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