St. Augustine, Florida
When the weather cleared, we left Jacksonville
with the departing warship
fleet and sailed down the coast to St. Augustine. We approached the St.
Augustine inlet with some trepidation because the charts do not show the
depth or channel markers. This is because the channel shifts frequently
and the Coast Guard moves the marker buoys to fit the new route. Once
we arrived at the first sea buoy, the channel was clear.
The first thing we could see was the St.
house of 219
steps. Next, we saw the 208 foot Nombre
de Dios cross marking the mission founded on the spot where Don
Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed on September 8, 1565, founding the
At the head of the inlet stands Castillo
de San Marcos. We passed under the Bridge
of Lions and took a slip at the Municipal
Marina. The dock hand told us that he took the same slip several years
ago and never left town because St. Augustine is such a charming place.
The marina is in the heart of the historic district of this oldest city
in the United States. St. Augustine was founded 42 years before the English
colonized Jamestown (see Jamestown/Hampton web page).
At the time Menendez arrived on these
shores, the native Timucua
people and their ancestors
had been living there for thousands of years. The Spanish brought disease
and suffering. The native people were converted to Catholicism and forced
to work building the fortifications and supporting the colony. The population
de San Marcos (1672) is the best example of Spanish fortification
in the United States. It was constructed of coquina
stone, which is made up of seashells compressed over millions of years.
The stone was quarried by the Spanish on nearby Anastasia Island. The
engineer Ignacio Daza laid out the fort as a star
with a center square.
Slaves escaping from English plantations
to the north were granted emancipation by the Spanish in return for conversion
to the Catholic faith and service in the militia. They were allowed to
Mose out of earth and wood three miles north of St. Augustine Their
leader was Francisco Menendez who arrived in 1724. One hundred men women
and children lived in the community which was the first free black settlement
in what is now the United States.
was never taken by force and withstood several attacks from the English,
including one by General Oglethorpe in 1740. It was given to the English
along with the rest of Florida at the conclusion of the French and Indian
War in 1763 in trade for Cuba.
and Florida were returned to Spain in 1783 after the American Revolution.
America took possession of the fort in 1821 and named it Fort Marion.
It was used to imprison Native
Americans during the Seminole War of 1835 to 1842. It was later used
to imprison members of western Native American tribes.
During the English occupation, 1400 Greek
indentured workers were brought to support the colony in New Smyrna 60
miles to the south. Fleeing the Turks, they sought freedom in the new
world. However, they found the conditions deplorable, and died in large
numbers. At the end of one year, fewer than 600 remained; they revolted
and walked to St. Augustine and formed a new community centered around
The city has retained a strong sense of
living history. Everywhere we looked stood beautifully maintained original
buildings such as the Rodriguez
Avero-Sanchez house which was built in 1753 of coquina stone. The
Smith house, built in 1788, is a good example of Spanish colonial
design. The Prince
Murat house (1790) was named after the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte,
who rented the residence. The Ximenez-Fatio
house was constructed in 1798 by the Spanish merchant whose family lived
over the general store.
Walking down the streets of St. Augustine,
you feel transported to an 18th Century Spanish city. There is a Spanish
Quarter living history museum. Here you may encounter a leather
craftsman, a blacksmith, a church scribe,
a wife of
a soldier, or a carpenter. Over lager and hard cider at the authentic
candle lit Taverna
del Gallo we listened the bawdy sea shanties of the "Bilge
In the 1880's St. Augustine became a resort
community and Henry Flagler built two hotels, the Ponce
de Leon and the Hotel
You cannot leave St. Augustine without
a visit to the mythical Fountain
of Youth sought by Ponce
de Leon in 1513, who gave Florida it's name and the Spanish the claim
to the territory. It is said that no one has ever asked for a second drink
of the sulfurous mineral water from the fountain. Looking into the mirror
upon returning from the Fountain, we agree that we look young for the