Exploring St. Augustine

November 12, 2007 3 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in the United States. Today, over 2 million tourist a year visit the First Coast's most pedestrian friendly city.

About St. Augustine

St. Augustine was founded forty-two years before the English colonized Jamestown and fifty-five years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

The architectural legacy of the city's past is much younger, a testimony to the impermanent quality of the earliest structures and to St. Augustine's troubled history. Only the venerable Castillo de San Marcos, completed in the late seventeenth century, survived destruction of the city by invading British forces in 1702.

Vestiges of the First Spanish Colonial Period (1565-1764) remain today in St. Augustine in the form of the town plan originally laid out by Governor Gonzalo Méndez de Canzo in the late sixteenth century and in the narrow streets and balconied houses that are identified with the architecture introduced by settlers from Spain. Throughout the modern city and within its Historic Colonial District, there remain thirty-six buildings of colonial origin and another forty that are reconstructed models of colonial buildings.

St. Augustine can boast that it contains the only urban nucleus in the United States whose street pattern and architectural ambiance reflect Spanish origins.


The Spanish Quarter

This section of town is the original colonial city.  At the heart of the Quarter is St. George Street.  Once, the Colonial City's main street of commerce, it is now a pedestrian only street lined with boutique specialty shops, restaurants, museums and art galleries.


Downtown St. Augustine

In 1883, Henry Flagler (Oil Tycoon) came to the city. He was so impressed that he invested in St. Augustine's restoration and development of the city as a winter resort. Flagler contributed some of the city's grandest architecture, such as the Alcazar hotel (now the Lightner Museum), the Cordova, and the Ponce de Leon (now Flagler College). 

Today, the heart of St. Augustine retains the distinctive plan of a 16th century Spanish Colonial walled town, much of which has been preserved or restored. The numerous remaining colonial buildings in the historic district present an impressive array of architecture from 1703 to 1898



Flagler College

The first of Henry Flagler's three great hotels, the Ponce de Leon, was adapted for use as an institution of higher learning in 1971. As Flagler College, it expanded to embrace a student body of approximately 1,700 by the end of the century, offering a traditional four-year arts and science degree program.


Off the beaten path

Flagler's Model Land was developed by the railroad magnate in the late 19th/early 20th century.  This residential area is located just west of the Spanish Quarter between Flagler College (the old Ponce de Leon Hotel) and the FEC railroad tracks.



Lincolnville Historic District

Lincolnville was established by former slaves in 1866.  It is located just south of downtown St. Augustine.  The Lincolnville Historic District encompasses 45 blocks in St. Augustine and is bounded by Cedar, Riviera, Cerra, Washington, and DeSoto Streets.


Old City South

This neighborhood sits just south of the Spanish Quarter and is separated from Lincolnville by Maria Sanchez Lake.