Historic home gets funding for much needed fumigation

The historically significant home of world-famous author Zora Neale Hurston located at 791 West King Street in St. Augustine was recognized in 2003 by St. Johns County and the Florida Department of State with a historic marker.

Now, as the building approaches the century mark, Historic City News learns that it is about to get some necessary treatment so that it will be preserved for the future.

Hurston wrote many books which are read in schools across the country and by devoted readers around the world. Her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God has sold more than a million copies. Her 1942 autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road was completed while she was living at the West King Street house, then owned by Mamie Jackson.

Hurston also wrote many plays, essays, and short stories, and was recognized as a significant participant in the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920’s. Her most recently published book, Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”, had the rare distinction of appearing on the New York Times bestseller list 58 years after its author’s death.

The property on West King Street is now owned by 96-year-old Johnnie Pasco who has done her best through the years to maintain the home, saving it repeatedly from demolition, understanding its significance in literary history, but she recognized that she needed some additional help.
The house is in dire need of tenting and fumigation for termites.

Dr. Darien Andreu, a local English teacher who has taught Hurston’s books in her classes, launched a GoFundMe campaign and raised more than half the amount needed. She then approached Citizens for the Preservation of St. Augustine, and they offered to make up the difference. The tenting and fumigation are now scheduled for October 12.

The house in St. Augustine takes on additional significance since so many of the places where Hurston lived have been demolished—even in the all-black town of Eatonville where one of Florida’s leading cultural festivals is held each January in her honor.

“We are happy to help preserve this important historical site,” said Kathy Schirmacher, Secretary of CSPA. “We are indebted to the Faith and Joseph Tiberio Foundation for their gift of $1,000, which has enabled us to help preserve the house where Zora Neale Hurston did such important literary work.”

Kathy Schirmacher
  • The author was also recognized by the St. Augustine City Commission in 2016 when they named the park at the southeast corner of the intersection of King Street and US-1 the Zora Neale Hurston Memorial Park in her honor.
  • Hurston was one of the first to write about the importance of Fort Mose, which figured importantly in the Underground Railway, publishing an account of the 1738 military fort and black settlement in the Journal of Negro History in 1927.
  • While here, she married Herbert Sheen at what is now the old bank parking lot at the corner of Charlotte and Treasury Streets, then the location of the St. Johns County Courthouse.
  • Hurston returned in 1942, to teach at Florida Memorial College, after a stint as a pioneer black screenwriter in Hollywood.  Veteran St. Augustine educator, Rosalie Gordon-Mills, typed the manuscript for the book she completed here.
  • In 2003, at the age of 96, Hurston was able to attend the unveiling of the historic marker for the Hurston House.  Also present at that event was Stetson Kennedy; author, and folklorist who had worked with Hurston on the Florida Writers Project in the 1930s.

It is hoped this step toward preserving the property will lead to greater awareness of Zora Neale Hurston and her literary work and to further actions necessary to keep this property a viable and valuable St. Augustine landmark.

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