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The City’s Oldest Structure in St. Augustine

Founded in 1565, Timucuan village of Soloy, now known as St. Augustine, is the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in the United States. Forty-two years before Englishmen colonized Jamestown; fifty-five years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the Spanish established St. Augustine as this nation`s first enduring settlement, (http://www.st.augustinegovernment.com/visitors/nations-oldest-city.cfm).

Written records, of life in Florida began in 1513.

Spanish explorer and adventurer Juan Ponce De Leon made the new land discovery ( http://www.flheritage.com/facts/history/summary).

The pursuits of Juan Ponce de Leon early on created interest in other explorers, treasure seekers, and missionaries. During that time the new land was inhabitable due to the swamp like water, very real alligators, snakes and other insect oddities.

Throughout the 16th century Florida`s magical oceanic coastline became known as the Gulf Stream. Geographically St. Augustine was, and remains a superior location.

The coquina-styled walls of the oldest city have stood as testament to, and has been pivotal in, many wars.

A land that was deemed inhabitable by the Spanish, and initially forbidden to the French Huguenots, has witnessed profound comings and goings on the historic land, over centuries. Rich history of families, explorers, military, pirates and missionaries stand as testament to how protectively sound the coquina designed architecture is. Coquina, a mixture of sea shells, and soil cemented under water was deemed a special resource for the architecture of many structures throughout St. Augustine, such as with the walls and gates, designed by Queen Marianna.

Coquina being the popular resource it was, was also used in the Castillo, which protected the Spanish from attack by the British. The ambience one must feel within the coquina styled walls of the walled cities oldest structure must be magnificent.

During the eighteenth century, the War of Spanish succession pits Spain and France against Austria, Great Britain and others in the Castillo were documented to successfully resist the Carolinians.

The Castillo renamed St. Mark in the eighteenth century is the receipt of Florida to Great Britain from Paris. St. Augustine served as a fortress to the Spanish during the first Spanish period. The parallel position of the land in Florida created great hideaways for pirates looking to loot the Spanish returning treasure to Spain.

During the seventeenth century when the Castillo was built, English pirates continuously sacked St. Augustine over nearly twenty years. The oldest structure still in existence in St. Augustine is located at 14 St. Francis Street and was built around 1706. “The Oldest House “, is the oldest surviving residence in the city`s history.

People of wealth and the upper class began to vacation in St. Augustine like the Flagler`s in the late 1800`s, and oil tycoon Henry Flagler donated money to refurbish the city as a winter resort. Subsequently Ponce De Leon is now Flagler College.

Even the Vanderbilt`s, the Rockefellers and the Morgan`s vacationed there and expanded on the old colonial city (http://staugustinelinks.com/st-augustine-history.asp).                                                                                            

According to a historical postcard gallery of the city, when visiting one should visit the beautiful Arc of Castle, San Marcos National Monument, the beautiful Old City

Gates, Hotel Ponce de Leon and the Oldest School House, the fountain of youth, the old Spanish Treasury and of course the Castillo and the oldest house on St. Francis Street.

When America was granted Florida, St. Mark was renamed Fort Marion. The British could have colonized the state but St. Augustine was granted to the United States in the Adams Onis Treaty.

St. Augustine officially became a part of the United States of America in 1821.Historic St. Augustine has become a center of colonial Spanish culture and the land surrounded by the Gulf Stream is a favorite destination for travelers from all parts of the world,  (http://www.staugustinelinks.com/st-augustine-history.asp).  

Many arts and craft stores today line the streets of a state that once donned old fashioned carriages, trolleys and trains, without the convenience of the narrative tour that now declares the greatness of the city of St. Augustine.

Tours of variety are now offered: ghost tours, on the water tours, specialty tours and vehicle tours and the different cuisines offer variety also.

Italian, Mexican, Greek and Thai foods are just a few of the international dining options. The oldest city provides beautiful structures that offer the connoisseur or traveler rare antique treasures.

This ocean front place or better, the Florida coastline known as the Gulf Stream is remarkable.

The coquina beauty weaved into the fabric of the nation`s oldest city walls looks beautiful in the postcard galleries, available online although with my own eyes, I have never seen them.   

Article by Tameka Bankhead

www.thesop.org

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