Have you ever been to the Hyppo on St. George Street? Way before they were serving us all deliciously cold pops, it was the home of the Ortega family!
If you’ve been following along this month, you know how vital the de la Puente map is to our understanding of Spanish colonial St. Augustine and our ability to identify the families who occupied our city. The de la Puente map tells us that the structure located on this property in 1763 was owned by the descendants of Nicolas de Ortega. Ortega was of Spanish descent and served as an armorer at the Castillo de San Marcos. We’re unsure of its exact construction date, but it’s likely that the Ortegas’ home was built sometime around 1740. It was a small home, just two rooms with a loft. Nicolas de Ortega died in 1762, but his family continued to live in the house until late 1763 when Spain ceded La Florida to the British as part of the Treaty of Paris agreement in 1763. When the Spanish returned to St. Augustine in the 1780s, the Ortega family did not return. BUT a new family of Minorcans moved into the home in 1791. Want to take a guess at what their last name just so happened to be?
Coincidentally, the home was once again occupied by the Ortega family, albeit unrelated to the first. Sebastian Ortega and his family lived here for several years, and made many improvements to the home, including replacing the roof, mending plaster on the walls, and adding a tabby floor. Sometime between 1830 and 1900, the home was demolished and replaced with a new structure. In 1967, St. Augustine Restoration, Inc., with the help of the Davis family and Winn Dixie Stores, spent $60,000 to purchase the land where the home once sat and reconstructed the Ortega families’ home.
The St. Augustine Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission leased the newly reconstructed home to Mr. and Mrs. George Waldron as a private residence. Can you imagine living on St. George Street today? We certainly can’t, but St. George Street was much quieter in the 1960s than it is today. The Waldrons moved into the home in September 1968 and loved living there. We bet the central air conditioning and heat made it much more comfortable than the Ortega families would have been in colonial times! They even decorated it with some period appropriate furniture.
Today the house is owned by the St. Augustine Foundation. Next time you stop by the Hyppo for a refreshing treat, see if you notice the plaque honoring the Ortega family and the home’s Spanish roots.