Historic building may see restoration project | News

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Historic building may see restoration project
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A historic building on the First Coast was just placed on the National Registry of Historic Places this week, and that means it may be one big step closer to getting much needed repairs.

The old water works building in St. Augustine sits empty on San Marco Avenue.

The City of St. Augustine owns it.

Mindy Pennett works across the street from the brick building, and has seen it decline.

"It's been empty for a long time and it looks kind of run down," Pennett said.

Empty for 9 years, the water works building dates back to the late 1800's, around the time Henry Flagler had his big hotels town and needed more clean water for his guests. But now, the building is not safe and is locked up. However, we found the man with the keys: Mark Knight, the city's planning and building director. He took us in Wednesday.

Inside the building is in bad shape.

Knight pointed to the ceilings, "The scaffolding is basically holding up the roof at this point in time."

And in some areas, the mortar between the bricks is just like sand.

In the northeast corner of the building, Knight said, "the mortar is gone. Bricks are falling down."

It looked far different after the 1920s, Knight said, when it was used to be a community center with a stage.

Upstairs, there is still a small dressing room for the actors, and the walls still have their signatures on them with dates going back to the '40s and '50s.

By looking at the building, you may think it's an old facility that just needs a lot of work, but when City Commissioner Nancy Sykes-Kline looks at it, "I think potential."

Sykes-Kline has worked to get the building in the National Registry of Historical Places and she learned this week that it's now on that list. She said that could help secure state and federal historic preservation funds in order to turn the water works building back into a community center.

"What we'd like to see is it stay a community-used building in the future because this whole area has a park and a library, and it's really a community area," she noted.

Neighbors like Pennett like that idea. "I think it's great. I think it would be good idea to restore it and the way it looks now."

Knight said it'll take about $1.5 million to refurbish the building, and the city is seeking grants in order to return it to the community.

But for now, the historic gem stays locked up.


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