About St Francis Inn's history dating back to 1791

The Common Areas

"The St. Francis Inn, a block from the "Oldest House" on the corner of St. Francis and St. George Streets, is filled with all kinds of collectibles and has a delightful little tree-shaded courtyard."
- Florida TREND Magazine

Visitors today find echoes of our colorful past in the tranquil ambiance of the St. Francis Inn's enclosed courtyard, at the entrance to our reception room. A fountained pond, fed from an artesian well at St. Augustines's historic "Oldest House", is surrounded by lush banana trees, bougainvillea and other tropical flowers.

exterior walled courtyard at st francis inn
From the reception room through the hallway arch, guests help themselves to iced tea, inn-blend coffee and water, and always-available homemade pastries. The quaint nooks and crannies of our eclectic interior create a cozy, homey feeling in our comfortable common areas. From the upstairs hall, all guests may exit the house to the upstairs balcony.

"What greater release from life's tensions than to rock oneself like a baby, perhaps sipping a drink, amid the restful green treetops, hearing the splashing fountain in the courtyard below?" wrote Virginia Seacrist in the Gainesville (FL) Sun.

St Francis Inn has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places
by the United States Department of the Interior 1791.

Our History

Just around the corner from St. Augustine's picturesque "Oldest House" you'll find what is unquestionably St. Augustine's "oldest inn," the St. Francis Inn. Dating from 1791, the Inn embodies the rich history and culture of the nation's oldest city, and visitors are invited to delve into the stories that comprise its colorful past.

Anna Dummett converted her family home into a lodging establishment in 1845.

The Inn dates from the city's Second Spanish Colonial Period; its architecture reflects the early residents' concern for their own safety and protection. So great was the threat of invasion that, by order of the King of Spain, houses were to be constructed so that they might "serve as a defense of fortress against those who might attempt to occupy the town." Consequently, the building stands directly on the street, shielding the front entrance and peaceful courtyard enjoyed by visitors and residents alike.

Gaspar Garcia, the property's first owner, was a military man. A sergeant in the Third Battalion of the Infantry Regiment of Cuba, he was granted the lot in 1791 by the King of Spain, and shortly thereafter built a home. In 1802, the property was purchased by Juan Ruggiers, a sea captain, whose family held it until the early years of American rule in Florida. Subsequent owners and residents included other military figures. In 1838 it became the property of Colonel Thomas Henry Dummett. Dummett, who grew up on the Caribbean island of Barbados, retired from Britain's Royal marines and began a sugar plantation. He and his wife Mary had 11 children, however only six lived to adulthood. And only three - son Douglas and daughters Anna Maria and Mary Mortimer - lived to see middle age. In 1819, Dummett had moved his family to America after the English ban on slave trade caused many planters in the colonies to give up their way of life. There is a story that British authorities tried to detain Dummett and that he smuggled himself aboard a ship, hiding in an empty sugar barrel. In 1825, Dummett bought several hundred acres along the Tomoka River south of St. Augustine and built a sugar mill plantation. After a few years of struggling, and developing a rum distillery to process some of his crop, Dummett began to prosper. Like other well-to-do planters, Dummett kept a house in St. Augustine, now the St. Francis Inn. Carrying on the military tradition, Colonel Dummett's daughter Elizabeth married William J. Hardee, an 1838 graduate of West Point and survivor of the battles of Shiloh, Missionary Ridge, and Atlanta. His Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics was adopted as a textbook for the Army. Another Dummett daughter married Brigadier General Melville A. Cochran, whose book of reminiscences described the Inn as "one of the best in St. Augustine" at the time of the Civil War.

photo of Thomas Henry Dummett
Colonel Thomas Henry Dummett

After Colonel Dummett's death, his daughter Anna, who never married, converted the family home into a lodging establishment in 1845. Anna raised 10 nieces and nephews -- children of three of her sisters who had died before the 1860s. When Florida seceded from the Union in 1861, Anna embraced the Confederate cause, even though St. Augustine was quickly occupied by Northern troops and remained under Yankee control until peace came in 1865. After the war, Anna led a drive to collect money for a monument to the Confederate dead. The monument, an obelisk, still stands in St. Augustine's central plaza. Anna lived until 1899. but she left memoirs of her childhood on the plantation. Sub-tropical forest has reclaimed her father's Florida sugar plantation, but jumbled piles of brick, two stone arches and two tall coquina chimneys can be seen at the ruins, just off Old Dixie Highway, about a mile and a half north of the bridge over the Tomoka River in Ormond.

A prominent philanthropist named John L. Wilson purchased the Inn in 1888. Along with extensive renovations to the Inn (such as adding the third floor and mansard roof), he was responsible for a number of new buildings in the neighboring area. Wilson designed and built a house at 34 St. Francis Street which is currently occupied by our innkeepers and their family. Later Mr. Wilson built the house at 280 St. George Street for his daughter Emily. This house, which we call the Wilson House, now includes four rooms and suites of St. Francis Inn. Wilson also donated the first public library, on Aviles Street, on the one condition that Emily Wilson be the librarian!

In the 19th century, the Inn's owners and occupants included many literary figures and educators. Among them were Aaron Jones, publisher of the East Florida Advocate and the St Augustine News, and Dr. William Haynes Simmons, author of Notices of East Florida, still in print as a classic of Floridiana. Another notable literary resident and guest at the Inn was Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Van Wycks Brooks, author of The Flowering of New England, The Wine of the Puritans, The Malady of the Ideal, John Adington Symonds, The World of H.G.Wells, and The Ordeal of Mark Twain.

One of two female authors who resided at the Inn was Mrs. Verle Pope (Edith Everett Taylor), who wrote Half Holiday, and The Biggety Chameleon and Colcorton, a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize. She was a close friend of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and her editor at Scribner's was the legendary Maxwell Perkins. The second was Mrs. Gladys Hasty Carroll, author of the widely read novel, As the Earth Turns.

It should be noted that the Inn was not always named "St. Francis." During the first 20 years of this century, the building was identified as "The Teahan House," "The Hudson House," "The Valencia Annex," (named after the Valencia Hotel which was located on the side of our current parking lot), "The Amity Apartments," "The Salt Air Apartments," "The Palms," and "The Graham House" (see the original signboard in the countertop at our front desk). It was not until 1948 that the Inn was christened "The St. Francis Inn."

"We've become hosts to a unique array of lodging properties in beautiful St. Augustine. Enjoy the wonder of staying in our historic inn in the midst of the Old City, find your place at the beach in one of several options we offer on Anastasia Island! Please see our Guest Amenities page for the numerous perks, activities and benefits that add up to a great value for guests of all our lodgings."
- Joe Finnegan, Innkeeper

The Finnegan Family
Margaret & Joe Finnegan, with son Patrick and daughter Beth
Ghosts

Off-Street Parking

An old city like St. Augustine was not designed for the vehicle traffic of today, but the St. Francis Inn has off-street parking for guests, conveniently adjacent to the Inn. Our parking lot is on the west side of St. George Street (which is a narrow brick paved street, one way running north to south). The parking lot is identified with a sign that reads "St. Francis Inn Guest Parking." The main Inn is across the street.
See our map.