Originally a land grant issued during the last English occupation of Florida (1763-1783), in 1771 it was purchased by Francis Philip Fatio, Sr. and three English partners. When Spain regained dominion of Florida in 1784, only Spanish subjects who were Roman Catholic were able to retain lands acquired under English title, so Francis Fatio bought out his partners, swore allegiance to the King of Spain and was baptized a Roman Catholic. He thus was able to keep his property.
A native of Switzerland, Fatio was educated at the University of Geneva and served as an officer in the Swiss guards, living in Italy and England. It was in England where he learned about the British Province of Florida, which was described as an earthly paradise. Fatio obtained large grants of land and moved to St. Augustine, where on the bay he established a comfortable home filled with many luxuries. He built his country home on the land he called New Switzerland, where once 3,000 Orange Trees grew, later destroyed by a killer frost.
The home was spacious, elegant, and had a large library but was burned during the War of 1812, and there is no record of its exact location. The coquina house on the Marywood property, now called The Inn at Marywood, was built in 1939 by George Hodges, who used it as a country residence.
In 1958, the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine bought 100 acres between the river and State Road 13 to build a summer camp, opening Camp St. John the following year. In the early 1960’s, the camp was used to house Cuban refugees, and a few years later an experimental Job Corps program.
The parish of San Juan del Rio, now located at the State Road 13 entrance to Marywood, had its beginnings in 1977 with 40 families meeting for Mass in a chapel converted from the former game room of The Inn at Marywood. Since 1979, the focus has been on using the area as a retreat center.
In 1984, the Montfort Community used The Inn at Marywood as a residence, offering retreat, days of recollection and spiritual direction, as well a parish outreach. By 1989, under the direction of Bishop John Snyder, Marywood took on its present shape, with the addition of the Kelly center and 60 rooms for overnight visitors housed in Casa de Fe (Faith), Casa de Esperanza (Hope), and Casa de Caridad (Charity).
These buildings, as well as the meeting rooms in the Wisdom Center, accommodate hundreds of people of all faiths who come to Marywood each year for retreats, conferences , family reunions, class reunions, senior events, club functions, weddings, wedding receptions, and even business meetings.
Camp St. John is still in use to this day. From organized groups like Spanish Cursillo, to Confirmation groups, Camp I-Am-Special and Disabilities Camps to private and personal functions like Family Reunions.
View The Inn at Marywood in the video below.