Waterworks Building presentation and guided tour

For only the second time in the past 13-years, Historic City News readers will have a chance to visit and tour the interior of the St Augustine Waterworks Building located in Davenport Park on San Marco Avenue.

The presentation should be called a lesson in how “deferred maintenance” the buzzwords of the 450th Commemoration era, deprive residents the use of passive recreation leaving them cheated out of the quality of life they deserve. Jenny Wolfe, Historic Preservation Officer for the City of St. Augustine, will offer a free presentation regarding the Waterworks Building that highlights the building’s history, its preservation, and its restoration for future use.

The presentation will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning at the Main Branch of the St Johns County Public Library located at 1960 North Ponce de Leon Boulevard, followed by a guided tour of the Waterworks Building. The historic structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1898 as the first water pumping station for the town’s water utility and remained in service until a new water plant opened in 1927 on West King Street.

The site was developed as Davenport Park and the building repurposed as a community theatre, home for the St. Augustine Arts Club, and later as the St. Augustine Garden Club until poor city management and continued neglect led to the building’s closure in 2005.

The building was deemed “unsafe”. Inspections of the load-bearing walls revealed that sections of mortar had been reduced to powder due to neglect in some places. The roof’s heavy truss system threatened the stability of the brick walls that carried the heavy load.

Nothing further was done for more than a decade before it became politically expedient to begin a “diligent pursuit” of historic preservation funding that would enable the restoration of the building. Financing was secured only a short time ago through Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation grants that require matching funds be paid by the city.

Over the last three years the city has undertaken construction efforts to stabilize, rehabilitate, and restore the significant historic features of the building. Historic finishes and materials are now visible on the inside — although the interior restoration has yet to be completed.

More than $1 million-dollars in taxpayer funds and grants thus far has paid for architectural and engineering plans that led to the initial work. Another phase of grant work is proposed that will be considered later this year by the Florida Historical Commission.