With well over two centuries of military family history, one very forbidden love affair, and countless literary figures as both owner and occupant, the St. Francis Inn invites you to hear its age-old memoir.
History and Proprietors of the Oldest Inn: Built in 1791, the “oldest inn” dates to St. Augustine’s Second Spanish Colonial Period - a time when the mere safety and protection of one’s own property and family was of the utmost importance. The King of Spain ordered homes to be constructed as a “defensive fortress against those who might attempt to occupy the town.” Because of this threat, the structure stands directly on the street, shielding the front entrance and beautiful courtyard.
Before it was known as the St. Francis Inn, the building was called The Teahan House, The Valencia Annex, The Amity Apartments, The Salt Air Apartments, The Palms, and The Graham House. Historically it is known as The Garcia-Dummet House after two of its earliest owners. In 1948 it was designated The St. Francis Inn.
Gaspar Garcia was the first owner of the property and a sergeant in the Third Battalion of the Infantry of Cuba. He was granted the lot in 1791 by the King of Spain and built his home there soon after.
Juan Ruggiers was a sea captain who purchased the home in 1802.
Colonel Thomas Henry Dummett purchased the home in 1838. He grew up on the Caribbean island of Barbados and retired from Britain’s Royal Marines to begin a sugar plantation. He had 11 children with his wife Mary, only 6 of which lived to adulthood. Two of the Colonel’s daughters married prominent military men; one was a graduate of West Pointe and a Confederate General, and the other a Brigadier General.
Anna Marie Dummett was the daughter of Colonel Dummett. She never married and converted the family home into lodging in 1845 after her father passed away. She raised 10 nieces and nephews, all children of her siblings who died of various illnesses before the 1860s. Anna was a Confederate supporter known for organizing the obelisk that stands in Central Plaza as a memorial for the confederate dead.
John L. Wilson was a prominent philanthropist who purchased the inn from Anna in 1888. He added extensive renovations to the inn (the third floor and mansard roof) and was responsible for a number of new buildings in the area of the inn, some of which are being used by the St. Francis Inn today. Many literary figures came to know the inn as owners or occupants including publisher Aaron Jones, and authors Dr. William Haynes Simmons, Van Wycks Brooks, Verle Pope, and Gladys Hasty Carrol to name a few.
When a young man whose uncle owned the inn in the middle of the 19th century met a young slave girl from Barbados named Lily, they fell in love. Their affair existed in secrecy for it was strictly forbidden; so the infatuated lovers snuck into rooms when they thought no one was looking and executed their passionate deeds. Unfortunately for Lily and her beau, the uncle discovered their intimate dealings and ordered his servant away, forbidding his nephew from ever seeing his precious mistress again. In the nephew’s unending despair, he took his own life. It is unknown whether he hung himself on the third floor or hurled himself from the window, either way the grizzly outcome was the same.
There have been reports of loud noises, lights and appliances turning on and off, personal items being scattered across the floor, items dry when they should have been wet from the rain, the feeling of hands on stair railings, spirit sightings, sounds of whispers and moans, the locking and unlocking of doors, falling books, moving pictures, ice cold touches, bed sheets and blankets removed, and full apparitions. It is nice to know that despite the fact that there has been a remarkable amount of activity reported at the St. Francis Inn, no one has been harmed, and the ghosts, though playful at times, are pleasant and friendly.
If you're not a fan of chain hotels, the St. Francis Inn, in St. Augustine is a great option for you. If you want to stay somewhere haunted, where ghosts are often seen, even better! For more information about the St. Francis Inn and/or to book a room, you can visit their website here.