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Governor's House Library Research Collection

Identifier: GH 0001

Scope and Content

Most of the research material in the library at Government House is focused on information that was used to interpret the city's history to the public. This is different from the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library, which collects similar research materials but also has numerous original maps and documents. The Government House collection was developed as a repository for documents relating to preservation, restoration and archaeological work that was completed for numerous properties. The collection includes maps, architectural drawings, photographs and other documentation of properties and events that the HSAPB was involved with throughout the years. There are very early materials present in the collection with original materials dating from the 1930s-1960s and reproductions of older materials dating from the mid-16th century, but the bulk of the material dates between the 1960s and 1990s (primarily from the 1970s and 1980s). It seems the staff person who dealt with the research material most regularly was Rita "Cookie" O'Brien (Information Specialist with the HSAPB from 1960-1997).


  • 1565-2009
  • Majority of material found within 1960-1998



Access to the collection may be limited. Researchers should contact the Library prior to visiting St. Augustine. Access to selected files is restricted. Because of the sensitive nature of the contents of certain files, they may only be viewed by the public at the discretion of the Governor's House Library staff, and material will be screened prior to access.

Biographical/Historical Note

The Research Library at Government House is the creation of the St. Augustine Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission, which later became the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board. The Commission was created in 1959 by a state law, which was based on earlier legislation written in 1937, and authorized "to acquire, restore, preserve, maintain, reconstruct, reproduce, and operate for the use, benefit, education, recreation, enjoyment, and general welfare... [St. Augustine's] historical and antiquarian sites." The impetus for the creation of the Commission was the rapid dilapidation and disappearance of historic structures in the city, which defined the character of the city and made it a popular tourist destination.

The success of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia and the looming Quadricentennial (400th) Anniversary of the city in 1965 helped to catalyze restoration efforts. The Commission decided to focus on an area in the downtown that centered on northern St. George Street, which eventually became known as the Restoration Area. "Restoration" to the Commission generally meant recreating the colonial landscape of the city by reconstructing buildings on their original foundations (determined by archaeological excavations). The work being done in St. Augustine took on a new resonance with the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966. Eventually, a foundation was established take private gifts and donations, and by 1970 the foundation had acquired 34 parcels of land on which 29 historic structures were either reconstructed or restored.

In 1968 the State of Florida adopted a new constitution, and the Commission became the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board (HSAPB). The HSAPB was placed under the auspices of the Department of State, but the governor still made appointments to the board of directors. After this change, the HSAPB did not directly control its budget or its properties. For close to thirty years, the HSAPB was involved in ongoing preservation efforts and numerous public events, such as the Days in Spain event in the early 1970s, the Sesquicentennial celebration at the Castillo de San Marcos on the 150th anniversary of the U.S. purchasing Florida from Spain in 1821, and the annual Fiesta Menéndez/Menéndez Birthday Celebration.

The library grew as an academic foundation for the interpretational work of the HSAPB and the preceding Commission. Information about how houses were constructed historically, how they were furnished, who lived in them, and the daily work and recreation in colonial times were all subjects of research for the HSAPB staff. As the HSAPB began reconstructing houses on somewhat contiguous properties and the Restoration Area in the downtown grew, it was decided that these properties should be interpreted to the public in a way that would complement the interpretation provided by the National Park Service at the Castillo de San Marcos (since this was, and remains, the most visited attraction in the city). The Castillo focused on military life in St. Augustine and the interpretation in the Restoration Area focused on domestic life.

The State abolished the HSAPB in 1997, and the City of St. Augustine assumed control of the historic properties. For over ten years, the research library in Government House was operated by the City of St. Augustine Department of Historic Preservation and Heritage Tourism. In 2010 the State once again took over stewardship, and the management of the historic properties, including Government House and its library, became the responsibility of the University of Florida.


104 Boxes; 3-Drawer File Cabinet

Language of Materials



The majority of Governor's House Library Research collection is the creation of the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board and its predecessor the St. Augustine Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission. Most of the research material is focused on information that was used to preserve and interpret the city's history from its founding in 1565 to the present. The collection includes documents relating to archaeological work that was done on these properties, as well as photographs and documentation of properties and public events.


The collection is arranged in six series of files: Archaeology Files, Research Files, Administrative Files, Block and Lot Cards, Flat Files, and Photographs. The majority of these series are further subdivided into sub-series.

Physical Location

The Governor's House Library Research Collection is maintained in Government House, St. Augustine, Florida

Custodial History

The State of Florida abolished the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board in 1997, and the collection was managed by the City of St. Augustine Department of Historic Preservation and Heritage Tourism until 2010 when management of the State's historic properties in St. Augustine became the responsibility of the University of Florida.

Alternate Form of Material

Items in the collection have been digitized for Unearthing St. Augustine's Colonial Heritage, which is generously supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). In addition to links that are provided in this guide to the collection, all materials can be searched or browsed at the Unearthing St. Augustine's Colonial Heritage page in the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC).

Processing Notes

The collection was processed in 2014-2015 with funding from the George A. Smathers Libraries and the University of Florida Historic St. Augustine, Inc.

A Guide to the Governor's House Library Research Collection
Finding aid created by Matt Armstrong
May 2015
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.
Digitization and processing funded with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the UF Historic St. Augustine Inc., and the George A. Smathers Libraries.

Repository Details

Part of the Governor's House Library, St. Augustine, Florida Repository

48 King Street
St. Augustine Florida 32084 United States of America
(803) 209-2805