St. Augustine was founded on September 8, 1565, by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
, Florida's first governor
. He named the settlement "San Agustín
", as his ships bearing settlers, troops, and supplies from Spain had first sighted land in Florida eleven days earlier on August 28, the feast day
of St. Augustine
The city served as the capital of Spanish Florida
for over 200 years. It was designated as the capital of British East Florida
when the colony was established in 1763; Great Britain returned Florida to Spain in 1783.
St. Augustine in 1891 from the former San Marco Hotel, Spanish St. on left, Huguenot Cemetery
lower left corner, Cordova St. on right
Founding by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Founded in 1565 by the Spanish conquistadorPedro Menéndez de Avilés
, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in the contiguous United States.
It is the second-oldest continuously inhabited city of European origin in United States territory after San Juan, Puerto Rico
(founded in 1521).
It is also contained earliest-known Black community in the same territory, among whom many or most were freedmen.
, King Philip II
of Spain appointed Menéndez as Captain General, and his brother Bartolomé Menéndez as Admiral, of the Fleet of the Indies.
Thus Pedro Menéndez commanded the galleons
of the great Armada de la Carrera
, or Spanish Treasure Fleet
, on their voyage from the Caribbean and Mexico to Spain, and determined the routes they followed.
In early 1564 he asked permission to go to Florida to search for La Concepcion
, the galeon Capitana
, or flagship, of the New Spain fleet commanded by his son, Admiral Juan Menéndez. The ship had been lost in September 1563 when a hurricane scattered the fleet as it was returning to Spain, at the latitude of Bermuda off the coast of South Carolina.
The crown repeatedly refused his request.
In 1565, however, the Spanish decided to destroy
outpost of Fort Caroline
, located in what is now Jacksonville
. The crown approached Menéndez to fit out an expedition to Florida
on the condition that he explore and settle the region as King Philip's adelantado
, and eliminate the Huguenot
whom the Catholic Spanish considered to be dangerous heretics.
Menéndez was in a race to reach Florida before the French captain Jean Ribault
who was on a mission to secure Fort Caroline. On August 28, 1565, the feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo
, Menéndez's crew finally sighted land; the Spaniards continued sailing northward along the coast from their landfall, investigating every inlet and plume of smoke along the shore. On September 4, they encountered four French vessels anchored at the mouth of a large river (the St. Johns
), including Ribault's flagship, La Trinité
. The two fleets met in a brief skirmish, but it was not decisive. Menéndez sailed southward and landed again on September 8, formally declared possession of the land in the name of Philip II, and officially founded the settlement he named San Agustín
At the landing spot, Father Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales celebrated the first Catholic mass
offered in the colony.
The settlement was built in the former Timucua
village of Seloy; its location was chosen for its defensibility and proximity to a fresh water artesian spring
A French attack on St. Augustine was thwarted by a violent squall that ravaged the French naval forces. Taking advantage of this, Menéndez marched his troops overland to Fort Caroline on the St. Johns River
, about 30 miles (50 km) north. The Spanish easily overwhelmed the lightly defended French garrison, which had been left with only a skeleton crew of 20 soldiers and about 100 others, killing most of the men and sparing about 60 women and children. The bodies of the victims were hung in trees with the inscription: "Hanged, not as Frenchmen, but as "Lutherans" (heretics
Menéndez renamed the fort San Mateo
and marched back to St. Augustine, where he discovered that the shipwrecked survivors from the French ships had come ashore to the south of the settlement. A Spanish patrol encountered the remnants of the French force, and took them prisoner. Menéndez accepted their surrender, but then executed all of them except a few professing Catholics and some Protestant workers with useful skills, at what is now known as Matanzas Inlet
The site is very near the national monument Fort Matanzas
, built in 1740-1742 by the Spanish.
Invasions by pirates and enemies of Spain
Succeeding governors of the province maintained a peaceful coexistence with the local Native Americans
, allowing the isolated outpost of St. Augustine some stability for a few years. On May 28 and 29, 1586, soon after the Anglo-Spanish War
began between England and Spain, the English privateer Sir Francis Drake sacked and burned
The approach of his large fleet obliged Governor Pedro Menéndez Márquez
and the townspeople to evacuate the settlement. When the English got ashore, they seized some artillery pieces and a royal strongbox containing gold ducats
(which was the garrison payroll).
The killing of their sergeant major by the Spanish rearguard caused Drake to order the town razed to the ground.
In 1609 and 1611, expeditions were sent out from St. Augustine against the English colony at Jamestown
In the second half of the 17th century, groups of Indians from the colony of Carolina
conducted raids into Florida and killed the Franciscan
priests who served at the Catholicmissions
. Requests by successive governors of the province to strengthen the presidio
’s garrison and fortifications were ignored by the Spanish Crown
which had other priorities in its vast empire. The charter of 1663 for the new Province of Carolina, issued by King Charles II of England
, was revised in 1665, claiming lands as far southward as 29 degrees north latitude, about 65 miles south of the existing settlement at St. Augustine.
The English buccaneer Robert Searle
sacked St. Augustine in 1668, after capturing some Spanish supply vessels bound for the settlement and holding their crews at gun point while his men hid below decks. Searle was retaliating for the Spanish destruction of the settlement of New Providence
in the Bahamas
. Searle and his men killed sixty people and pillaged public storehouses, churches and houses.
This raid and the establishment of the English settlement at Charles Town
spurred the Spanish Crown to finally acknowledge the vulnerability of St. Augustine to foreign incursions and strengthen the city's defenses. In 1669, Queen Regent Mariana
ordered the Viceroy of New Spain
to disburse funds for the construction of a permanent masonry fortress, which began in 1672.
Before the fortress was completed, French buccaneers Michel de Grammont
and Nicolas Brigaut
planned an ill-fated attack in 1686 which was foiled: their ships were run aground, Grammont and his crew were lost at sea, and Brigaut was captured ashore by Spanish soldiers.
The Castillo de San Marcos
was completed in 1695, not long before an attack by James Moore
's forces from Carolina in November, 1702. Failing to capture the fort after a siege of 58 days
, the British set St. Augustine ablaze as they retreated.
In 1738, the governor of Spanish Florida, Manuel de Montiano
, ordered a settlement be constructed two miles north of St. Augustine for the growing Free Black
community established by fugitive slaves
who had escaped into Florida from the Thirteen Colonies
. This new community, Fort Mose
, would serve as a military outpost and buffer for St. Augustine, as the men accepted into Fort Mose had enlisted in the colonial militia and converted to Catholicism in exchange for their freedom.
Loyalist haven under British rule
After the mass exodus of St. Augustinians, Great Britain sought to repopulate its new colony. The London Board of Trade advertised 20,000-acre lots to any group that would settle in Florida within ten years, with one resident per 100 acres. Pioneers who were "energetic and of good character" were given 100 acres of land and 50 additional acres for each family member they brought. Under Governor James Grant
, almost three million acres of land were granted in East Florida alone. Second stories were added to existing Spanish homes and new houses were built. Cattle ranching and plantation agriculture began to thrive.
During the twenty-year period of British rule, Britain took command of both the Castillo de San Marcos (renamed Fort St. Mark) and of Fort Matanzas
. They permanently stationed a small group of men at Fort Matanzas. Once war broke out, loyalist St. Augustine residents burned effigies of Patriots Samuel Adams
and John Hancock
in the plaza. Fort St. Mark became a training and supply base, as well a prisoner-of-war camp
where three signers of the Declaration of Independence
and South Carolina's lieutenant governor Christopher Gadsden
were held. Local militia composed of Florida, Georgia, and Carolina inhabitants formed the East Florida Rangers in 1776 and were reorganized to form the King's Rangers in 1779.
Spanish General Bernardo de Gálvez
, harassed the British in West Florida and captured Pensacola. Fears that the Spanish would then move to capture St. Augustine, however, proved unfounded.
The 1783 Treaty of Paris
, which recognized the independence of the Thirteen Colonies
as the United States
, ceded Florida back to Spain and returned the Bahamas to Britain. As a result, some of the town's Spanish residents returned to St Augustine. Refugees from Dr. Andrew Turnbull
's troubled colony in New Smyrna
had fled to St. Augustine in 1777, made up the majority of the city's population during the period of British rule, and remained when the Spanish Crown took control again. This group was, and still is, referred to locally as "Menorcans
", even though it also included settlers from Italy, Corsica
and the Greek islands
Second Spanish period
During the Second Spanish period
(1784–1821) of Florida, Spain was dealing with invasions
of the Iberian peninsula by Napoleon
's armies in the Peninsular War
, and struggled to maintain a tenuous hold on its territories in the western hemisphere as revolution
swept South America. The royal administration of Florida was neglected, as the province had long been regarded as an unprofitable backwater by the Crown. The United States, however, considered Florida vital to its political and military interests as it expanded its territory in North America, and maneuvered by sometimes clandestine means to acquire it.
The Adams–Onís Treaty
, negotiated in 1819 and ratified in 1821, ceded Florida and St. Augustine, still its capital at the time, to the United States.
Territory of Florida
According to the Adams–Onís Treaty, the United States acquired East Florida and absolved Spain of $5 million of debt. Spain renounced all claims to West Florida and the Oregon Country. Andrew Jackson
returned to Florida in 1821, upon ratification of the treaty, and established a new territorial government. Americans from older plantation societies of Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas began to move to the area. West Florida was quickly consolidated with East and the new capital of Florida became Tallahassee, halfway between the old capitals of St. Augustine and Pensacola, in 1824.
Once many Americans had begun to immigrate to the new territory, it became apparent that there would be continued skirmishes with local Creek and Miccosukee peoples and white settlers encroaching on their land. The United States government favored removal policies, but local indigenous groups in Florida refused to leave without fighting. The nineteenth century saw three Seminole Wars
. In 1823, territorial governor William Duval and James Gadsden signed the Treaty of Moultrie Creek
, forcing Seminoles onto a four million acre reservation in central Florida. The Second Seminole War (1835–1842) was the longest war of Indian removal and resulted when the United States government attempted to move the Seminole
people from Central Florida to a Creek reservation west of the Mississippi River
. As a result of the Seminole War, Seminole prisoners
were held captive in the Castillo de San Marcos
, renamed Fort Marion after General Francis Marion
, who fought in the American Revolution, in the 1830s.
By 1840, the territory's population had reached 54,477 people. Half the population were enslaved Africans. Steamboats
were popular on the Apalachicola
and St. Johns River
and there were several plans for railroad construction. The territory south of present-day Gainesville was sparsely populated by whites.
In 1845 the Florida Territory was admitted into the Union as the State of Florida.
Florida joined the Confederacy
after the Civil War
began in 1861, and Confederate authorities remained in control of St. Augustine for fourteen months, although it was barely defended. The Union conducted a blockade of shipping. In 1862 Union troops gained control of St. Augustine and controlled it through the rest of the war. With the economy already suffering, many residents fled.
Henry Flagler and the railroad
, a co-founder with John D. Rockefeller
of the Standard Oil Company
, spent the winter of 1883 in St. Augustine and found the city charming, but considered its hotels and transportation systems inadequate.
He had the idea to make St. Augustine a winter resort for wealthy Americans from the north, and to bring them south he bought several short line railroads and combined these in 1885 to form the Florida East Coast Railway
. He built a railroad bridge over the St. Johns River in 1888, opening up the Atlantic coast of Florida to development.
Flagler finished construction in 1887 on two large ornate hotels in the city, the 450-room Hotel Ponce de Leon
and the 250-room Hotel Alcazar
. The next year, he purchased the Casa Monica Hotel
(renaming it the Cordova Hotel) across the street from both the Alcazar and the Ponce de Leon. His chosen architectural firm, Carrère and Hastings
, radically altered the appearance of St. Augustine with these hotels, giving it a skyline
and beginning an architectural trend in the state characterized by the use of the Spanish Renaissance Revival
and Moorish Revival
styles. With the opening of the Ponce de Leon in 1888, St. Augustine became the winter resort of American high society for a few years.
When Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad
was extended southward to Palm Beach
and then Miami
in the early 20th century, the wealthy stopped in St. Augustine en route to the southern resorts. Wealthy vacationers began to customarily spend their winters in South Florida, where the climate was warmer and freezes were rare. St. Augustine nevertheless still attracted tourists, and eventually became a destination for families traveling in automobiles as new highways were built and Americans took to the road for annual summer vacations. The tourist industry soon became the dominant sector of the local economy.
Civil Rights Movement
In late 1963, nearly a decade after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education
that segregation of schools was unconstitutional, African Americans
were still trying to get St. Augustine to integrate the public schools in the city. They were also trying to integrate public accommodations, such as lunch counters,
and were met with arrests
and Ku Klux Klan
Local college students held non-violent
protests throughout the city, including sit-ins at the local Woolworth's
, picket lines, and marches through the downtown. These protests were often met with police violence. Homes of African Americans were firebombed,
black leaders were assaulted and threatened with death, and others were fired from their jobs.
In the spring of 1964, St. Augustine civil rights leader Robert Hayling
asked the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
(SCLC) and its leader Martin Luther King Jr.
From May until July 1964, King and Hayling, along with Andrew Young
, organized marches, sit-ins, and other forms of peaceful protest in St. Augustine. Hundreds of black and white civil rights supporters were arrested,
and the jails were filled to capacity.
At the request of Hayling and King, white civil rights supporters from the North, including students, clergy, and well-known public figures, came to St. Augustine and were arrested together with Southern activists.
The Ku Klux Klan responded to these protests with violent attacks that were widely reported in national and international media.
Popular revulsion against the Klan and police violence in St. Augustine generated national sympathy for the black protesters and became a key factor in Congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
leading eventually to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
both of which provided federal enforcement of constitutional rights
Modern St. Augustine
In 1965, St. Augustine celebrated the 400th anniversary of its founding,
and jointly with the State of Florida, inaugurated a program to restore part of the colonial city. The Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board
was formed to reconstruct more than thirty-six buildings to their historical appearance, which was completed within a few years. When the State of Florida abolished the Board in 1997, the City of St. Augustine assumed control of the reconstructed buildings, as well as other historic properties including the Government House
. In 2010, the city transferred control of the historic buildings to UF Historic St. Augustine, Inc.
, a direct support organization of the University of Florida
Geography and climate
View of St. Augustine from the top of the lighthouse on Anastasia Island
St. Augustine is located at 29°53′41″N81°18′52″W
(29.8946910, −81.3145170). According to the United States Census Bureau
, the city has a total area of 10.7 square miles (27.8 km2
), 8.4 square miles (21.7 km2
) of which is land and 2.4 square miles (6.1 km2
) (21.99%) is water. Access to the Atlantic Ocean is via the St. Augustine Inlet of the Matanzas River
St. Augustine has a humid subtropical climate or Cfa – typical of the Gulf and South Atlantic states. The low latitude and coastal location give the city a mostly warm and sunny climate. Like much of Florida, St. Augustine enjoys a high number of sunny days, averaging 2,900 hours annually. Unlike much of the contiguous United States
, St. Augustine's driest time of year is winter. The hot and wet season extends from May through October, while the cool and dry season extends November through April.
In summer, highs are in the 80s to 90s and lows are in the 70s. The Bermuda High pumps in hot and unstable tropical air from the Bahamas and Gulf of Mexico, which help create the daily thundershowers that are typical in summer months. Intense but very brief downpours are common in summer in the city. Fall and spring are warm and sunny with highs from 73 °F to 86 °F and lows in the 50s to 70s.
In winter, St. Augustine has generally mild and sunny weather typical of the Florida peninsula. The coolest months are from December through February, with highs from 66 °F to 69 °F and lows from 46 °F to 49 °F. From November through April, St. Augustine often has long periods of rainless weather. April can see near drought conditions with brush fires and water restrictions in place. St. Augustine averages six frosts per year. The record cold of 10 °F (−12 °C) happened in 1835, decades before permanent weather records were established. Hurricanes
occasionally impact the region; however, like most areas prone to such storms, St. Augustine rarely suffers a direct hit by a major hurricane. The last direct hit by a major hurricane to the city was Hurricane Dora
in 1964. Extensive flooding occurred in the downtown area of St. Augustine when Hurricane Matthew
passed east of the city in October 2016.
As of the 2010 United States Census
, there were 12,975 people, 5,743 households, and 2,679 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,376.2 people per square mile (531/km2
). There were 6,978 housing units at an average density of 549.4 per square mile (211.4/km2
). The racial makeup of the city was 84.2% white
, 11.6% African American
, 0.4% Native American
, 1.2% Asian
, 0.1% Pacific Islander
, 0.8% from other races
, and 1.6% from two or more races. Hispanic
of any race were 5.1% of the population.
There were 5,743 households, out of which 14.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.7% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 53.4% were non-families. 37.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.03 and the average family size was 2.67.
In the city, 13.1% of the population was 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% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42.6 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $36,424, and the median income for a family was $56,055. Males had a median income of $32,409 versus $30,188 for females. The per capita income
for the city was $23,485. About 7.6% of families and 21.1% of the population were below the poverty line
, including 18.8% of those under age 18 and 24.4% of those age 65 or over.
The United States Census Bureau's 2013 estimate of the city's population was 13,679, while the urban area had a population of 71,379 in 2012.
Government and politics
St. Augustine is the county seat of St. Johns County, Florida.
Major roadways, St. Augustine and vicinity
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 JTA
for additional service across Jacksonville.
St. Augustine has one public airport 4 miles (6.4 km) north of the downtown. It has three runways and two seaplane
There is currently no scheduled service to the Airport following ViaAir’s suspension of service to Charlotte
in 2018. Various private jets and tour helicopters also operate from the airport. Northrop Grumman
runs a large manufacturing plant on the grounds, where the E-2 Hawkeye
is produced. Jacksonville International Airport
is 40 miles to the north along I-95.
Points of interest
First and second Spanish eras
Lincolnville National Historic District – Civil Rights era
Other points of interest
Center and the Theodore Johnson Center, at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind
The institution now known as Florida Memorial University
was located in St. Augustine from 1918 to 1968, when it relocated to its present campus in Miami
. Originally known as Florida Baptist Academy, then Florida Normal, and then Florida Memorial College, it was a historically black
institution and had a wide impact on St. Augustine while it was located there. During World War II
it was chosen as the site for training the first blacks in the U. S. Signal Corps
. Among its faculty members was Zora Neale Hurston
; a historic marker is placed at the house where she lived while teaching at Florida Memorial
(and where she wrote her autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road
- Andrew Anderson, physician, St. Augustine mayor
- John Alexander Armstrong, political theorist and scholar
- Murray Armstrong, hockey coach
- Pete Banaszak, professional football player
- Frances Bemis, public relations specialist
- Jorge Biassou, Haitian revolutionary and first black American general
- Richard Boone, actor
- James Branch Cabell, novelist
- Doug Carn, jazz musician
- Cris Carpenter, Major League baseball player
- Ray Charles, pianist, singer, composer
- George J. F. Clarke, Surveyor General of Spanish East Florida
- Nicholas de Concepcion, escaped slave who became a Spanish privateer and pirate captain
- Earl Cunningham, artist
- Alexander Darnes, born a slave, became a celebrated physician
- Edmund Jackson Davis, governor of Texas
- Frederick Delius, composer
- Henry Flagler, industrialist
- Willie Galimore, football player
- Michael Gannon, historian
- Laura Jane Grace, singer
- William H. Gray, U.S. congressman and president of the United Negro College Fund
- Martin Davis Hardin, Union General in the Civil War
- Robert Hayling, civil rights leader
- Hurley Haywood endurance race car driver
- Martin Johnson Heade, artist
- Louise Homer, opera singer
- Sidney Homer, composer
- Jack D. Hunter, novelist, author of The Blue Max
- Zora Neale Hurston, novelist and folklorist
- Lindy Infante, professional football coach
- Willie Irvin, professional football player
- Brandon James, professional football player
- Stetson Kennedy, author and human rights activist
- Jack Temple Kirby, historian
- LaChanze, Tony Award & Emmy Award winning actor, singer, and dancer
- Scott Lagasse Jr., race car driver
- Charlie LaPradd, college football player, college president
- Eugene Levy, actor, comedian, producer, director, and writer
- Jacob Lawrence, artist
- Sinclair Lewis, novelist
- John C. Lilly, neuroscientist, developer of the isolation tank
- William W. Loring, Confederate general
- Mary MacLane, author
- Albert Manucy, historian, author, Fulbright Scholar
- George McGovern, U.S. Senator, presidential candidate
- Howell W. Melton, United States district judge
- Howell W. Melton Jr., attorney, law firm managing partner
- Johnny Mize, Hall of Fame baseball player
- Prince Achille Murat, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte
- David Nolan, author and historian
- Ashley Ann Olsen, murder victim
- Osceola, Seminole War leader (held prisoner at Fort Marion, now Castillo de San Marcos)
- Tom Petty, rock musician
- Scott Player, professional football punter
- Verle A. Pope, state legislator
- Richard Henry Pratt, soldier and educator
- Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, novelist
- Marcus Roberts, musician
- Gamble Rogers, folk singer
- John M. Schofield, Union general
- Steven L. Sears, television writer-producer
- Sheamus, Irish professional wrestler
- Edmund Kirby Smith, Confederate general
- Steve Spurrier, college/pro (American) football coach
- Caleb Sturgis, NFL kicker
- Peter Taylor, novelist
- Travis Tomko, professional wrestler
- The Wobbly Toms, music group
- Felix Varela, Cuban national hero
- Augustin Verot, first Bishop of St. Augustine
- Patty Wagstaff, aerobatic pilot
- DeWitt Webb, physician, St. Augustine mayor, state representative
- David Levy Yulee, first Jewish U.S. Senator, Levy County and Yulee, Florida namesake
- Recent scholarship has revealed that the first recorded St. Patrick's Day celebration in what is now the United States was held at St. Augustine in March 1601; according to Michael Francis's 2017 research in the Spanish Archives of the Indies (Archivo General de Indias), the citizens of St. Augustine marched on that date in a procession to honor the feast day of St. Patrick (San Patricio), organized by the Spanish Colony's Irish vicar Ricardo Artur (Richard Arthur).
- Gálveztown (brig sloop) – ship which played a role in the Gulf Coast campaign of the American Revolutionary War under Bernardo de Gálvez, and its replica built recently in Spain anticipating the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine's founding (1565–2015).
- St. Augustine movement
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- Freedom Trail, 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, more than 100 images of people in the St. Augustine African-American neighborhood of Lincolnville between 1922 and 1927. From the State Library & Archives of Florida.
- Unearthing St. Augustine's Colonial Heritage, App featuring more than 25,000 images of maps, drawings, photographs and documents related to Spanish colonial St. Augustine (with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities). From the University of Florida, the St. Augustine City Archaeology Program, the St. Augustine Historical Society, the Government House Research Library, and UF Historic St. Augustine, Inc.
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