The Waterworks Building on San Marco Avenue will be opened for a docent-led walking tour on Saturday, January 25th. There is no charge for admission, however space is limited and registration is required in advance.
The structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1898 as the pumping station for the city’s first water utility and remained in service until a new water plant opened in 1927 on West King Street. The site was developed into Davenport Park and the building continued in use as a little theatre, home for the St. Augustine Arts Club, and later as the St. Augustine Garden Club.
Historic City News readers will recall that in 2005, after 40-years of occupying the building then known as the Garden Center, the Garden Club of St Augustine faced major renovations caused by years of neglect. At that time, city building inspectors declared the building “unsafe for occupancy”. Inspections reveled that mortar had been reduced to powder in some places threatening the stability of the brick walls that were carrying the load of a heavy truss system.
The City of St. Augustine decided not to invest in necessary repairs and terminated the lease agreement with the Garden Club. For more than a decade, city management denied public access to the property which was allowed to decay even further. The city claimed to be in “diligent pursuit of historic preservation funding” that would enable the restoration of the building. That was 15-years ago.
Before the tour, Jenny Wolfe, the City of St. Augustine’s Historic Preservation Officer, will make a presentation at the St. Johns County Public Library Main Branch, starting at 10:30am. Registration is required and is available online at https://sjcpls.org/events or by contacting the library directly at 904.827.6940.
The presentation will provide a history of the building as well as an update on the recent reconstruction efforts to stabilize, rehabilitate, and restore significant building features. The most recent work was funded through historic preservation grants from the State of Florida.
During the walking tour, guests will see first-hand the renovations which included securing the exterior walls, restoring windows and doors, and the removal of the non-historic addition on the west side of the building. Historic finishes and materials are now visible on the inside although the interior restoration has yet to be completed.