With little fanfare and no public comments, Historic City News reporters watched Thursday as Kim Kiff received unanimous approval for a demolition permit from the Historic Architectural Review Board for her employer, Ripley Entertainment, to demolish the 1960’s era Sugar Mill on San Marco Avenue at Picolata Road; a one-time popular attraction for visitors to St Augustine.
The commercial duplex currently in place was originally a grocery and drug store, according to the 1955 Polk city directory.
The Old Florida Museum operated the attraction under lease from Ripley’s until its owners decided to build the Fort Menendez attraction on the opposite corner of the same intersection and then consolidated their exhibits.
Ripley’s, who owns what was originally three historic frame vernacular buildings on the site, primarily used the property as a point on the north end of town to provide parking and to sell tickets for the Red Train tours until about 1999.
The longest running tenant at the Sugar Mill complex was The Cheese Wheel and Sandwich Board, located at 252 San Marco Avenue. Since the early 1970’s, the iconic sandwich shop had several owners, however, the current owners have operated the business the longest and, according to Kiff, “are ready to retire”. Responding to questions concerning the future of the Cheese Wheel, the sale of their popular recipes, or even the possibility of a relocation, Kiff would not comment; saying only that she would allow them to make any announcements themselves.
Historic City News did learn some of the plans for the future use of the property, although Kiff was understandably tight-lipped about most of the details. Ripley Entertainment doesn’t plan to sell the property; instead, according to Kiff, it will be developed for a multi-purpose use that will include gardens, a waterfall feature, classroom space, and provisions for St Augustine’s artist community, all in a format that reportedly is unlike anything that Ripley’s does in other localities.
The approval came on the condition that applicant shall try to salvage and preserve the cypress building material and record the three historic structures, for archival purposes, on the Florida Master Site File with a courtesy copy to the City.