Saint Augustine - an introduction

Published: May 25th 2015
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A warm, pretty, neat and friendly city about 50 miles south of Amelia Island on Florida’s Historic Coast, St Augustine was one of the most interesting places we have ever visited. We hope you will enjoy this introduction, and subsequent articles about individual landmarks and places within the city and its surroundings.

Some 500 years ago, following the Gulf Stream which flowed past Florida’s east coast, Ponce de Leon landed, looking for the fabled Fountain of Youth, and claimed the site and everything around it for Spain. Soon convoys of treasure-laden galleons were sailing past, also following the Gulf Stream. Since pirates, freebooters and other governments were starting to show interest in the New World and in Spanish treasure, in 1545 Pedro Menendez was dispatched with soldiers and colonists to found a settlement, which became today’s Saint Augustine. It is the oldest European settlement in North America, older even than Quebec City or Jamestown.

Over the centuries that followed, the settlement was constantly besieged by pirates, and by English and French fleets, so that Spain needed a major fort to withstand their onslaughts. Over a period of 23 years one of Saint Augustine’s greatest landmarks, the Castillo de San Marcos, was built. It served its purpose well: at one point it had to shelter the entire population of the colony, holding English attackers at bay for fifty days. The town itself was destroyed, so that the oldest building today only dates back to 1702; but the fort still endures.

Given the vicissitudes of wars and treaties, Saint Augustine and most of Florida have been ruled at times by Spain, England, Spain again, and (since 1821) the United States (both Confederate and Union forces). Each culture has left its mark on the city’s institutions and its architecture, making it a veritable treasure trove for history and culture nuts like me. Today, America’s oldest city is a fascinating blend of old and modern, with interesting museums and institutions that have kept alive its unique character. I hope you enjoy this introductory overview: it will be followed by more articles about individual attractions. In the meantime, here is a good source of more information: .

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