The Woman’s Exchange is latest recipient of the Adelaide Sanchez Award
Historic Preservation does not just happen, nor does a structure, once saved and preserved stay preserved on its own. Historic preservation has been called a participatory sport with many team players each doing their part to win the game against passing time and weathering elements that deteriorate a building and erode its history.
On August 8, the City of St. Augustine will recognize a stellar team of preservationists with the Adelaide Sanchez Award for Historic Preservation, Restoration, Education and Interpretation to the Woman’s Exchange of St. Augustine for its unwavering commitment and dedication to preserving the Peña-Peck House, a building that has stood on the corner of St. George St. and Treasury St. for over 250 years. The nomination was made by City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline and unanimously supported by the entire commission.
The Woman’s Exchange and the Peña-Peck House
The Woman’s Exchange of St. Augustine crossed the threshold of 143 St. George St. in 1932 to manage, care for, and show the Anna Burt Homestead, known today as the Peña-Peck House. A woman of means and benevolence and longtime Exchange treasurer, Miss Anna, as she was known, willed her family home of 94 years to the City of St. Augustine in trust to be “maintained as an example of the old ante-bellum homes of the South.” The city’s partnership with the Woman’s Exchange ensures that Miss Anna’s wish is fulfilled.
The Peña-Peck House
The first owner of the home was Spanish Royal Treasurer Juan Estevan de Peña and his wife, Maria Antonia. He was followed by two British governors, John Moultrie of Charleston, S.C., and Governor Patrick Tonyn who each made it their official residence. Under Tonyn, the house also became the last seat of British government in North America, south of Canada, at the end of the Revolutionary War.
In the 84 years since The Exchange opened the home to the world, the stewardship has expanded to ongoing preservation of Peña’s circa 1750 coquina house with its 1837 second-story added by Miss Anna’s grandparents, Dr. Seth Peck, town doctor, and his wife Sarah Lay Peck.
Two major restorations of the house have occurred. The first, in 1968-70, was led by philanthropist Lawrence Lewis, in memory of his grandmother, Mrs. Jessie Kenan Wise, an Exchange member, in conjunction with the St. Augustine Restoration Commission.
The second, in 1997-98, was enabled by a Florida Department of State Historic Preservation Grant-in-Aid, jointly secured and managed by the city and the Woman’s Exchange.
In 2012, The Exchange enhanced the presentation of both the house and the history of the organization in honor of the city’s 450th anniversary in 2015. A visitor orientation center in the former “museum room” was created with distinctive wall panels to tell the story of the house, its owners and occupants, and of the Woman’s Exchange which was founded in 1892.
In 2013, The Exchange embarked on a two-year restoration of the city-owned 19th century Peck-Burt art collection, and several paintings owned by The Exchange. A grant from the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida, and member fundraising supported this effort. In 2015, the Exchange modernized its public restrooms because of plumbing issues and upgraded their accessibility.
Members of The Woman's Exchange of St. Augustine gathered with the Adelaide Sanchez Award statue.
The Woman’s Exchange continues its multiple mission today: conveying to visitors from around the world, the history and cultural heritage of the Peña-Peck House; helping women and men enhance their economic stability through sales of their hand-crafted items in the gift shop; and providing college scholarships for women returning to the work force at St. Johns River State College and First Coast Technical College. Annual fundraising includes two very popular luncheon series held in the fall and spring and rentals of the garden for weddings and special events.
The Woman’s Exchange has extended its influence nationwide, too, as one of five 19th century members of the Federation of the Woman’s Exchanges, an organization of 20 non-profit shops in 12 states.
Adelaide Sanchez Award
The award’s namesake, Adelaide Sanchez, was a native of St. Augustine and worked at the St. Augustine Record from 1930 through 1943 where she was a reporter, features writer, society editor and the Associated Press correspondent. She joined the staff of The Miami Herald where she worked for 30 years serving as assistant woman’s editor covering numerous society events during that city’s very formative three decades. After her retirement in 1973 she returned to St. Augustine, and continued writing through newsletters for the Flagler Hospital Auxiliary and Trinity Episcopal Church and biographical sketches that were included in the program for Cross and Sword up until her death in 1994.
But it is her appreciation and love of the city’s historic properties, and her active promotion to ensure the preservation of those resources, that garnered this award being named in her honor. Indeed, her support of historic resources is a classic example of one who “walked the walk.”
In accordance with her wishes, her home on Marine St. was bequeathed to the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board. After the board’s abolishment, the property was transferred to the city and sold with the proceeds being held in trust, as per her wishes, with the interest earned being designated for awards, programs and stipends with the goal of advancing the interests of historic restoration, preservation, education and interpretation.
Recipients of the Adelaide Sanchez Award for Historic Preservation, Restoration, Education and Interpretation receive a statuette of the lions that grace the western side of the Bridge of Lions. The molds for the replicas were crafted by St. Augustine sculptor Enzo Torcoletti, and each statuette is inscribed with his signature.
The Adelaide Sanchez Award statuette
Previous award recipients
In 2014, Shelia Greenleaf received the Adelaide Sanchez Award for her work that resulted in the preservation of the 110 year Albert Lewis Trough, a horse trough, nearly forgotten and long neglected, alongside South Dixie Highway. Her work resulted in the preservation of the artifact as well as the community’s education regarding its significance.
That same year, Philip McDaniel and Ryan Dettra were recognized for their work that preserved one of St. Augustine’s most unique buildings from the early 20th century, the Ice Plant, built between 1917 and 1924 and today home of the St. Augustine Distillery and a restaurant/specialty cocktail lounge, appropriately named, The Ice Plant.
Earlier this year, the St. Augustine Garrison, received the award for its work to increase understanding of the city’s history as a 18th century Spanish military town through demonstrations, interpretive programs, portrayals and publications, best know for its ongoing living history reenactments.
Presentation to The Woman’s Exchange
The presentation of the Adelaide Sanchez Award to The Woman’s Exchange of St. Augustine will be on Monday, August 8 early in the regular meeting of the St. Augustine City Commission. Receiving the award on behalf of the Woman’s Exchange will be current president Judy Riggle and members of the organization’s board.
The meeting starts at 5:00pm in The Alcazar Room or City Hall, 75 King St. The meeting is open to the public and may be viewed live via Government TV, channel 3 on Comcast Cable, and at www.CityStAugTV.com.