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December busy month for Ximinez-Fatio House

Interior of the Ximenez-Fatio House

The Ximenez-Fatio House Museum, 20 Aviles St.,will be participating in this year’s 7th Annual Fiesta de Aviles with Spanish heritage, art, and music to be featured during weekend events. Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., the House and Museum activities will be included in St. Augustine celebrations with local business owners, live music and dancing, and art and food, plus a twist on the Spanish custom where local and visitors are chased by special guests in “bull” costumes in a sprint down historic Aviles Street. The activities are based on the centuries old Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. The events are free of charge and open to the public.

Also on Dec. 10, the Ximenez-Fatio House and Museum will participate in the 23rd Annual St. Augustine Historic Inns Bed & Breakfast Holiday Tour to benefit the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine. The Lightner is a not for profit organization whose mission is to preserve, maintain, research and interpret a vast collection of historic artifacts for the educational benefit of the visiting public. For more information about the tour and to purchase tickets, visit the website at www.staugustinebandbtour.com.

According to Julie Vaill Gatlin, the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum’s Executive Director, bed and breakfast tour guests will take a self-guided visit through the 16-room, two story lifestyle museum which depicts one of the earliest boarding houses in St. Augustine.

Each bedroom will display a specific motif to reflect the typical guests such as a Sea Captain, Military Officer, a ‘frail’ lady, and a family traveling with children, to name a few. Research and preparation provided by NSCDA-FL member volunteers will showcase the house as it would have looked during a mid-1800’s Christmas with native greenery including magnolia, long leaf pine, and sand pine along with red cedar, coontie and palmetto palms, Palatka holly, Spanish moss, and ivy, to name a few. Winter squash, oranges, pumpkins, pomegranates, red and green cabbage, kale, seashells, pine cones and nuts will also be used as holiday adornments. Bayberry candles will light the rooms to augment the natural light.

The Ximenez-Fatio House was built in 1798 by Andres Ximenez, a Spanish storekeeper, the original portion of the coquina house and the detached kitchen became a general store, tavern, private residence and fine boarding house for military officers, sea captains, dignitaries and families from the north and south. The property was purchased by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in The State of Florida (NSCDA-FL) in 1939 and became one of the South’s most authentically preserved and accurately interpreted historic house museums according to several national experts.

The property has been owned and operated as a business by women since 1823, when Florida became a territory of the United States. Margaret Cook, bought the original structure from the Ximenez heirs and turned the building into a boarding house to accommodate visitors coming to St. Augustine and hired Eliza Whitehurst to run the operation. Sarah Petty Anderson then purchased the House in 1838 and retained Louisa Fatio to manage the boarding facility. Miss Fatio bought and enlarged the House in 1855. Ultimately, the NSCDA-FL purchased the property from a Fatio heir.

As a single woman who raised four nieces and one nephew, Miss Fatio had previously operated two boarding houses. She was an educated woman who spoke four languages. Miss Fatio was the daughter of Don Francisco Felipe Fatio, a prominent, successful businessman and landowner in northeast Florida. He was a native of Switzerland and established the New Switzerland Plantation during the mid 1700s in what is now the Switzerland community on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Ximenez-Fatio House Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 4:00 pm and tours of the buildings and rooms are available from 11 am until 3:00 pm, and closed on Sundays and Mondays. The property is available for group functions including weddings and events. During tours, regular admission is free for St. Johns County residents; adults $10; children, students, seniors and military $8, and the family rate is $20. Private group rates are $6.50 per person.

About Anne Heymen (75 Articles)
Retired after 49 years in major media publication, Anne spends her time as Contributing Editor to PluggedIn whenever her two cats allow her some time to herself.

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