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St. Augustine, Florida

A Pictorial Trip Through Old Fort Marion, St. Augustine, FLA.

Circa 1912

With the menace of hostile savages from land and enemy warships from the sea the safety of St. Augustine demanded adequate defensive facilities and the warlike Spaniards gave first consideration to the protection of the new settlement.

Rather crude, temporary structures were built at first, but they were vulnerable and a fortress that would defy the most powerful guns of the period, also provide shelter for the entire population in the event the city was captured materialized, and today is known as Fort Marion.

Work on Fort Marion commenced in 1638 and the fortress was completed in 1756. Originally, as a log fort it was known as Juan del Pinas. The present structure was named Fort San Marco by the Spanish.

Indian slave labor was employed in the erection of the massive coquina structure, the material being quarried on Anastasia Island, opposite the city of St. Augustine, but despite the free labor the huge fortress cost $30,000,000.

Coquina is a sand and shell formation, cemented by the action of the sea. It was quarried in huge blocks and conveyed in primitive boats across the sea.

Fort Marion was impregnable during the Spanish occupation, solid shot imbedding in the soft stone wall which are 12 feet thick.

The fort is partly surrounded by what is known as the glacis, an artificial hill. At the summit of the hill on the south of the fort is the barbican, reached by a bridge which spans a section of the moat. Another bridge, formerly a draw bridge crosses the moat from the barbican to the door of the fort.

Over the entrance to the fort is the escutcheon of Spain, and in addition to the coat of arms is a legend, reading "Don Ferdinand VI. being King of Spain, and the Field Marshall Don Alonzo Fernando Hereda being governor and captain general of this place, San Augustin of Florida, and its province, this fort was finished in the year 1756. The works were directed by the Captain-Engineer Don Pedro de Brozas of Garay."

At the right on entering are the guard rooms. On the left the quarters of the commanding officer. Emerging from the hall one enters the open court, which the numerous casemates face. Directly across the court is the chapel. The other rooms were used for barracks, mess rooms, storerooms and other purposes.

In the extreme northeast corner is the dungeon. To reach this gruesome room one passes through a casemate, an inner chamber, a narrow hall, then must stoop to pass through an aperture to enter the dungeon, which is about 20 feet long and 13 feet wide, with a vaulted ceiling eight feet high. Electric lights illuminate the dungeon now and an electric fan clears the air. Only a limited number of people are admitted at one time on account of the lack of ventilation. The existence of the dungeon was unknown to the United States officers in charge of the fort until 1833, when a section of the terre plein caved while a heavy gun was being moved.

Formerly a smooth, inclined plane ascended from the court to the terre plein but this was changed some years ago to the present stairway. The heavy guns were pulled up the incline.

Rising from each a of the four corners of the terre plein are lookout towers, at the northeast corner commanding an unbroken view of the bay and ocean beyond, also overlooking the city.

The battery was built by the United States Government in 1842 and the hot shot furnace was built in 1844.

Fort Marion is the only example of medieval fortress in the United States and there is but one other fortress of similar type and architecture in the world.

Excerpt from "A Pictorial Trip Through Old Fort Marion, St. Augustine, FLA." Published circa 1912 by W.J. Harris Co., St. Augustine, Fla.


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