Friday, April 15, 2016

Who's King in St. Augustine?

Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine

I'd like to say that Tim and I are!  After all, on April 10, 2016, we landed at St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied settlement of Europeans in the United States.

Staking our claim to St. Augustine

But there were a lot of contenders before us!  

El Galeon

Spanish ships carrying settlers and supplies sighted this spot of the Florida coast on August 28, 1565, the feast day of St. Augustine, and named it in honor of the saint.  1565!  That's forty-two years earlier than the Jamestown settlement founded in 1607, fifty-five years before the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock in 1620, and 451 years before we arrived in this historic city.

Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park
Tim is filling his cup from this famous spring recorded as a landmark in a Spanish grant

However, it was the Timucuan Indians who first inhabited the area.  Archaeologists have found evidence that the Timucua were at least 4 inches taller than the Spaniards.  When explorer, Juan Ponce de León, first went ashore Florida in 1513, he concluded that these Native Americans had drunk from the Fountain of Youth, when in fact their diet of fish, vegetables and fruit probably contributed to their good health.

Spanish flag flies over the fort

Due to the impermanent construction materials, few buildings remain from the first Spanish Colonial Period (1565-1745).  Only the fort, Castillo de San Marcos, built of coquina (compressed seashells and sand) in 1672 till stands.  The National Park Service ranger told us that because of the porous nature of coquina, attackers' cannon balls did not crack the fort's walls, but rather bore into them and then stuck.  No wonder it has endured for centuries!

Entrance to Castillo de San Marcos


Spanish soldiers' graffiti on the barrack's wall

Tim on the ramparts

Cannons defending the harbor

Cindy in the sentry tower

The narrow streets within the city's wall as well as the many second-floor balconies are a testament to the Spanish influence upon this city.

Remains of the City Wall

St. George Street, a pedestrian-only thoroughfare where shops co-exist with historic buildings

King Street

Cathedral Bascilia of St. Augustine

There's lots of competition for kingship. The early history of St. Augustine is a story of tug-a-war as first one nation laid claim to the city and then another.  

Sir Francis Drake (c. 1540-1596)

English pirates, including a foray by Sir Francis Drake in 1586, challenged Spanish rule by raiding, pillaging and burning the city on numerous occasions before the Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended the French & Indian War and bestowed Florida to the British. Then the 1783 treaty at the conclusion of the American Revolution gave the colonies north of Florida their freedom and returned Florida to Spain. Finally, weakened by Napoleon's invasions across the Pyrenees, Spain struggled to keep its colonies in the Americas before peacefully ceding Florida to the United States in 1821. 

So, there you have it!  The Timucua, Spain, England, Spain, United States, Tim and I!

St. Augustine's Bridge of Lions


  1. I'm really enjoying the history lesson of these places. I'm always amazed at learning new and interesting facts! Love you both😍

    1. Have you visited St. Augustine, Yas? It truly is a lovely place.

  2. Such interesting history, and you tell it so well, Cindy!

  3. Thanks, Terry! A visit here makes you wonder why the Spanish with their explorations of Florida, the Southwest and California don't receive more press in school textbooks. You've already experienced their predominance in the history of Tucson! If you haven't already been here, you would enjoy a visit to St. Augustine!