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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fl.a -- A piece of history on the First Coast is in need of repair.

The Lightner Museum in St. Augustinehas cosmetic and structural damage.

"We have the largest accumulation of late 19th century, early 20th century decorative art in Florida," said Bob Harper, the museums executive director as he walked around the museum.

Thereare paintings, sculpture, and glass, but there's more on display.

The building's disrepair is also in view.

"In a building like this, the movie "The Money Pit" is not far from the truth," Harper quipped.

The building is more than 120 years old, and it's an iconic image of St. Augustine.

Look closely, and you'll see paint is peeling, chunks of plaster have fallen from the ceiling, and the outer walls are cracking.The biggest concerns, though,may be thewater leaks.

"The main thing is the roof leaks," Herschel Shephard explained.

Shephard should know. A retired architect, he's been a leader in Florida's historic preservation efforts.

"The water gets inside and ruins the interior finishes and the floor construction -- which in this building to a large extent is made of wood," Shephard explained.

Still, Shephard said the building has held up amazingly well for its age.

While some of the damage can be seen, Harper said some of it cannot. He said it's hidden inside the walls.

"The outside envelope of the building needs to be sealed to prevent water from coming in," Harper explained.

Some of the leaks are very close to artwork, but the art is not the only concern.

"It's a liability for visitor safety as well," Harper pointed out.

He said nearly 100,000 visitors stroll through the museum each year, but Harper said the entrance fees and museum sales do not generateenough money to pay for the needed repairs. Harper said in the past state preservation grants have helped pay for repairs, but "unfortunately that kind of funding over the years has dried up."

Nevertheless, water problems persist in a place where visitors get an up close look at art inside a historic beautiful building.

This weekend, St. Augustine is holding a 16th century masked ball called the Menendez Noche de Gala. It celebrates the 493rd birthday of St. Augustine's founder.

It's Saturday from 6:30- 11 p.m. in the Lightner Museum Ballroom.

Tickets $195 per person, or $75 for just the cocktail reception.

All the proceeds will go toward paying for repairs at the Lightner Museum.

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