Thu, Jul 25, 2024
11 Bridge Street street demolished in St. Augustine; why?

11 Bridge Street street demolished in St. Augustine; why?

  • PublishedJune 18, 2024

The St. Augustine house was built more than 130 years ago. It was demolished earlier this month.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — A historic house in St. Augustine is gone.

The  house was built more than 130 years ago, and demolished earlier this month. 

The owner said the house was beyond saving. Some others in the community aren’t so sure. 

The house at 11 Bridge Street was a stately house, reportedly built in 1888 for Countess of Montjoye.

It had been for sale; according to Zillow, it sold June 4, 2024. Two days later, it was demolished. 

“I couldn’t believe it,” Melinda Raconcay said. She is a long-time supporter of historic preservation. She took photos of the demolition moments after she heard the house was coming down.

“It’s been a very popular house, a lot of people know of it,” she said. 

She was the one who, during a commission meeting, told St. Augustine city commissioners about the demolition. The news surprised most of them, even the mayor.

Pat Dobosz – who bought the old house in 2016 – told First Coast News the house needed to be demolished because it was no longer safe.

She said, “The building was in significantly bad shape. We couldn’t even get a roofer to put tarps on the roof to mitigate the water coming through the building, and the ceilings were collapsing.”

Over the years since she bought the property, Dobosz wanted to turn the building into an inn or bed and breakfast, but the city denied the rezoning request.  Only residential homes are allowed where the property is located.

Dobosz, earlier this year, requested an emergency demolition permit.  She sent the city a report from an architect she hired. The report said the building could collapse if there was a strong wind event.

Richard “Buddy” Schauland, the St. Augustine building official, accepted the report and did not pursue an independent architectural review.  

He told First Coast News, “We could have, but I’d have two structural reports. One would say that it would need to come down. Then other one could say it doesn’t, and I’d have to go with the most restrictive of the two… which would be that it would need to come down.”    He said it is standard procedure to follow the most restrictive guidance.

The city provided an emergency demolition permit to Dobosz.

This meant a demolition request did not go before the city’s Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB) for approval. 

During a meeting, the chairman of HARB, Geare Macdonald, said he disagreed with the demolition decision.  

“This is a classic case of demolition by neglect,” he said.  Raconcay said this as well. 

That’s an idea in which an owner allows a building to fall apart over time, to the point it has to be demolished in order to clear the path to rebuild or sell the land. 

“That is absolutely not the case. We tried to manage it as best we could over the years to prevent further deterioration,” Dobosz said. 

She told First Coast News that tearing down the house was part of the deal with the seller. She said it was sad to see the building go, but that it was time.  She said a “beautiful” house will be built on the property.

As for Raconcay, losing a historic house is not the sole issue here. Concerned about the process for providing demolition permission, she said, “We need to do something to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again,” she said.

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