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St. Augustine, Florida

"The Oldest City in the United States"


St. Augustine-by-the-Sea is one of the few remaining examples of restful Old World atmosphere, standing supreme as the oldest and quaintest city in the United States, mellowed by time, rich in romance and history, a national shrine which everyone should eventually visit, know and enjoy.

From the time the full-sailed galleons of Don Juan Ponce de Leon first rode the waves off the Florida coast in search of a youth-giving fountain, this spot has figured in history. The venerable discoverer of Florida entered the harbor where St. Augustine now stands, in 1513, and landed somewhere on the opposite shore. His probable landing place is now commemorated by the beautiful "Fountain of Youth Park."

Some 50 years after the coming of Ponce de Leon, the galleon fleet of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles dropped anchor off this same inlet bar, and on this soil established the first permanent settlement in the United States.

The year of St. Augustine's founding, 1565, antedates that of Plymouth in New England by 55 years. When the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, St. Augustine was even then an ancient town, being 210 years old at that time.

The early history of St. Augustine, was a series of hardships, privations and constant struggles with the Indians and other enemies. Three times the little settlement was looted, once in 1586 by the redoubtable Sir Francis Drake, that terror of the Spanish Main; later in 1668 by Davis, the Buccaneer, and again by South Carolinians in 1702.

St. Augustine remained under the Spanish rule until February, 1763, when Florida was ceded by Spain to the English in exchange for Havana, Cuba, which the latter had captured. Sadly the Spanish residents deserted their homes, their fruit trees and walled gardens to their enemies.

The little walled city prospered under English sovereignty. Agriculture was encouragaged. Peace was made with the Indians and plantations spread out into the surrounding country. During the Revolutionary War the population was swelled to overflowing by many loyalist refugees from the adjacent southern states, for St. Augustine remained loyal to the crown.

Then suddenly, St. Augustine again become a pawn in the European War game. England re-ceded Florida to Spain in 1783. Once more the troops of Spain occupied the Castle San Marco. St. Augustine lapsed into its ancient lethargy and vines crept over the crumbling walls of its deserted plantations. St. Augustine remained under Spanish rule until July 21, when it became a possession of the United States.

St. Augustine is truly old, rich in romance and tradition, and what is more, looks the XXX If its quaint narrow streets could speak, what interesting tales they might tell of Dons, brown-eyed Senoritas, English blue-bloods, devout Franciscans, proud Seminoles and adventurers from many lands.

By the right of heritage, St. Augustine is supreme as the Oldest City in the United Mellowed by time, she has many dignified and interesting landmarks which bespeak while numerous, splendid modern hotels, fine golf links, well paved streets and var-her improvements indicate the march of progress. Four centuries of history create an f storied charm about quaint St. Augustine, and a hundred years of rule under the nd Stripes have enabled the community to progress to the point where old and new are ably interwoven for beauty, comfort, convenience and the sheer joy of living. Public buildings in quaint St. Augustine are constructed along lines that ore suitable Spanish tradition, and help to create the Spanish influence so delightfully felt here. Aloften modeled along medieval lines, these buildings are comparatively new and mod effort has been made to preserve the air of ancient charm when building and ing. Despite its age and olden charm, St. Augustine is a city of business and of with numerous fine up-to-date business houses and shops.

The Fort still guards the city of old like a huge medieval castle. This grim old fortress, covering an area of five acres, was built during the 17th century. Its construction covered a period of 84 years. The walls are about 16 ft. thick at the base, 9 ft. at the top, and about 25 ft. high, built of native coquina rock. It is said to be the best preserved specimen in the world of the military architecture of its time, then the strongest fortification in America. A deep moot, 40 feet wide surrounds the main structure, in the manner of the Middle Ages, over which on the site of the present bridge, in Spanish days, a drawbridge afforded access to the stronghold.

As a result of the growing British menace, Castillo de San Marcos was built at the north entrance to St. Augustine harbor. The first baptism of fire of the new stone fort came in 1702 when South Carolinians under Governor James Moore unsuccessfully besieged it.

When Gen. James Oglethorpe founded Georgia in 1733, rivalry between the Spanish and English became even more acute. Troubles arose on land and sea - runaway slaves, hostile Indians, pirates!

In 1740, Ogelthorpe attacked St. Augustine. For 27 days during the heat of summer more than two thousand people were huddled together in the casemates and the 100-foot square court of The Castillo.

Under the American regime trouble with Indians increased. The Second Seminole Indian War broke out in 1835. The Castillo became a prison. The most famous of the prisoners at this time was Osceola the Seminole Indian leader.

Except for a short Confederate occupation the fort continued in use as a prison or arsenal. Here among his western Indian prisoners, Capt. R. H. Pratt conducted the experiments that led to his later founding of Carlisle Indian School. Geronimo's band of Apaches were prisoners during the 1880's. The Spanish-American War period (1898-1899) marked the lost active military use of the fort with the confinement in its musty rooms of about 150 court-martialed American soldiers.

Excerpt from "St. Augustine, Florida: Guide Book and Map" published by Florida Souvenir Co., St. Augustine, Fla. N.D.


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