About the Dow Museum of Historic Houses
The Dow Museum combines interactive experiences, exhibitions and objects to tell the story of Florida's historical and cultural development. This noteworthy Museum is made up of nine historic homes, dating from 1790 to 1910, as well as the collections of museum benefactor Kenneth Worcester Dow. The property highlights both St. Augustine and Florida history making it the perfect place for visitors to begin their tour of America's Oldest City. (Formerly known as Old St. Augustine Village.)
Enjoy our rich collection of architecture, architectural ornaments, antiques, and fine art on display. Through self-guided or conducted tours, visitors have the change to learn about the lives of the original occupants placed in context within the greater story of the development of Florida from the Colonial to the Territorial Period, and from Statehood to the Flagler Era.
From weddings and large tent receptions to intimate garden parties in the Murat Courtyard, the Dow Museum is a wonderfully unique venue for a one-of-a-kind special event. Please contact us at 904-823-9722 for more information and for preferred vendors.
Group Tours and Programs
The Dow Museum offers many customized group activities including history scavenger hunts, architecture classes, garden classes, and guided tours.
Location / Phone
149 Cordova Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084 / 904-823-9722
FREE to St. Augustine residents the 1st Monday of each month, beginning July 4, 2011!
Adults - $8.95
Seniors (65 and over) - $7.95
Students - $6.95
Children 5 & Under free
Hours for Facility and Museum Store
Monday - Saturday, 10am to 5:00pm / Sunday 11am to 5:00pm
From U.S. Highway 1 enter the downtown area via King Street going east. At the Casa Monica Hotel, turn south on Cordova Street. Entrance is on Cordova Street near Bridge Street at the Star General Store. maps.google.com
Within the borders of the Dow Museum of Historic Houses, one city block contains more than 400 years of St. Augustine history. Among the courtyards and gardens, visitors can view archaeological records of a sixteenth-century hospital and cemetery, an eighteenth-century Spanish Colonial defense line, and the site of the 1863 reading of the Emancipation Proclamation which freed all of the slaves in Florida.
Kenneth Worcester Dow was born in 1911. He first travelled to St. Augustine in the 1930s. Thoroughly enjoying his visit, he made St. Augustine his permanent home - and purchased the oldest house on the property, the 1790 Prince Murat House. By the early 1950s, Mr. Dow had acquired all nine historic homes on the block.
Mr. Dow generously donated his entire collection of artwork, furniture and other antiques to the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach, FL, in 1989. The Dow Museum of Historic Houses was opened in late 2000 after 11 years of restoration.
The Star General Store was constructed in 1899 by local dry goods merchant Emanuel de Medici. By 1921, this original residence had housed a kindergarten, a doll and toy store and a millinery before undergoing conversion into two apartments for members of the de Medici family.
The Star General Store serves as the entrance to the museum. It contains many educational resources in addition to our Gift Shop.
As one of the oldest surviving Colonial structures in St. Augustine, the Prince Murat House is the oldest house on the Dow Museum property. The house was purchased in 1821 by Antonio Canova and is named after its most famous occupant, Prince Achille Murat. A nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, Prince Murat was also the Crown Prince of Naples in Italy.
When he moved to America in 1824, Prince Murat resided in this dwelling for several months before relocating to Tallahassee. It was there where he became involved in farming, state politics and land speculation. In addition, he also married Catherine Gray, the great-grandniece of George Washington, and through the marriage she became the first American-born princess.
The Prince Murat house was purchased by Kenneth Dow in 1940; it was the first house he acquired on the property. Mr. Dow furnished the home with Napoleonic antiques and artifacts to help reflect its history and significance.
The second-oldest structure on the property is the Dow House. This house was constructed by Antonio Canova in 1839, and was originally located where the William Dean Howells House currently stands on St. George Street.
In 1906, the Dow House was moved to its current Bridge Street location by Mary Hayden, the widow of a presperous hotel proprietor. She moved the structure so she could build the Howells and the Rose Houses as winter cottages for St. Augustine visitors.
Mr. Dow purchased the Dow House in 1941 from the oldest living resident in the city, Sarah McKinnon. At the time, Sarah McKinnon was 98 years old and the deal stated that Mr. Dow would grant her life tenancy in the house in exchange for ownership. The agreement was approved and Ms. McKinnon lived to be 103.
The Canova House is the third oldest structure on the Old St. Augustine Village property. This house was built by Antonio Canova in 1840, to help protect his family from the on-going Seminole Wars that were ravaging the area. The house was purchased by Emanuel de Medici in the late 1800s.
This house, a large Colonial revival structure constructed in 1907, is named after its most significant occupant, William Dean Howells. The famous American writer and editor, who worked with Mark Twain and others, wintered here in 1916.
The Howells House was one of the two winter rental cottages built in the early portion of the 20th century by Mary Hayden after moving the Dow House in 1905.
Upstairs are the Museum's administrative offices.
The Spear House was constructed in 1903 by John Henry, nephew of Emanuel de Medici, for his wife Marie Louise. The house was originally a one-story structure, but a second story and a full porch were added to the front by 1910. In the 1920s, the Spear House was identified as an apartment house and remained one throughout the twentieth century.
The Spear House often features works of local artists.
The Rose House is the second of the two winter rental cottages built by Mary Hayden on the property. From 1956 to 1966, author and rose collector Jean Wickham Reilly, whose penname was Jean Gordon, rented this house from Mr. Dow. She was considered an expert in the field of roses and operated a rose museum at this location.
The Carpenter's House is characterized by its unique lean and mismatched building materials which were left over from the construction of the Spear and Worcester Houses. The tilt, however, is not a consequence of poor construction techniques; rather, it is a result of the house being detached from its foundation. This event most likely occurred during a hurricane and flood that struck the city in October 1944.
The house was built for Alberta Johnson, who was the sister of Marie Louise, wife of John Henry. Johnson's husband had passed away at an early age, leaving her with their two young daughters. John Henry arranged to have the house built for them to provide care for the family.
Visitors may look inside, however, due to the tilting floors and overall condition, may not enter.
In 1906, the Worcester House was the second house constructed on the property by John Henry. When originally built, a large one-story porch wrapped around the front of the house but it was partially removed by Kenneth Dow in 1949. Shortly after the house was divided into apartments; one of which was occupied in the 1950s by Susan Alice Worcester, who was Mr. Dow's Aunt.