The Fernandez-Llambias House is one of Florida’s most significant historic properties. The home is notable for its historic preservation efforts; however, one should not overlook the countless historic figures who owned, lived and rented the property throughout its over 250-year history. The earliest documentation of the Fernandez-Llambias House dates to the 1764 Puente Map and property ownership inventory. Juan Jose Elixio de la Puente, formerly chief official of the royal accountancy, was a native Floridian and prominent resident of St. Augustine. Puente prepared his property records as a result of Spanish secession of Florida to Great Britain under the terms of the 1763 Treaty of Paris. Puente identified what today is 31 St. Francis Street as a “stone” house belonging to the home’s first owner, Pedro-Fernandez who lived with his wife Josefa Baesse. The house has two distinct names deriving from its original owner, Pedro-Fernandez and the Llambias family who lived in the home for four generations and over 60 years beginning in 1854-1919. The Fernandez-Llambias House was a simple one story, one room coquina walled dwelling with a flat roof supported by vigas, or roof beams and a tabby, or shell aggregate concrete floor. The Puente Map confirms that the building is in fact a First Spanish Period dwelling house making it one of only ten remaining 1st extant First Spanish Period (1565-1763) buildings remaining in St. Augustine.
The Fernandez-Llambias House passed several historic figures’ hands throughout its 250 plus history including Jesse Fish, a prominent merchant and real estate mogul, who owned numerous properties during both Spanish and British rule. He took over the home as well as countless others throughout St. Augustine when Spanish residents were forced to leave their homes in St. Augustine under the terms of the Treaty of Paris. Fish became the agent for those Spanish subjects who could not sell their property prior to the transfer of Florida to the British.
Dr. William Hayne Simmons, a prominent physician, developer and politician arrived in St. Augustine after the transfer of East Florida to the United States in 1821. An incredibly wealthy man, Dr.Simmons is credited for adding the balcony to the Fernandez-Llambias House and is responsible for the majority of improvements made to the home throughout the early 19th century. Dr. Simmons owned the home from 1828-35 and is responsible for countless historic achievements ranging from the building of North City Wharf Company to the North City Hotel located North of St. Augustine.
Harry N. Campbell, an artist and instructor at the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts owned the Fernandez-Llambias House from 1919-32. During his ownership, Campbell rented the home to Guy C. Wiggins, a prominent impressionist landscape painter. Wiggins was a frequent visitor of St. Augustine throughout his life where he conducted art classes in the House. Early records show that during 1949, a proposed measure was nearly implemented to allow Wiggins the use of the home to create an art school in the main building of the Fernandez-Llambias House, but the measure never came to fruition. Wiggins is perceived by the art community to be one of the leading artists in early 20th century Impressionism.
Its restoration, beginning in 1951 under pioneering preservation architect Stuart Moffett Barnett, became the prototype for the restoration of the Walled Colonial City. Completed in December 1954, The Fernandez-Llambias House is a pristine example of a First Spanish Period (1565-1763) colonial dwelling house. The Fernandez-Llambias House also has a rich and vibrant history with the Carnegie Institute of Washington, DC when the home was purchased by the institution in 1945 with the city of St. Augustine labeled as the trustee. Administrative authority was vested to the St. Augustine Historical Society where its still in its care today, and is currently owned by the city of St. Augustine. The Fernandez Llambias House became the prototype for the restoration of the Walled Colonial City and is the most tangible legacy of the Carnegie program. The Fernandez-Llambias House was designated as a National Landmark by the United States Department of Interior in 1970 and is one of only three located in St. Augustine. The house is also recorded in the Historic American Building Survey in 1954 and 1965.