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St. Augustine

Encyclopædia Britannica


St. Augustine, a city and the county-seat of St John's county, Florida, U.S.A, in the N.E. part of the state, about 36 m. S.E. of Jacksonville. Pop. (1900) 4272, including 1735 negroes; (1910) 5494; many of the native whites are descendants of those Minorcans who were settled at New Smyrna, Florida, by Andrew Turnbull in 1769, and subsequently removed to St Augustine. St Augustine is served by the Florida East Coast railway and by the Florida East Coast canal, and inland waterway from the St John's river to the Florida Keys.

The city stands on a narrow, sandy peninsula, about 12 ft. above the sea, formed by the Matanzas and San Sebastian rivers, and is separated from the ocean by the northern end of Anastasia Island. St George, the chief street in St Augustine, is only 17 ft. wide, and Treasury Street is, at its east end, an alley across which two people may clasp hands. There are many old houses, some of which have balconies projecting above the streets. At its northern end is the old fort of San Marco (now renamed Fort Marion in honour of General Francis Marion), a well-preserved specimen of Spanish military architecture, begun, it is supposed, about 1656 and finished in 1750. The St Francis barracks (now the state arsenal) occupy the site of the old Franciscan convent, whose walls still remain as the first storey. In the military cemetery are buried a number of soldiers who were massacred by the Seminoles near the Great Wahoo Swamp on the 28th of August 1835. At the end of St George Street and near Fort Marion is the City Gate (two pillars, each 20 ft. high); from this gate a line of earthworks formerly stretched across the northern end of the peninsula. In the centre of the city is the Plaza de la Constitucion, in which are an obelisk erected in 1813 to commemorate the Spanish Liberal Constitution of 1812, and a monument (1872) to citizens who died in the Confederate Army. On this square are the market (built in 1791, burned in 1887, and rebuilt and enlarged in 1887-1888); Trinity church (Protestant Episcopal); and the post office (once the Spanish government building.) In the western part of the city is the beautiful Memorial Presbyterian Church, built in 1889 as a memorial to his daughter, by Henry M. Flagler. Facing King Street (the Alameda) is the magnificent Hotel Flagler. The Alcazar (with a large swimming pool fed by a sulphurous artesian well), in the Moorish style, and the Alcazar Annex (with a large sun parlour), formerly the Cordova Hotel, designed and built by Franklin W. Smith, in the Hispano- Moorish style, are also famous hostelries. In an old building (restored) is housed the Wilson Free Public Library. Another old building houses the collections of the St Augustine Institute of Science and Historical Society, organized in 1884. St Augustine is the seat of the state school for the deaf and blind (1885). At St Augustine are car and machine shops of the Florida East Coast railway. Oyster canning and fishing are engaged in to some extent, but the city is important chiefly as a winter resort, the number of its visitors approximating 25,000 a year. The climate is delightful, the mean temperature for the winter months being about 58° F. and for the entire year about 70° F.

St Augustine is the oldest permanent settlement of Europeans in the United States. It was founded by Spanish colonists under the leadership of Pedro Menendez de Aviles, who sighted land here in 1565, on the 28th of August, St Augustine's day, whence the name. On the 6th of September he landed and began his fortifications. St Augustine's colonial history is almost identical with the history of Florida (q.v.) under Spanish dominion. In 1586 it was burned by Sir Francis Drake, who captured the fort, and in 1665 it was pillaged by Captain John Davis, an English freebooter. There were frequent conflicts with the English settlements in South Carolina and Georgia, beginning in 1681 with an attack by the Spanish on Port Royal, South Carolina. In 1702 Governor James Moore of South Carolina captured St Augustine, but not the fort; and there were subsequent expeditions under General James Edward Oglethorpe (see Georgia). When Florida was ceded to England in 1763, nearly all the Spanish inhabitants of St Augustine went to Cuba. Under English control the city prospered, but when in 1783 Florida was re-ceded to Spain, nearly all the English inhabitants left for the Carolinas, Georgia, or the West Indies, and it became merely a military post. In 1821 St Augustine, with the rest of Florida, passed under American control. The Spanish inhabitants remained. On the 7th of January 1861, three days before Florida passed her Ordinance of Secession, the small United States garrison was compelled by a state force to evacuate; but on the 11th of March 1862 the fort was recaptured without bloodshed by a Federal force, and was held by the Federals until the close of the Civil War.

See George R. Fairbanks, The history and Antiquities of the City of St Augustine (New York, 1858); Charles B. Reynolds, Old St Augustine, (St Augustine, 1885); and D. Y. Thomas, “Report upon the Historic Buildings, Monuments and Local Archives of St Augustine,” in vol. I. Pp. 333-352 of the Annual Report (1905) of the American Historical Association.

"St. Augustine." Encyclopædia Britannica. 11th ed. Vol. XXVI. New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Comany, 1911.


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