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St. Augustine is a city in and the county seat of St. Johns Countymarker, Floridamarker, United Statesmarker. Founded in 1565, it is the oldest continuously occupied European established city, and the oldest port, in the continental United States. St. Augustine lies in a region of Florida known as The First Coast, which extends from Amelia Islandmarker in the north, south to Jacksonvillemarker, St. Augustine and Palm Coastmarker. According to the 2000 census, the city population was 11,592; in 2004, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that its population had reached 12,157.


St. Augustine was found by the Spanishmarker under Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565. The first Christian worship service held in a permanent settlement in the continental United States was a Catholic Mass celebrated in St. Augustine. A few settlements were found prior to St. Augustine but all failed, including the original Pensacolamarker colony in West Florida, founded by Tristán de Luna y Arellano in 1559, with the area abandoned in 1561 due to hurricanes, famine and warring tribes. Fort Carolinemarker, founded by the Frenchmarker (and including a number of free Africans) in 1564 in what is today Jacksonville, Floridamarker only lasted a year before being obliterated by the Spanish in 1565.

Spanish rule

The city of St. Augustine was founded by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés on September 8, 1565. Menéndez first sighted land on August 28, the feast day of Augustine of Hippo, and consequently named the settlement San Agustín. Martín de Argüelles was born there one year later in 1566, the first child of European ancestry to be born in what is now the continental United States. This came 21 years before the Englishmarker settlement at Roanoke Islandmarker in Virginia Colony, and 42 years before the successful settlements of Santa Femarker, New Mexicomarker, and Jamestown, Virginiamarker. The first recorded birth of a black child, in the Cathedral Parish Archives, is for Augustin in the year 1606 (there were probably earlier black births, but this is the oldest one for whom a written record has been found—thirteen years before the conventional wisdom says that black people first arrived on these shores at Jamestown in 1619). In all the territory under the jurisdiction of the United States, only European-established settlements in Puerto Rico are older than St. Augustine, with the oldest being Caparra, founded in 1508, whose inhabitants relocated and founded San Juanmarker, in 1521.
In 1586 St. Augustine was attacked and burned by Englishmarker privateer Sir Francis Drake. In 1668 it was plundered by English privateer Robert Searle and most of the inhabitants were killed. In 1702 and 1740 it was unsuccessfully attacked by British forces from their new colonies in the Carolinas and Georgia. The most serious of these came in the latter year, when James Oglethorpe of Georgia allied himself with Ahaya the Cowkeeper, chief of the Alachua band of the Seminole tribe and conducted the Siege of St. Augustine during the War of Jenkin's Ear.

The country's first legally sanctioned free community of ex-slaves was established in St. Augustine in 1738. Called Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mosemarker, or Fort Mosemarker, it served as the northern defense of the city, and was populated by those who had escaped from slavery in the British colonies to the north. The first Underground Railroad actually headed south, into Spanish Florida, where the policy was to give sanctuary to those who would join the Catholic Church and swear allegiance to the king of Spain. The battle of Fort Mosemarker in 1740 was the turning point in a siege of the city by General James Oglethorpe of Georgia, and saved the city from being taken over by the British. The leader of Fort Mosemarker was Capt. Francisco Menendez, who was born in Africa and twice escaped from slavery. The Fort Mosemarker site is now owned by the Florida Park Service, and recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
A fanciful depiction of St. Augustine in 1760, while under Spanish control

British and Spanish rule

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War and gave Floridamarker and St. Augustine to the British, an acquisition the British had been unable to take by force and keep due to the strong force there. St. Augustine came under British rule and served as a Loyalist colony during the American Revolutionary War. John Hancock was burned in effigy in the town plaza, and three of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were held prisoner in St. Augustine.

One of the great development efforts of the British period was the establishment in 1768 of a colony of indentured servants from the Mediterranean by Dr. Andrew Turnbull

The conditions at New Smyrna were abysmal, and the settlers rebelled, walking all the way to St. Augustine in 1777, where the governor gave them refuge. The story of the Minorcan colony is told, fictionally, in the book Spanish Bayonet by Stephen Vincent Benet, a prominent descendant of one of the leading Minorcan families of St. Augustine. The Minorcans, whose story bears many historic similarities to the Cajun settlers of Louisiana, stayed on in St. Augustine through all the subsequent changes of flags, to become the venerable families of the community, marking it with language, culture, cuisine and customs.

The majority of residents during the British period were black, as the British tried to establish a plantation economy as they had done with their colonies to the north.

The Treaty of Paris in 1783 gave the American colonies north of Florida their independence, and ceded Florida to Spainmarker in recognition of Spanish efforts on behalf of the American colonies during the war.

American rule

Florida was under Spanish control again from 1784 to 1821. During this time, Spain was being invaded by Napoleon and was struggling to retain its colonies. Florida no longer held its past importance to Spain. The expanding United States, however, regarded Florida as vital to its interests. In 1821, the Adams-Onís Treaty peaceably turned the Spanish colonies in Florida and, with them, St. Augustine, over to the United States.

Florida was a United States territory until 1845 when it became a U.S. state. In 1861, the American Civil War began and Florida seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy. Days before Florida seceded, state troops took the fort at St. Augustine from a small Union garrison (one soldier) on January 7, 1861. However, federal troops loyal to the United States government reoccupied the city on March 11, 1862 and remained in control throughout the four-year-long war. In 1865, Florida rejoined the United States.

Freed slaves in St. Augustine established the community of Lincolnville in 1866. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, because of its origin, because it contains the city's largest collection of Victorian architecture, and because it was the launching place for demonstrations that led directly to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Spanishmarker Colonial era buildings still existing in the city include the fortress Castillo de San Marcosmarker. The fortress successfully repelled the British attacks of the 18th century, though it came under their control (and was renamed St. Mark's) as a result of the 1763 Treaty of Paris. When the Americans acquired it in 1821, they renamed it Fort Marion, after Francis Marion the "Swamp Fox" of the American Revolution. During the Seminole War of 1835-1842 the fort served as a prison for the Native American leader Osceola as well as Coacoochee (Wildcat) and the famous Black Seminole John Cavallo (John Horse) in 1837, and was occupied by Union troops during the American Civil War. After the Civil War it was used twice, in the 1870s and then again in the 1880s, to house first Plains Indians and then Apaches who were captured in the west. The daughter of Geronimo was born at what was then called Fort Marion, and she was named Marion—though she later chose to change that. The fort was used as a military prison during the Spanish-American War of 1898. It was finally removed from the Army's active duty rolls in 1900 after 205 years of service under five different flags. It then began a career as St. Augustine's leading tourist attraction. It is now run by the National Park Service, and called the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.

From Flagler to the present

The Ponce De Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, about 1901

In the late 19th century the railroad came to town, and led by northeastern industrialist Henry Flagler, St. Augustine became a winter resort for the very wealthy. A number of mansions and palatial grand hotels of this era still exist, some converted to other use, such as housing parts of Flagler Collegemarker and museums. Flagler went on to develop much more of Florida's east coast, including his Florida East Coast Railway which eventually reached Key Westmarker in 1912. Flagler had Albert Spalding design a baseball park in St. Augustine, and the waiters at his hotels, under the leadership of Frank P. Thompson, formed one of America's pioneer professional black baseball teams, the Ponce de Leon Giants. It later became the Cuban Giants, and one of the team members, Frank Grant, has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Famemarker.

The hot and flavorful datil pepper was brought from Cuba to St. Augustine in the 1880s by jelly manufacturer S.B. Valls. It flourished in dooryard gardens, and became a distinctive element of local cuisine, particularly associated with the Minorcan families. Minorcan clam chowder, pilau (a rice dish), tomato-based hot sauce, Minorcan sausage, and datil pepper vinegar are some common uses. In the late 20th century a number of commercial manufacturers began presenting datil peppers to a national audience, and there is an annual Datil Pepper Festival.

In 1918 the Florida Baptist Academy moved from Jacksonville to St. Augustine, and became the Ancient City's first college. Over the years it was known as Florida Normal, then Florida Memorial College, before it moved to Miami in 1968, where it is now a university. It made a major impact on the community while it was here, providing cultural activities, job training and employment for the black community. During World War II it was chosen as the site for training the first blacks in the U. S. Signal Corps—that branch of the service's counterpart to the famous Tuskegee Airmen. Among its faculty members was Zora Neale Hurston, the famous black novelist and anthropologist. There is now a historic marker on the house where she lived at 791 West King Street (it was there that she completed work on her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road).

The city is a popular tourist attraction, for its Spanish Colonial buildings (though, in fact, many of them were built in the 1960s and 1970s in the era when the city celebrated its 400th birthday) as well as elite 19th century architecture. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm, incorporated in 1908, is one of the oldest commercial tourist attractions in Florida, as is the Fountain of Youth, which dates from the same time period. In 1938 the world's first oceanarium (because the term was coined for it), Marinelandmarker, opened just south of St. Augustine, becoming one of Florida's first theme parks and setting the stage for the development of this industry in the following decades. The city is one terminus of the Old Spanish Trail, a promotional effort of the 1920s linking St. Augustine to San Diego, Californiamarker with 3000 miles of roadways.

Civil rights movement

In addition to being a major tourist destination and oldest European-settled city in the continental United States, St. Augustine was also a pivotal site for the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 and 1964.

Efforts by African Americans to integrate the public schools and public accommodations such as lunch counters were met with arrests and Ku Klux Klan violence. Non-violent protesters were arrested for participating in peaceful picket lines, sit-ins, and marches. Homes were firebombed, black leaders were assaulted and threatened with death, and fired from their jobs.

In the spring of 1964, St. Augustine NAACP leader Dr. Robert Hayling asked the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and its leader Martin Luther King, Jr. for assistance. From May until July 1964 marches, sit-ins, and other forms of peaceful protest took place in St. Augustine.

Hundreds of black and white civil-rights supporters were arrested and the jails were filled to over-flowing. At the request of Dr. Hayling and Dr. King, white civil-rights supporters from the north, including students, clergy, and well-known public figures came to St. Augustine and were themselves arrested. The KKK responded with violent attacks that were widely reported in national and inter-national media. Popular revulsion against the Klan violence generated national sympathy for the black protesters and became a key factor in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


In modern times, St. Augustine has mostly been spared the wrath of tropical cyclones. The only direct hit was Hurricane Dora, which came ashore just after midnight on September 10, 1964. Hurricane Donna in 1960, and unnamed hurricanes in 1944 and 1950 also affected the area.

Geography and climate

St. Augustine is located at (29.89785, -81.31151).According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.7 square miles (27.8 km²), of which, 8.4 square miles (21.7 km²) of it is land and 2.4 square miles (6.1 km²) of it (21.99%) is water. Access to the Atlantic Oceanmarker is via the St. Augustine Inlet of the Matanzas River.


As of the 2000 United States Census, there were 9,592 people, 4,963 households, and 2,600 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,384.6 people per square mile (534.7/km²). There were 5,642 housing units at an average density of 673.9/sq mi (260.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.21% Caucasian, 15.07% African American, 0.41% Native American, 0.72% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 0.88% from other races, and 1.61% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.11% of the population.

There were 4,963 households out of which 18.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.4% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.6% were non-families. 36.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.76.

In the city the population was spread out with 16.1% under the age of 18, 15.3% from 18 to 24, 23.9% from 25 to 44, 25.2% from 45 to 64, and 19.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 84.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,358, and the median income for a family was $41,892. Males had a median income of $27,099 versus $25,121 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,225. About 9.8% of families and 15.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.8% of those under age 18 and 10.0% of those age 65 or over.



Interstate 95 is the only major highway through St. Augustine, however it doesn't pass close to the historic district. Instead, visitors must exit at SR 16 and travel about 5 miles east on that road to reach the historic district. Alternatively, visitors may take SR 207 until it intersects U.S. 1, following U.S. 1 to the historic district. U.S. Route 1 and SR A1A are the main roads into the historic district. U.S. Route 1, commonly called Ponce De Leon Blvd or simply U.S. 1, snugs the east side of town while a local road branches off of it and runs directly into the heart of the historic district and the Bridge of Lions. A1A intersects the local road a mile south from the north end of it. From there, the road is double signed as A1A/Business U.S. 1 and named San Marco Blvd until the Bridge of Lions where A1A crosses over to Anastasia Islandmarker. What Business U.S. 1 becomes after that is vague. Signs take it through the streets of the historic district where it is assumed to end back at U.S. 1, however signs don't show it going that far. SR 312 mainly serves the business district on the southern end of town, and is also an other connection to Anastasia Island. SR 207 lies just south of the historic district. SR 207 connects St. Augustine with the farming communities of Hastingsmarker and Palatkamarker.


Bus service is operated by the Sunshine Bus Company. Buses operate mainly between shopping centers across town, but a few go to Hastings and Jacksonville, where one can connect to JTAmarker for additional service across Jacksonville.


St. Augustine has one public airport 5 miles north of town. It has 5 runways (2 of them water for sea planes), and was once served by Skybus, however Skybus ceased operations as of April 4, 2008. Only private flights and tour helicopters use it today.

Points of interest

Flagler College
Lightner Museum and City Hall

Sister cities


Notable residents


Additional reading

  • Abbad y Lasierra, Iñigo, "Relación del descubrimiento, conquista y población de las provincias y costas de la Florida" - "Relación de La Florida" (1785); edición de Juan José Nieto Callén y José María Sánchez Molledo.
  • Colburn, David, Racial Change and Community Crisis: St. Augustine, Florida, 1877-1980 (1985), New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Deagan, Kathleen, Fort Mose: Colonial America's Black Fortress of Freedom (1995), Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
  • Fairbanks, George R. (George Rainsford), History and antiquities of St. Augustine, Florida (1881), Jacksonville, Fla., H. Drew.
  • Gannon, Michael V., The Cross in the Sand: The Early Catholic Church in Florida 1513-1870 (1965), Gainesville: University Presses of Florida.
  • Graham, Thomas, The Awakening of St. Augustine, (1978), St. Augustine Historical Society
  • Harvey, Karen, America's First City, (1992), Lake Buena Vista, FL: Tailored Tours Publications.
  • Landers, Jane, Black Society in Spanish Florida (1999), Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
  • Lyon, Eugene, The Enterprise of Florida, (1976), Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
  • Manucy, Albert, Menendez, (1983), St. Augustine Historical Society.
  • Nolan, David, Fifty Feet in Paradise: The Booming of Florida, (1984), New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  • Nolan, David, The Houses of St. Augustine, (1995), Sarasota, Fla.: Pineapple Press.
  • Porter, Kenneth W., The Black Seminoles: History of a Freedom-Seeking People, (1996), Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
  • Reynolds, Charles B. (Charles Bingham), Old Saint Augustine, a story of three centuries, (1893), St. Augustine, Fla. E. H. Reynolds.
  • Torchia, Robert W., Lost Colony: The Artists of St. Augustine, 1930-1950, (2001), St. Augustine: The Lightner Museum.
  • United States Commission on Civil Rights, 1965. Law Enforcement: A Report on Equal Protection in the South. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
  • Warren, Dan R., If It Takes All Summer: Martin Luther King, the KKK, and States' Rights in St. Augustine, 1964, (2008), Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
  • Waterbury, Jean Parker (editor), The Oldest City, (1983), St. Augustine Historical Society.


  • Freedom Trail [16631] information about the civil rights movement in St. Augustine and the Freedom Trail that marks its sites.
  • St. Augustine Pics Daily pictures of St. Augustine, Florida.
  • Twine Collection Over 100 images of the St. Augustine community of Lincolnville between 1922 and 1927. From the State Library & Archives of Florida.

External links

Government resources


Higher education

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