St. Augustine’s Most Threatened Historic Places: 2004

The City Block of Alfred and Genoply Streets

Threatened Structures

St. Benedict the Moor School

Villa Rosa

Echo House

Clark -Worley House

Knights of Columbus Hall

Threatened Features

La Punta Community
Mission Archeological Site 

The City’s Brick Streets

The City’s Civil Rights

Ponce de Leon Golf Course

Threatened Districts

Lincolnville National
Register District

The Block Bounded by Genoply and Alfred Streets

Plans to remove or demolish the historic houses on Alfred and Genoply may cause the adjacent Nelmar Terrace neighborhood of North City to endure a negative ripple effect. Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, a state institution, proposes to eliminate these buildings to make way for a dormitory along San Marco Avenue and for future, yet-to-be defined needs on the remaining lots.

The historic houses are located over an entire city block and are more than a century old. Two of the houses were part of a farm dating from the late 1880s that provided fresh flowers to the Flagler era hotels. The “younger” houses date from the 1920s. These houses represent a style now known as “frame vernacular” that denotes a sophisticated informal style, usually built by local tradesmen without formal plans. Typically, builders of this architectural style based construction upon other buildings that they observed around them and upon their hands-on experience. The timber used to build these structures is today either unavailable or prohibitively expensive.

The State of Florida Division of Historical Resources has review authority over state agency’s actions affecting historic properties. It has weighed in, saying the houses should be relocated rather than demolished. At the same time the City’s Historic Architectural Review Board issued orders to delay the school’s demolition plans for 12 months. It appears the School now intends to relocate the structures off site and build historic-looking houses where the truly historic houses now stand. Although they might resemble the existing houses, the new buildings would have to meet modern safety codes for students. In the end such required adaptations normally alter proportions and make the buildings appear not to be truly historic.

So, what will happen to the historic houses and the neighborhood? Is there some solution? Residents of the Nelmar Neighborhood recommend that the school return the properties to their former status—sell the buildings to private residents, who could revitalize them, retain some affordable housing for the community and maintain the feel of a neighborhood.
The dilemma of the Alfred-Genoply block plays out throughout our city, state and nation. Institutions with admirable and beneficial goals, such as churches, schools and hospitals, grow and expand into residential areas. But as these institutions attempt to fulfill their missions or provide a service to society, their expansion plans potentially may change their neighborhoods and the lives of their neighbors.