Close up view of the wall murals at the Mission San Miguel, originally painted in the 1800s by Salinan Indian converts; César Chávez; Tampa Bay Hotel.
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American Latino Heritage

Llambias House

St. Augustine, Florida

Llambias House, built prior to 1763 and took its final form by 1788, St. Augustine, Florida.

Llambias House, built prior to 1763 and took its final form by 1788, St. Augustine, Florida.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A National Historic Landmark, the Llambias House is one of the few buildings in St. Augustine, Florida that dates back to the first Spanish colonial period (1565-1763). Restored in the 1950s, the house is a prime example of St. Augustine’s local architectural style first developed by the Spanish and later modified by the British during the colonial period. Originally constructed before 1763, the house took its final form by 1788 and exhibits both Spanish and English architectural details. The home is within the St. Augustine Town Plan Historic District, another National Historic Landmark featured in this itinerary.

Throughout the 1500s, Spanish explorers identified Florida, with its land and potential trade route benefits, as an important place to establish Spanish settlements in the New World. After failed settlement attempts by other explorers, Spaniard Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established a permanent settlement named San Agustín (St. Augustine) in 1565. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States.

Using the Laws of the Indies as a guide, St. Augustine started to take the shape of an organized Spanish colonial town by 1603. Written in 1573 by the Spanish crown, the Laws of the Indies set forth a body of laws to regulate the social, economic, and political lives of Spain’s colonial settlements around the world. The Laws of the Indies codified the city planning process and set forth a basic plan for Spanish colonial towns. St. Augustine’s narrow streets formed a grid, with symmetrical streets running both parallel and perpendicular to the town plaza. The plaza was a central place in the town and community, and the settlement expanded out from this location. To promote a sense of community, a higher moral code, and strong governmental core, important civic and religious buildings sat around the plaza. As the layout of St. Augustine took shape, so did the town’s residences.

Coquina sample from the Anastasia Formation of Florida, USA.

Coquina sample from the Anastasia Formation of Florida, USA.
Courtesy of Ohio State University

In the late 1600s, when royal funds arrived in St. Augustine to construct an immense fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, colonists learned how to quarry and use coquina, a natural shell-stone located on the local barrier Anastasia Island. Colonists cut and quarried coquina into large blocks for the construction of this new massive stone fortress. Once the construction of the Castillo de San Marcos, which still stands today, was complete, the King of Spain permitted colonists to purchase the stone to build their homes.

The Spanish colonists developed a particular “St. Augustine” architecture suitable for the climate for the houses they constructed. A typical Spanish colonial St. Augustine house was a one-story rectangular shaped building with one to four rooms. The houses had either a loggia (an open-sided room) or a porch, and often a street balcony. The thick coquina walls provided protection from heat in the summer and cold in the winter. Braziers heated the houses, which did not have chimneys. The kitchen often smoked up the house; however, the smoke acted as a mosquito repellent that helped protect the colonists. For ventilation purposes, most houses faced south or east. In the summer, winds from the southeast moved through St. Augustine, ventilating the rooms and cooling the loggias or porches. The main entrance was through either the loggia or porch, which opened onto the walled garden in the rear of the house.

Built prior to 1763 on a variation of this typical “St. Augustine” residence design, the Llambias House is a prime example of this type of house. When it was first constructed, it was a rectangular, probably two-room coquina house with a hipped roof. The exterior was whitewashed and the interior plastered. The floor was made of tabby (oyster shell, sand, and lime concrete). Closed wooden grating called rejas protected the windows, which did not have glass.

Historic map detail of the Plan of the Town of St. Augustine, the capital of East Florida, 1777

Historic map detail of the Plan of the Town of St. Augustine, the capital of East Florida, 1777
Courtesy of the Special Collections Department,
University of South Florida

Between 1763 and 1784 changes in the colonial government of Florida altered society and influenced the architecture of St. Augustine, including the final form of the Llambias House. During Britain’s brief control of Florida (1763-1784), new British settlers brought architectural ideas that subtly changed the Spanish design. The British expanded porches and moved entrances from the walled gardens to the fronts of the houses facing the street. They added chimneys for cooking and heating, entire rooms, and sometimes second stories to make the homes more spacious.

Juan Andreu, a baker who came to St. Augustine in 1777, acquired the Llambias House, remodeling and enlarging it between 1777 and 1788. Andreu added a second story of coquina containing two rooms, a covered balcony on the second floor, a stairway in the enclosed garden providing access to the second floor rooms, and a separate small one-story coquina kitchen. He also installed a chimney with two fireplaces and double-hung glazed windows with exterior shutters.

After many changes to the house in the following years, the St. Augustine Restoration and Preservation Association restored the home in the 1950s. The Llambias House stands as an important reminder of the influence of Spanish and British colonialism in Florida and their lasting impacts on the United States. The home, representative of Spanish and English architectural styles, provides visitors with a glimpse at the beginnings of European settlement in America. Today the St. Augustine Historical Society operates the house. Visitors can walk by the house to view the exterior but may only tour the interior of the house by appointment. The house is available for private functions such as weddings and other events.

Plan your visit

The Llambias House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 31 St. Francis St. in St. Augustine, FL. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text. Visitors can walk by the house, but it is only open by appointment and for private functions. For more information, visit the St. Augustine Historical Society website or call 904-824-2872.

The Llambias House has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The St. Augustine Town Plan Historic District is included in the National Park Service Along the Georgia Florida Coast Travel Itinerary.

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