On our drive from Charlotte to Orlando last fall we were welcomed into the sunshine state with very little sunshine.
But rainy or not we were determined to stop by St. Augustine, founded in 1565 and the oldest city in America.
More precisely, according to the Visitor’s Center: “St. Augustine is the first permanent and oldest, continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States. The city was founded 42 years before Jamestown and 55 years before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.”
It was a city that would change hands numerous times in its long history: from Spanish – to British – to Spanish – to the United States – to the Confederacy – and back to the United States again after the Civil War.
We set out to explore it.
Through the City Gates
Constructed in 1808, the city gates open onto the north end of St. George’s street into the heart of historic St. Augustine.
St. George’s Street
We walked down the narrow, pedestrian only street, and came across the oldest wood schoolhouse in the USA.
The street was also lined with restaurants and shops and I’m quite sure it would have been jammed if the weather had been better. We stopped for lunch, then browsed the shops and I somehow managed to abstain from buying anything (save ice cream.)
Take a closer look at the structure above, made of coquina, a Spanish word that means ‘little cockleshell.’ Coquina is a semi-rare form of limestone composed mostly of shells and a little sand and is the same material used to build the city gates and historic Castillo de San Marcos, which was our next stop.
Castillo de San Marcos
The large Spanish stone fortress was built between 1672 and 1695, to protect St. Augustine against pirates and defend Spain’s claims in the New World. It’s the oldest masonry fort in the continental USA, complete with drawbridge and moat, and is a prime example of the “bastion system” of fortification.
Now a National Monument, we met this soldier at the entrance dressed in the uniform of the earliest Spanish period.
We crossed the draw bridge and explored the castle-like fort and its historic artifacts,
including this Spanish coat of Arms from the 16oo’s, which originally hung outside at the ravelin.
We almost didn’t make it up top over fear of lightning strikes, but when the coast was clear we were allowed upstairs, happy to have brought umbrellas with us.
Not exactly the best day for a walk but I’m glad we stopped to see the historic city and its castle/fort. Now if we’d only had time to stop at the Fountain of Youth – but alas we were out of time. I guess I’ll just continue aging gracefully.
My entry for Jo’s Monday Walk
Love this, Susanne! 🙂 🙂 It’s somewhere that always sounded interesting to me whenever I read about Florida, but we never made it to that corner on our long ago jaunts there, so thank you for the great guided tour. What’s a drop of rain? I’m English- right? 🙂 The shell mix is a nice looking building material, isn’t it?
Thank you so much!! I’m so glad you enjoyed the walk. 🙂 I’m from Seattle so we’re used to rain – just didn’t expect such a downpour in Florida, the sunshine state! 🙂 It was wonderful to see this part of our history. And I too enjoyed the coquina. 🙂 🙂
Nice to see some real history in ‘The New World’. I would like to visit that place myself.
Here is a very well-preserved example of that sort of fortification. It is not far from London.
Best wishes, Pete.
Thanks Pete! It was great to see it. I’d heard of St. Augustine but nothing much about the fort which was to me the main attraction. Your Tilbury Fort is exactly the same era and type though better preserved. Perhaps because it wasn’t built of coquina?? The Castillo did see a bit more action too. Here’s more of that history. https://www.nps.gov/casa/learn/historyculture/index.htm
Thanks for the link. Reading it now. 🙂
You’re welcome. There was so much that happened at the fort during its history but I couldn’t include it all in the post! 🙂
Terrific! I had no idea it was America’s oldest city and I love stuff like this – thanks for such great information and photos!
Thanks John! So glad you enjoyed it. I hardly remember hearing about this part of American history and it was great fun to go and see it – even in the rain! 🙂
I’d love that place!
Even in the rain, St. Aug is beautiful. Walking the quiet 300-400 year old neighborhood just outside the busy “tourist district” is a treat too!
I wished we’d had more time. I could tell there was so much more to see and do there. Maybe we’ll find another opportunity to visit, though we are almost as far from St Augustine as you can be in the US – Seattle! Thanks so much for your comment. 😊
Making time (and finding the $$) for cross country travel isn’t a cakewalk. I was fortunate to spend so much time in the PNW last year. Knowing that future trips from TN to the west coast states will be few and far between, we spent two months there last summer. We were in Washington long enough for it to start feeling like home!
Great photos. They remind me of my visit to St. Augustine years ago. Such a lovely place.
Thank you so much for your comment. I was disappointed with the weather but it was still a pleasant visit. 😊
The fort resembles the one in San Juan Puerto Rico. Thanks for the tour. I haven’t been there yet.
Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed the tour. 😊
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