News Flash


Posted on: April 26, 2023

Dr. Leslee Keys, PhD, to receive the Adelaide Sanchez Award

leslee keys headshot

Respected historian, historic preservation champion to be recognized


On Monday, May 8, 2023, the St. Augustine City Commission will present the 2023 Adelaide Sanchez Award for Historic Preservation and Restoration to Dr. Leslee F. Keys, Ph.D., during a special gathering at 4:30pm, just prior to the regularly scheduled City Commission meeting.

The presentation, which is open to the public, will be held in The Alcazar Room of City Hall, located at 75 King St., and may be viewed via live-stream online at, where it will be available for on-demand viewing the following day.

Commissioner Barbara Blonder nominated Dr. Keys to receive this year’s award and the St. Augustine City Commission unanimously supported. Nominations for the Adelaide Sanchez Award are made by a member of the St. Augustine City Commission, approved by the full commission, and presented in May to coincide with Historic Preservation Month.

Dr. Leslee F. Keys, Ph. D.

The year 2023 marks the 45th anniversary of Leslee Keys beginning her professional historic preservation career and her 27th year in St. Augustine. Over that time, Leslee directed the first Regional Preservation Office headquartered in Government/Governor's House as an employee with the Florida Division of Historical Resources. She became the first professional Executive Director for the Ximenez¬ Fatio House Museum (XVHM), funded through a three-year Jessie Ball duPont Grant. From 2002-2022, she was staff, then faculty, for Flagler College and served as the Director of Historic Preservation. She holds the status of retired faculty.

Dr. Keys exemplifies the breadth of historic preservation. She had overseen rehabilitation and conservation of historic properties, as well as fundraising and documentation that enable accurate historic preservation of those resources. In addition, she has testified as an expert witness and meets the National Park Service Standards in History and Architectural History.

She is a Trustee Emerita of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation after serving in all of the officer positions and on the Board of Trustees for 15 years. The organization recognized her service with the inaugural Roy E. Graham Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation Education.

Dr. Keys served on the international board of US/ICOMOS, the United States National Committee for the International Commission on Monuments and Sites. Her service also includes positions on the national boards for Preservation Action and the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC) where she continues to train commissioners and staff. She has been guest faculty for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Leadership Program; the University of Florida's Preservation Institute: Nantucket; and the Florida Humanities Council.

Local programs Keys has served on include the St. Augustine Sister Cities program, and for nearly a decade, with the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce as the President of the St. Augustine Area Council during the years of the Ponce de Leon 500th and the St. Augustine 450th anniversary.

Dr. Keys has assisted organizations in St. Johns County, the majority of which are located in St. Augustine, to secure more than $32 Million. In 2022, she received a Recognizing Outstanding Women in the Arts  (ROWITA) award for her efforts.

Leslee holds a doctoral degree from the University of Florida in Historic Preservation and, in 2016, was recognized as the inaugural recipient of the Distinguished Alumni in Historic Preservation. Also, she completed two master’s programs at Virginia Tech, one in History and the second in Urban and Regional Planning with a concentration in Historic Preservation. Her bachelor’s degree is from the Honors College at Ball State University with a double major in History and Pre-Law and a minor in Political Science.

Hotel Ponce de Leon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Flagler's Gilded Age Palace, a work authored by Dr. Keys, received the inaugural William L. Proctor Book Award from the Historic St. Augustine Research Institute and St. Augustine Foundation.

She has made more than 90 academic and 48 community presentations in 78 cities in 16 states, Washington, D.C., and England.

In 2003, Dr. Keys and her husband, Thom McDonald, bought the 1928 Summerville House at 37 Bay View Drive. They invested 17 years in preserving the house and reversing the non-historic modifications made to the property in the 1980s. They enjoy sharing St. Augustine's history and culture with 2 sons, daughters-in-law, and 4 grandchildren.

Adelaide Sanchez Award

The Adelaide Sanchez Award’s namesake was a native of St. Augustine and worked at the St. Augustine Record from 1930 through 1943 where she was a reporter, features writer, society editor and the Associated Press correspondent.  She joined the staff of The Miami Herald where she worked for 30 years serving as Assistant Woman’s Editor covering numerous society events during that city’s very formative three decades.  After her retirement in 1973, she returned to St. Augustine and continued writing until her death in 1994 through newsletters for the Flagler Hospital Auxiliary and Trinity Episcopal Church and biographical sketches that were included in the program for Cross and Sword.

It is Adelaide Sanchez’s appreciation and love of the City’s historic properties, and her active promotion to ensure the preservation of those resources that garnered this award being named in her honor. Her support of historic resources is a classic example of one who “walked the walk.” 

In accordance with her wishes, her home on Marine St. was bequeathed to the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board. After the board’s abolishment, the property was transferred to the City of St. Augustine and sold with the proceeds being held in trust, as per her wishes, with the interest earned being designated for awards, programs, and stipends with the goal of advancing the interests of historic restoration, preservation, education and interpretation.

Recipients of the Adelaide Sanchez Award for Historic Preservation, Restoration, Education and Interpretation receive a statuette of the lions that grace the western side of the Bridge of Lions. The molds for the replicas were crafted by St. Augustine sculptor Enzo Torcoletti.

Previous recipients of the Adelaide Sanchez Award are:

2014: Shelia Greenleaf for her work that preserved the 110-year-old Albert Lewis Trough (Historic Education and Interpretation Award), and Philip McDaniel and Ryan Dettra were recognized for their work that preserved the Ice Plant (Historic Preservation and Restoration Award).

2016: The St. Augustine Garrison, received the award for its living history programs (Historic Education and Interpretation Award), and the Woman’s Exchange of St. Augustine for its preservation and care of the Peña-Peck House (Historic Preservation and Restoration Award).

2017: then-City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline received the award for her staunch and passionate advocacy for historic preservation (Historic Preservation and Restoration Award).

2018: Allen and Delores Lastinger and the Lastinger Family Foundation, for their support of a broad range of historic properties throughout St. Augustine (Historic Preservation and Restoration Award). 

2019: David Nolan for his extraordinary and unwavering advocacy for historic preservation (Historic Education and Interpretation Award), and Les Thomas for his deep commitment and tireless labor ensuring the Preservation of Historic St. Augustine (Historic Preservation and Restoration Award)

2022: Margo Pope for her commitment to the preservation of The Peña-Peck House (Historic Education and Interpretation Award).

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