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Old St. Augustine Waterworks Building Closer To Resurrection

waterworks building
City of St. Augustine

A historic St. Augustine building is a step closer to getting a major renovation after state officials signaled this month it’s a strong grant candidate. The former water pumping station was essential to the city’s growth at the turn of the last century.

For five years, the former waterworks building turned garden club has sat empty, bolstered against the weather and time with scaffolding.

St. Augustine Planning and Building Director John Birchim says the octagon-shaped structure supplied water to residents and tourists during Henry Flagler’s hotel boom starting in 1897.

“When Henry Flagler brought the railroad down, the Florida East Coast Railroad down, this was part of the infrastructure that was created for the big hotels that he built: the Ponce de Leon Hotel and the Alcazar," Birchim says. 

The old waterworks is next to the library, away from the ancient buildings most tourists associate with the city. Planners have been applying for grants to restore it since it was declared structurally unsound in 2009.

This month, the Florida Historic Commission placed the project on a short list of likely grant recipients. Birchim says the city expects the 2015 Legislature to approve $525,000 in state funding. Beyond that, he estimates hundreds of thousands more will be needed to complete the renovation. 

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP