Historic Building/Landmark - Museum
143 St. George Street, St. Augustine, FL 32080
The Peña-Peck House was constructed circa 1750 by order of the King of Spain to be the residence of his royal Treasurer, Juan Estevan de Peña. Built of native coquina stone, it is one of the finest surviving First Spanish Period homes in the city. Today the loggia and the first floor remain mostly unchanged.
During the British Period (1763-1784), the home was leased to the aristocratic Dr. John Moultrie of Charleston, South Carolina, as his townhouse. Moultrie, who became Lt. Governor of Florida, owned vast plantations south of St. Augustine in an area that still bears his name.
Four fireplaces were added to the house and the east wing was constructed. British Governor Patrick Tonyn concluded British affairs in Florida in 1785 while living in this house, making it the last seat of the British government in North America, south of Canada, after the Revolutionary War.
Spain regained Florida as a reward for helping the Americans gain their independence from Britain. The Second Spanish Period (1784-1820) saw many changes. The Peña house passed through several owners and was used at one time to house slaves. In 1821, the United States purchased Florida from Spain and opened the territory to American settlers. Dr. Seth Peck, his wife Sarah, children Rebecca, Mary, Lucy, Sarah, and John of Lyme, Connecticut, arrived by schooner in 1833. They settled into the boarding house of Mrs. Whitehurst on Aviles Street (now known as the Ximenez-Fatio House). While living there, the youngest daughter, Sarah, died. Dr. Peck took over the practice of Dr. Andrew Anderson and prospered in other business ventures as well.
By 1837, the raging Seminole Wars had made property within the city of St. Augustine very valuable as plantation owners deserted the country areas. Although it was in very poor condition, Dr. Peck purchased the former Peña residence. He completely renovated the structure, added a second story of wood, and demolished what was left of the east wing. Dr. Peck’s medical office was on the first floor in what is now the gift shop. The large northwest room was rented for a general store. The family occupied the second floor and their dining room was located on the first floor. Dr. Peck died during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1841 and is buried in the Protestant Cemetery north of the City Gate, known as the Huguenot Cemetery.
For 94 years, the Peck family continued to live in the house with their son, John, soon taking over his father’s medical practice. The only Peck child to marry was Lucy, who married George Burt. They had four children. One died in childhood and the others remained unwed. The oldest, Anna Gardner Burt, was the last survivor of the family. Upon her death in 1931, she willed the property to the City of St. Augustine to be exhibited to the public as a house museum.
The City was about to decline the gift when the Woman’s Exchange, a volunteer organization founded in 1892, obligated themselves to maintain and operate the house. It opened to the public in 1932. Today, Exchange volunteers guide visitors throughout the house filled with Peck furnishings, including priceless 18th-century American antiques.
Visitors are encouraged to explore 254 years of history. Funds to support the house come from tours, gift shop sales, and the catering of weddings, receptions, dinners, luncheons, special occasions, and other social and business events.