St. Augustine, the oldest city in the U.S.
The city of Saint Augustine, Florida, is known for more than its fantastic weather, beaches, dining, and shopping. With over 400 years of culture and history, Saint Augustine is home to the Nation's Oldest City. From the founding of Saint Augustine to the recent celebration of its 450th birthday in 2005, there is a lot of rich history to explore in this charming city. We've broken down the history of Saint Augustine to fully understand its rich history.
The Queen of Castile, Isabella I, sent Christopher Columbus to claim the Spice Islands for Spain. He landed in the Bahamas in October of 1492 and claimed the surrounding land for Spain. This was considered the first discovery by the Europeans of America.
The Treaty of Tordesillas was signed in 1494 by King John II of Portugal and the Catholic monarchs of Castile and Aragon. The agreement divided the newly discovered world between the two powers. Spain was awarded all land lying west of the Cape Verde Islands. However, they didn't know at that point the extent of the territory they had divided up.
Juan Ponce De Leon, from Spain, discovered the coast of Florida. He arrived on the Florida coast on April 2nd, 1513, after leaving Puerto Rico on March 4th with his three ships Santa Maria de la Consolacion, the San Cristobal, and the Santiago. Juan Ponce De Leon named the territory La Florida to honor the Spanish Festival of Flowers, known as Pascua Florida, and the Easter season.
Ponce de Leon decided to return to Florida in 1521 to establish a colony between the Florida West Coast Charlotte Harbor and the Caloosahatchee River. He took over 200 colonists and two ships. However, the Calusa Tribe attacked the colonists as soon as they came onshore, which led to the colonists returning to Havana. Ponce de Leon died there because of a poisoned arrow shot at him by the Calusa Tribe.
Rene de Laudonniere established Fort Caroline, in the Saint Augustine area, for France.
When Spain's King, Phillip II, learned that the French had settled on the Spanish lands, he sent over Pedro Menendez de Aviles to Florida to take back their land. Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived in Florida with 1500 men and ten ships. He officially settled Saint Augustine and destroyed Fort Caroline's settlement along with the French men left behind, fulfilling his duties to the King.
Saint Augustine was raided in May 1668 by the English pirate Robert Searle. They murdered sixty residents, sold non-Hispanics into slavery, and ransomed off hostages.
After hearing of Saint Augustine's attack by the English, Queen Regent Mariana ordered that a fort made from stone be built in Saint Augustine. The governor of Florida was ordered to prepare the defenses for British attack and oversee the fort's construction.
Construction of the Castillo de San Marcos officially began in 1672. Coquina was used to build the fort, which made it fire resistant and completely impenetrable. It took over 23 years to finish and remained active until the year 1900. It still survives today as the oldest surviving fort in the United States.
French pirates try to land at Matanzas Inlet, but the Spanish are able to stop them from landing ashore.
Construction of the first sea wall began.
Photo Credit: National Army Museum
Queen Anne's War in America, also called the War of Spanish Succession, combined France and Spanish against Great Britain, Austria, and other European powers. The English-led attack, by Colonial James Moore, was able to burn down St. Augustine's city and Indian missions. However, they failed to take over the Castillo de San Marcos and returned to England without claiming Florida. In the same year, the Saint Augustine City Gates were constructed.
British Colonel John Palmer, along with 200 British soldiers, attacked Saint Augustine. A Yamassee mission, Nombre de Dios, was burned during the attack, but the city was able to stay intact thanks to the protection of the defense walls.
The War of Jenkins Ear began because of the mistreatment of the English traders by the Spanish Coast Guard, specifically the loss of an ear by Captain Jenkins. This led Robert Walpole of England to declare war on Spain. General James Oglethorpe tried to siege Saint Augustine with over 1,000 men in June of 1740 but had to call it off because they could not get inside the fort.
The Spanish completed Fort Matanzas with Engineer Ruiz to guard the back entrance to Saint Augustine. The fort is located on Rattlesnake Island and guards the inlet with very few staff. It was declared a National Landmark in 1924, and the remains can still be visited today.
Photo Credit: National Army Museum
England enters Seven Years War against France. Spanish allies with France through this battle.
The Treaty of Paris was signed to end the Seven Years War on February 10th of 1763. Spain regained control of the Philippines, Louisiana, and Cuba but ceded Minorca and Florida to the British.
The Spanish inhabitants of Saint Augustine left in accordance with the Treaty of Paris. Most go to Cuba. The British divide Florida into West and East Florida. The British ruled Florida until 1783.
Photo Credit: HowardZinn.org
The American Revolution began with the first shot fired on the Lexington Battlefield on April 18th, 1775.
Spain allows Americans to immigrate to Florida.
Saint Augustine residents erected the coquina blocks known as the City Gates and the Cubo Line. The city gates still exist today, with portions of the Cubo line still marking the beginning of St. George Street, which is considered the heart of Saint Augustine.
Florida officially became the 27th state on March 3rd, 1845. Florida was named a slave state and maintained an economy based on plantations, producing sugar and cotton.
Union sailors and marines took Confederate hold of Saint Augustine in March of 1862 until the end of the Civil War in 1865
The Saint Augustine lighthouse was finished, replacing an earlier Spanish Lighthouse from the early 1690s. The tower is still used today, standing at 161 feet tall with 219 steps to the top.
Henry Flagler purchases three Florida Railroads, the St. Augustine, Halifax river, and the Jacksonville. This is known as the start of the Florida East Coast Railroad.
The Ponce de Leon Hotel was completed. It featured 540 rooms in the hotel, which is now home to Flagler College. It had technology never seen in a hotel, such as an electric clock, elevators, indoor plumbing, and electricity. At the same time, the Alcazar Hotel was built by Henry Flagler.
The construction of the Casa Monica Hotel was completed by Franklin Smith, a Boston architect, in January of 1888. Henry Flagler purchased the Casa Monica three months after it had opened and renamed it the Cordova Hotel. It was open until the early 1930s and was converted into a courthouse.
Henry Flagler constructs a railroad that connects New York to Saint Augustine.
In April of 1914, a giant fire swept through Saint Augustine. It spread from the Florida house to Hypolita Street. It burned down four hotels, private and public homes, as well as the Court House. The courthouse and the historical society lost their documents and collections.
Fort Matanzas and the Castillo de San Marcos are declared National Monuments.
The Bridge of Lions was built by J.E. Greiner Company and took two years to complete. It connects Saint Augustine's downtown historic district with Anastasia Island.
Otto C Lightner purchases the Alcazar Hotel to store his collection of Victoriana. The Lightner Museum was officially opened in 1948 and donated to the city. It features collections of Egyptian mummies, geological artifacts, and Victorian wares.
The city of Saint Augustine celebrated its 400th birthday. The Saint Augustine Amphitheater was built to commemorate and is still used today as a farmer's market and concert venue.
Flagler College was founded in 1968. The university took over the original Ponce de Leon hotel, turning it into a functional college campus.
The Archaeology Preservation Ordinance is drafted to collect Saint Augustine's history before any land can be developed.
Saint Augustine celebrates its 450th celebration with fireworks, historical re-enactments, concerts, art exhibits, and street parties.