchase.
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