Casa de Suenos
A Mediterranean revival style home that blends in perfectly with the charming atmosphere of St. Augustine graces Cordova Street, one of St. Augustine’s busiest and most popular thoroughfares. Trotting horse-drawn carriages, whirring tourist trolleys, and chattering clusters of sun-kissed tourists pass by this quiet corner without a second glance. This seemingly quiet two story home serves as a bed and breakfast called Casa de Suenos. This inviting home, also known as the House of Dreams, proves that St. Augustine is teeming with haunted gems hidden in plain sight- often woven into the very fabric that makes up the backdrop of life in St. Augustine.
Casa de Suenos sits near what was once the Rosario Line, which was a protective barrier of cactus and a lush, incredibly sharp plant in the yucca family that locals call “Spanish bayonet”. The Rosario Line was constructed in the 1700s and lined the shore of what was once the Maria Sanchez Creek to help protect St. Augustine from English attack. The dense, dangerous blockade would serve the Spanish settlement by mercilessly ripping and tearing at flesh and fabric of anyone daring to try to attack the town. The Santa Maria Creek would be filled in nearly 200 years later by Henry Flagler to create more land to build his grand hotels, including the Ponce de Leon Hotel which would later become Flagler College. Cordova Street on which Casa de Suenos sits is the easternmost edge of the Model Land tract, a historic neighborhood created in the late 1800s by Henry Flagler to help manage his real estate holdings. The neighborhood was once a favorite of wealthy winter guests of the time period, and today is still a wealth of architecture in St. Augustine. It’s safe to say that even before the land was occupied by the Casa de Suenos, the grounds themselves were rich in history, stories, and spirits, some of which may perhaps be yearning to tell their stories from beyond the final resting place of their earthly forms.
The home itself was built in 1904 by George Colee, a prominent figure in town. George would also later build what would become known as Scarlett o’Hara’s, and was the founder of The St. Augustine Transfer Company, which would be the grandfather of the popular horse drawn carriages still in the city today. The home was originally a modest, one story, wooden structure. At some point, the home would come into possession of P.F Caracarba, the cigar manufacturer who owned the Solla-Caracarba Cigar Factory on Riberia Street. The Caracarba family would lavishly remodel the home to resemble the familiar structure it is today. Eventually the home passed into the hands of a mortician named William McGrath, who turned the home into Garcia Funeral Home in the mid century. The funeral home operated for more than two decades, with coffins and caskets propped up in the windows and headstones decorating the yard, to display the talents of the staff and the offerings of the funeral home. Locals would shop for their afterlife comforts, and later laid to their final resting place by the very staff that assisted in choosing their coffins and tombstones in life. After the funeral home shuttered, the building hosted various offices before being purchased as a bed and breakfast in the late 1990s by a woman named Kathleen Hurley, who was searching for a quieter life after the noisy bustle of New York City. In fact, the day the inn passed into her possession was the very day the former owner and mortician passed away. The current owners also own another famously haunted bed and breakfast, the St. Francis Inn. However, while today’s guests enjoy the luxury comforts and generous amenities of the Casa de Suenos, there is a hidden, haunted side to St. Augustine’s “House of Dreams”.
Kathleen, the original owner of the Case de Suenos, was a die hard skeptic. She would always search for logical reasons behind anything unexplained in her life. However, she found that task harder and harder as the unexplainable kept happening in her new inn. One particularly memorable evening, she sat unpacking boxes and working on paperwork. A sound caught her attention, and to her surprise, a stack of items seemed to lift itself from a box on the floor and land near her- the box was untouched and stubbornly rightside up- untouched and undisturbed in every way. Kathleen was shocked, and deciding that perhaps she was seeing things and simply over tired after a long day of starting her new business venture, went to bed. However, this would hardly be the only incident that the logical-minded Kathleen would encounter. Not long after this, a similar experience happened with a candle- the candle just leaped out of its box and landed in front of her. Kathleen was starting to run out of explanations and eventually accepted that perhaps there was something paranormal happening at her inn.
It is not uncommon to hear footsteps, catch a glimpse of creeping shadow-people, and encounter things disappearing and reappearing in a spot far from the original location of the item. Eventually, the spirit gained a name- Randolph. The origins of the name have been lost to time, and Randolph may not even be a singular spirit. Randolph is the name given to what could be a collection of spirits and paranormal experiences encountered in the inn.
Guests to this day still report on a variety of sightings and have even taken photos of figures standing on the roof and roaming the property. Ghostly, smokey figures have lurked on the peripherals of unsuspecting guests, who have also reported the unsettling feeling of being watched. Human shaped figures have been spotted underneath trees and around the general area, as if they were still in life. It is unclear if these figures are the souls of the funeral home, those of the grand Victorian era glamor, or even ghostly visitors from St. Augustine’s formative Spanish period. But we do know that the Casa de Suenos is still a popular haunt for living and dead alike.