Orientation
The first room on the tour is straight ahead as you enter the house. Prominently displayed are the three main themes of the museum: the story of the house itself, the Catholic tradition in St. Augustine, and the Sisters of St. Joseph. The first thing you see when you enter the room is a large exposed area of the north wall, protected by a wooden frame and sliding glass doors. The exposed area reveals the original tabby and coquina construction. Tabby is a man-made mixture of oyster shells and mortar, while coquina is a natural formation of compressed sand and shells. The coquina used to build the house and the fort was quarried from deposits on Anastasia Island across the bay from the original settlement of St. Augustine. During the restoration efforts, work such as exposing the walls was done to assist in dating the house. To learn more about the house's architectural evolution, go to the section entitled, Architecture.

On the east wall there are displays that provide an overview to the role the Catholic Church has had in St. Augustine going back to the middle of the 16th century. The Catholic era, which continues to this day, began on September 8, 1565, when Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded the settlement for God and the Spanish crown. Father Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales commemorated the historic event by celebrating the first parish Mass in what is now the United States. Other prominent Catholics mentioned in the displays include Fr. O'Reilly, Fr. Varela, and Bishop Verot. To read more about Catholic history in St. Augustine, go to the section entitled, Catholic Tradition.

Along the south and west walls of the room you can get a glimpse into the lives of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the 19th and early 20th centuries, at least so far as admiring their talents in the arts of creating bobbin lace and painting chinaware. Arriving in St. Augustine from France just after the American Civil War, the Sisters encountered much hardship and needed to use their skills as artisans in order to support their work as teachers. Since just after the end of the American Civil War, the Sisters of St. Joseph have been a significant part of Catholic life in St. Augustine. From the time they arrived in the sweltering heat in the late summer of 1866, they took on the responsibility of teaching the children of St. Augustine, regardless of the color of their skin. In addition, they went about improving the property that was entrusted to them. To read more about this dedicated religious order of women, go to the subsection entitled, Sisters of St. Joseph, which can be found in the “Catholic Tradition” section.

You will find that every room in the house includes elements of each of the three themes of the museum. To continue your virtual tour, please click on a room from the floor plans to the left.



Part of the interior wall is exposed to show the original construction of tabby and coquina. These materials were also used to build the Castillo de San Marcos.


The O'Reilly House Museum chronicles the Catholic tradition that dates back to the founding of St. Augustine in 1565 and continues unbroken to this day.


The intricacies of creating bobbin lace are shown in this example of the making of a bobbin lace pillow. The Sisters of St. Joseph sold lace to visitors to help meet expenses early on.

© 2004 Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Augustine, Florida