St. Augustine’s first, and last, skyscraper began its next identity Saturday and Historic City News reporters were on hand when the Wachovia Bank signs came down to reveal the moniker of their latest tenant — Wells Fargo and Company.
The six-story building, plus mezzanine, located at 24 Cathedral Place is currently owned by Virtu-Cathedral Associates, LLC., John W. Green, Managing Member, however, residents commonly refer to the landmark building by the name of whatever bank is operating in the lobby; at one time it was also known as the Espinosa-Sanchez Building.
Historic City News Editor Michael Gold occupied the top-floor suite overlooking the Matanzas River and Plaza in the 1980’s and later had an office with a bayfront view for his local detective agency. “Most folks in town don’t know the history of this building, but, if these walls could talk …”, Gold said.
In 1928, a year after the Bridge of Lions was first opened; the building was constructed to house the First National Bank and the offices of onetime Mayor Herbert E. Wolfe.
First National Bank was succeeded by Exchange Bank of St. Augustine, then purchased by Jacksonville-based Atlantic National Bank of Florida in 1987, purchased again in 1998 by First Union National Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina, then in 2001, First Union announced it would merge with Winston-Salem based Wachovia Corporation, and, most recently, sold to Wells Fargo and Company in a deal that was completed on December 31, 2008.
The last year the building was actually owned by a bank was 1992; when it was owned by FNB Properties Inc – a subsidiary of First Union National Bank.
All of the Wachovia locations changed signs Saturday, two and a half years after the Wells Fargo merger was negotiated. Sign ordinances within downtown St. Augustine being what they are, the blazing red and bright gold Wells Fargo logo was restricted to a small plaque at the front door — the larger sign on the west side of the main entrance facing the Cathedral being made using more subdued brown and brass colors.