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Unexpected Intruder Creeps into Tovar House

In late July the plaster at the interior northwest comer of the Spanish colonial Tovar House (also known as “the cannonball house” next to the Oldest House) suddenly popped open. Historic preservation architect Ken Smith immediately called upon structural engineer Jude Kostage of Atlantic Engineering Services to tell us how drastic the problem was.

The news was not so bad. A tree root had squeezed itself between the coquina stone of the house wall and the plaster. Growing to an inch in diameter, the root finally strained the plaster and broke it away from the wall. Jeff Anderson removed the old damaged plaster (and the root) and applied new. Arborist Chuck Lippi volunteered his expertise to find the culprit root and sever it from the tree. Chuck followed the root from the fig tree growing just behind the house wall as it made it way under Charlotte Street. At some point the root turned back toward the house, pushed itself between two blocks and started bulking up once inside the house.

Tovar’s “root canal” was a success. (reprinted from St. Augustine Historic Society newsletter approximately 2009)

Jeff Anderson removing old plaster and tree root


Chuck Lippi with Air Spade used to find offending fig tree root. The small but aggressive fig tree is on the right side of the photo