St. Augustine’s museums tell the stories of explorers, colonists, industrialists and tourists who have wandered the city’s cobblestone streets during the last 450 years. Through buildings, artifacts and well-preserved documents, we can glimpse the daily struggles of an early Spanish priest, marvel at the determination of entrepreneurial women who ran a business in Colonial America or admire the luxuries wealthy Flagler-era vacationers enjoyed.
From one man’s collection of Victorian-era antiques to another’s obsession for rogues and rapscallions, the fervently amassed and meticulously maintained assortment of relics found in the city’s museums provides hours of enchantment for visitors and locals alike.
Mission Nombre de Dios, 27 Ocean Ave.
The mission and shrine to “Our Lady of La Leche” traces its roots to Pedro Menendez de Aviles’ landing in 1565. Here, Menendez knelt to kiss a wooden cross presented to him by Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Gajales, chaplain of the expedition. This event marked the first parish Mass at America’s first mission.
Though the original mission and several reconstructions were damaged by storms and attacks, the present structure was built in 1915 and enshrines a replica of the original statue of Nuestra Señora de la Leche y Buen Parto — Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery.
Museum exhibits include the original casket of Pedro Menendez, artifacts uncovered on the mission’s grounds, chalices and vestments from archives of the Diocese of St. Augustine and a selection of paintings by JoAnn Crisp-Ellert, renowned artist. Admission is free.
For information, call 904-201-6061.
Ximinez-Fatio House, 20 Aviles St.
The Ximinez-Fatio House Museum complex includes a 1798 coquina stone house, the region’s only detached kitchen building and a new visitor’s center.
When Andres Ximenez built the house, the bottom floor operated as a general store and tavern. Ximenez and wife, Juana, lived upstairs with their three children.
Throughout the property’s long history, it served as an inn and boarding house in the local community. The property was run by several women starting with Margaret Cook in 1830 and ending with Louisa Fabio in 1875.
After being purchased by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in 1939, the house was restored and interpreted to the boarding house period and opened as a museum.
For information, call 904-829-3575.
Villa Zoryada Museum, 83 King St.
Newly reopened, the Villa Zoryada Museum was built in 1883 as the winter residence of Franklin Smith, an idealistic reformer who made his fortune as a Boston hardware merchant. The museum is built 1/10th the scale of a section of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain.
In the mid-1930s, the building was opened as a museum featuring the priceless antique collections of both Franklin Smith and A.S. Mussallem, an authority on Oriental rugs, fine arts and Egyptian artifacts. These collections are still on display.
The 45-60 minute tour provides an in-depth look at the historical significance of the building and the many exquisite artifacts it contains.
The museum is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For information, call 904-829-9887.
Lightner Museum, 765 King St.
In 1887, railroad magnate Henry Flagler commissioned building designers Carrere and Hastings to construct the Hotel Alcazar in the Spanish Renaissance style. The opulent structure accommodated wealthy tourists for years before closing in 1932.
Chicago publisher, Otto Lightner purchased the building in 1946 to house his extensive collection of Victorian-era antiques and collectibles. He immediately turned it over to the city of St. Augustine in trust.
Today, relics of America’s Gilded Age are displayed in the museum’s grand three-story ballroom. Some highlights of the collection include a science and industry room, Native American artifacts and a music room with instruments dating from the 1870s through the 1920s.
The second floor contains examples of Victorian art glass and stained glass work of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s studio.
The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students. Children under 12 are free. For information, call 904-824-2874.
Gonzalez-Alvarez House (The Oldest House), 14 St. Francis St.
The Gonzalez-Alvarez House is the oldest surviving Spanish Colonial dwelling in Florida. The site has been occupied since the 1600s, and the present house dates to the early 1700s. Visitors have been touring the house since 1893 to see evidence of the Spanish, British and American occupations of St. Augustine and to learn how the residents lived. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.
For information, call 904-824-2872.
Spanish Military Hospital Museum, 3 Aviles St.
Visitors are invited to explore “cutting edge” colonial surgical procedures in a Spanish military hospital authentically reconstructed to replicate the one that stood on the property from 1784–1821.
The museum demonstrates how Colonial-era physicians in Florida pieced together knowledge from Europe and Africa to care for the community it served and includes an apothecary’s garden. Admission is $7.
For information, call 904-342-7730.
Father O’Reilly House Museum, 32 Aviles St.
Constructed in 1691 during the first Spanish Period, the house was built with tabby and coquina — the same materials that were used to erect the Castillo de San Marcos.
When the house was purchased in 1785 by Father Miguel O’Reilly, an Irish priest in the service of the Spanish crown, it became the parish rectory. Through O’Reilly’s foresight the building remained a place for learning and spirituality long after his death.
The museum has three main themes: the story of the house, the Catholic tradition in St. Augustine and Sisters of St. Joseph, who have been the guardians of O’Reilly House since 1866. Admission is free.
For information, call 904-826-0750.
St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, 12 S. Castillo Drive
The ultimate pirate experience, the Pirate & Treasure Museum includes rare artifacts including the only authentic pirate treasure chest in the world, one of three surviving Jolly Roger flags and a 1699 account of Captain William Kidd’s final voyage aboard the HMS Advice.
Interactive exhibits invite visitors to man the rig, explore the captain’s cabin and visit a lively tavern where rogues ate, drank and fought. Admission is $12.99 for adults and $6.99 for children ages 5-12.
For information, call 877-467-5863.