St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church and School

This block of property in the Lincolnville District is owned by the Catholic Church and contains historic buildings important to St. Augustine's African American heritage. It was part of the "Yallaha" orange grove plantation before the Civil War and was conveyed to the church by the Dumas family in 1890. The first building constructed in 1898 was the school (currently under renovation), originally called St. Cecilia, later St. Benedict. It is the oldest surviving brick schoolhouse in St. Augustine. With a tower and original wraparound porch, it is a landmark of Victorian architecture. It was the gift of Saint Katharine Drexel, a wealthy Philadelphia heiress who founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People and established more than 60 Catholic parochial schools around the country. The Sisters of St. Joseph who came from Le Puy, France in 1866 operated the school. They were involved in a civil rights case in 1916, when three Sisters were arrested for violating a 1913 Florida law that made it a criminal offense for whites to teach black children. St. Benedict the Moor Church, located on the north end of the property, designed by Savannah architects Robinson and Reidy, was completed in 1911. The rectory was built in 1915 and housed the Josephite Fathers out of Baltimore, who pastored here for many years. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visited the rectory in 1964.