oldest continuously occupied European settlement
in the United States; seat of St. Johns County;
Spanish explorer Juan
Ponce de León first visited the area of St. Augustine
in 1513, while searching for the fabled Fountain
of Youth. Spain launched no fewer than six
attempts to establish a settlement in Florida
over the next half century, but all failed.
1564 French Huguenots (Protestants) succeeded in
establishing a fort and colony near the mouth of
the St. Johns River at what is today Jacksonville. This
settlement posed a threat to the Spanish fleets
that sailed the Gulf Stream beside the east coast
of Florida, so King Philip II sent Don Pedro
Menéndez de Avilés, Spain's most capable
admiral, to remove the French. Menéndez landed
in Florida on August 28, 1565 and established a
settlement, which he named San Agustin because it
was founded on the feast day of Augustine of
Hippo. He then proceeded to carry out his mission
of removing the French from Florida.
Saint Augustine was attacked
and burned by English navigator Sir Francis Drake in 1586, and by pirates in 1668. In
1702 and 1740, it was unsuccessfully attacked by
British forces from the Carolinas and Georgia.
The city came into British
hands by virtue of the Treaty of Paris of 1763,
which ended the French and Indian War and gave Florida to Britain.
Saint Augustine served as a
Loyalist colony during the Revolutionary War. The
Treaty of Paris of 1783, which ended the war,
gave the colonies north of Florida their
independence and ceded Florida (including Saint
Augustine) back to Spain in recognition of
Spanish successes during the war.
By the early 1800's Florida no
longer held the importance for Spain it once had.
In addition, Spain was having to defend itself
and its colonies from invasions by Napoleon. So,
in 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the United
On January 7, 1861, a few days
before Florida seceded from the Union and joined
state troops took over the fort at St. Augustine,
but federal troops loyal to the Union recaptured
the city on March 11; the city remained in Union
hands throughout the duration of the Civil War.
In the late 19th century St.
Augustine was developed as a resort for the very
wealthy by financier Henry
M. Flager, who went on
to develop much of Florida's east coast.
The five flags that have
flown over St. Augustine -- U.S., Confederate,
Spanish, British, and Burgundy Cross (of Napoleon Bonaparte).
Tourism is by far the largest
industry in St. Augustine. The city also serves
as a distribution center for the surrounding
agricultural region. Major manufactures include
transportation equipment, clothing, and processed
food. St. Augustine is also home to a nearby
Coast Guard station.
Sites and Attractions
Many structures built during
the Spanish Colonial era still stand in St.
Augustine. These include the oldest residential
structure in North America, the oldest school
house in the United States, and the fortress
Castillo de San Marcos (left).
Other points of interest
include: Fort Matanzas, built between 1740 and
1742; the Cathedral of Saint Augustine, erected
in the 1790's; San Agustin Antiguo, a
reconstruction of several colonial buildings; the
Lightner Museum, containing displays of
19th-century decorative arts; and the Fountain of
Youth, located in an archaeological park
commemorating the landing of Juan Ponce de León.
Marineland, the first
water-theme park in the nation, opened just south
of St. Augustine in 1938.
City of St. Augustine www.ci.st-augustine.fl.us
St. Augustine, Ponte Verda & The
Beaches, Florida www.visitoldcity.com
The St. Augustine Record www.staugustine.com
Ponce de León
Sir Francis Drake
French and Indian War
Confederate States of America
Henry M. Flager
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