by | Sep 24, 2005

We’re visiting St. Augustine, Florida this weekend.

St. Augustine is the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the continental United States; only San Juan on Puerto Rico predates the city as the oldest settlement within the territory of the United States. The city was founded by the Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés on August 28, 1565, the feast day of Augustine of Hippo, and consequently named by him San Agustín. This came 21 years before the English settlement at Roanoke Island in Virginia Colony and 42 years before the successful settlements of Santa Fe, New Mexico and Jamestown, Virginia.


Over the next one hundred years, the city was defended by nine wooden forts. Following an attack in 1668, it was decided by the Queen Regent of Spain, Mariana, that a masonry fortification be constructed to protect the city. In October 1672 construction began on the fort that would become the Castillo de San Marcos. In 1670, Charles Town (modern-day Charleston, South Carolina) was founded by the British. This was one of the events that spurred the fort’s construction, being just two days sail from St. Augustine.

The Castillo is made of a stone called “coquina”, literally “little shells”. The coquina was very effective at absorbing the impact of canon balls, causing very little damage to the walls themselves, but much consternation for enemy ships.

[update] We took the scenic route home, heading up A1A to Jacksonville Beach before crossing the St. John’s River by ferry at Mayport, a village with docks lined by old shrimp boats. We continued north across Big and Little Talbot Island before reaching Amelia Island, where we were impressed by the large dunes (and equally large waves) that give the beach character.