Prior to the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock and before the English colony of Jamestown, there was St. Augustine in Florida. It was founded as a settlement in 1565 by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, which makes it the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European and African American origin in the United States.
I had come to St. Augustine with my Aunt who lives in the area, and it was such a lovely trip. One of my travel passions is to visit the first or oldest of anything (oldest town, restaurant, shop, etc), and if you read my blog then you would be familiar with this. Visiting the first American settlement was a great experience, and I recommend it to anyone.
Before the city became St. Augustine, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon had come to shore near the area, and claimed it as Spanish crown territory. Although previous to any European contact, there were Native Americans living in what is now Florida, for thousands of years.
Today St. Augustine is a modern coastal city with fascinating traces of its Spanish roots in the street pattern, and architectural details. The Historic Colonial Quarter, Castillo de San Marcos, and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Pare are a few of the city’s most famous reminders of its Spanish heritage.
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
The Castillo de San Marco or “St. Mark’s Castle” was constructed between 1672–1695 (23 years) by the Spanish to defend Florida and its Atlantic trade route. This fortress preserves as the oldest masonry structure in the United States, as well as being a cultural intersection of more than 450 years.
St. Augustine’s need to build a fortress was recognized after almost a century of attacks starting with Sir Francis Drake in 1586. For decades wooden forts were built along the coastline, then in 1668 the English pirate, Robert Searle, attacked and burned St. Augustine to the ground. It was Queen Regent Mariana of Spain that approved the masonry fortification to protect the city.
The castle was constructed from coquina, a Spanish word for “small shells”. This type of stone consists of ancient shells, which have fused together to form a type of sedimentary rock that is similar to limestone.
Today Castillo de San Marcos is a Historical National Monument of Florida with interesting activies including a self guided walking tour, an artillery tour and demonstrations. For more information, please visit their National Park Service (NPS) site – Castillo de San Marcos
The Colonial Quater
St. Augustine’s Colonial Quarter is a charming living museum, which depicts the city’s’ life during the 1740’s. That was the period when Spain ruled this area, and it was occupied mostly by those who had Spanish ancestry or born in Spain. It was opened in 1963 and originally named the Colonial Spanish Quarter, but was rebranded as The Colonial Quarter in March 2013.
Walking through the Colonial Quarter, along cobble stone streets with its many shops and restaurants, made for a great afternoon. The colonial style buildings are filled with fun stores and snack shops for grazing- popcorn, ice cream, taffy, etc. There is also a 35 foot watch tower, and a Spanish cathedral (Basilica of St. Augustine) that was constructed in the late 18th century.
For more information, please visit – Colonial Quarter St. Augustine
Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
The first time I read about the Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon and the Fountain of Youth, I was in grammar school and I was intrigued. As with the many other stories of explorers and interesting places around the country, I wanted to visit historical St. Augustine. It was not until recently when I was roaming northern Florida with my Aunt, who lives in the area, that I finally had my chance to visit the ‘Fountain of Youth’, and America’s first colony.
Today the park’s’ garden grounds are lovely with strolling and resting peacocks. There are also many educational points like a planetarium, recreated living quarters, a Spanish watch tower, cannons, a ship, and much more.
For my complete blog with photos, and review – Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park | Discovering St. Augustine, Florida
If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet..– Rachel Wolchin
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