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Looking near derelict after having sat unused for an extended period and with porches removed as it is readied for its relocation, the Mary Peck House will soon be restored to the house it was a century ago.
The Mary Peck house got a new home through the cooperative efforts of the City of St. Augustine and Historic Tours of America (HTA). Once located at 18 Castillo Drive, across from the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the house was relocated to HTA’s property at 167 San Marco Avenue on Thursday, November 18.
The Mary Peck House was originally scheduled for relocation to 167 San Marco Avenue on August 31 but had to be postponed just days earlier because of the busy storm season. It was not until mid November that the city was able to reschedule the move and fulfill the pledge to preserve St. Augustine’s historic structures.
The long time home of St. Augustine native, Mary LaVerne Peck, the two-story house was built between 1904 and 1910 and remained a residence throughout its occupancy. The house has been vacant since Peck’s death in 1996.
Since the 1960’s, the property had become surrounded by commercial developments on two sides, Castillo Drive on the front and the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum to the rear. The City purchased the house in 2001 and began seeking an entity that would accept the house for relocation and restoration. By relocating the Peck house there would be an opportunity to better tie together the living history activities of the museum and the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
After extensive negotiations, HTA agreed to take ownership of the house, relocate it to its property farther north on San Marco and restore it as part of its continuing museum development.
By 5:30am on the morning of the move, the trucks and crews were in place, ready to commence the project.
Starting before daybreak, the house was readied for the nearly one-mile trip and starting at 6:30am it was pulled out into the street. Ten hours later, the 45 ft. high structure slip neatly into the vacant lot neat the Old Jail on Williams Street, its new home.
"Any day our government or local businesses or private property owners can work to save a structure, that is a good day," said George Gardner, Mayor of St. Augustine. "Historic preservation provides the real fabric of our community and saving structures through creative public-private partnerships is just one way we can work together to protect this unique fabric."
While HTA paid the cost of the actual relocation, the city will pay the cost of lifting utility wires, traffic signals, and additional personnel to facilitate the move, including those in the Public Works and Police Departments. Making the move during a weekday greatly reduced the cost to the public and safety of those working the project.
The first challenge was making it through the critical intersection of San Marco Ave. and Castillo Dr. The challenge was met 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
"I cannot say enough about the cooperation the city received from everyone involved," said Bill Harding, Director of Public Works, who coordinated the logistics of the relocation along the nearly one-mile route. "Without the help of Florida Power and Light, BellSouth and Time Warner Cable, this project would not be possible."
Relocating houses for preservation is not new for HTA. In its 30 years of existence, the company has relocated over 15 historic structures to save them from demolition. These include 1800s houses in Key West and a four-story building in San Diego. HTA plans to build a 5,000 square foot Oldest Store Museum at its San Marco Avenue location and develop two other historic house museums in addition to the Mary Peck house. The moving contractor was Russell Building Movers, Inc. of Miami.
City crews moved just in front of the Mary Peck House in several locations, trying to trim trees no more than was necessary to allow the house to pass.