Depending on how long you have lived in St Augustine, Historic City News readers will refer to St Augustine’s only “skyscraper”, a six-story bank building located at 24 Cathedral Place, by a different name. But, as of Tuesday, January 30, 2018, the current event venue with individual office spaces above, has been sold.
Rumored in the crosshairs of local developer and hotelier, Kanti Patel, since shortly after his fight for re-zoning of property along Castillo Drive to build the controversial San Marco Hotel, the actual plans for the 91-year-old bank building have not be made public.
The former owner manager, John Green of Virtu Cathedral Associates LLC, a California-based investment company, has operated the building since 2001. It served as a bank from the time it was constructed until 2013.
The heritage of the Cathedral Place landmark includes:
- First National Bank of St Augustine
- Exchange Bank of St Augustine
- Atlantic National Bank
- First Union National Bank
- Wachovia National Bank
- Wells Fargo National Bank
Kasam Hospitality, Inc., a hotel developer, bought the property for $10 million. The registered agent for Kasam Hospitality Inc. is Kanti Patel.
The building as constructed does not lend itself to a hotel. On each of the six tenant floors, there is only one restroom — alternating “mens” and “womens” restrooms by floor. Over the years since 1927, some of the town’s most prestigious business and professional tenants have called the building home.
Herbert E. Wolfe, investor, banker and developer occupied nearly an entire floor, as did the Upchurch law firm. Small medical and dental offices were common. The fate of those businesses is not yet known.
As telephone service came to St Augustine, the AT&T central office was built at 69 Cordova Street — only two blocks away. With so many business lines needed to support the bank and nearly 100 rental spaces, copper lines were pulled underground to the building. As plain-old-telephone-service (POTS) was replaced, rotary dial lines gave way to touch-tone lines, gave way to voice-over-IP, data circuits that supported early monitored burglar alarms, and the central office advanced from “step switching” to “electronic switching”.
Through those years, Southern Bell continued to pull new copper lines to the building and overlaid the lines from previous tenants, fishing new pairs from floor to floor to make room for demands for fax machines and additional telephone numbers. They routinely if ever pulled the old copper lines out. To this day, you could likely retire off the literally miles of copper wire buried in the walls.
The Treasury on the Plaza has occupied the former bank space on the ground floor. It has been used as a private event venue since 2014, most notably for weddings.