Friar Bob's Tour
(Unabridged by Traffic Lights and other necessary hazards...)
Courtesy of Starving-Writers.com
Tour St. Augustine Florida
Rules of Thumb:
If you have to chat, sit in back.
Turn your cellular phone OFF.
Si tiene que hablar o traducir, sientese in el carro segundo, Por Favor! Gracias!
|(Starts at the Old Jail – 167 San Marco Avenue St. Augustine, Florida. Head south on San Marco Avenue)
Ponce De Leon
Welcome to St. Augustine Florida, the oldest continuously occupied European Settlement in the United States. Jamestown Virginia sometimes gets confused about that. They keep forgetting to add that little word, “English,” in front of the word, “settlement,” but we keep them straight. It sort of reminds me of a bumper sticker I once saw that said, “History is made by those who write it.” That gives you a little chill, doesn't’t it? There are so many people doing that today…
Back in 1607, the folks at Jamestown were the first to write English language history textbooks about this part of the world and they forgot about us down here in Spanish Florida. We were settled in 1565, forty-two years before Jamestown. Our story, though, goes back much farther to 1513 when Juan Ponce from the City of Leon in Spain, Ponce De Leon, as we call him, gave up his seat as the first governor of Puerto Rico. He took three ships, lots of sailors and soldiers and headed north, looking for the fabled Fountain of Youth on the Island of Bimini.
The story I heard about that is that the King of Spain at the time was growing a bit long in the tooth. He had married a young woman and was looking for some way to recover some of his former glory, if you know what I mean. He heard about the Indian legend of the Fountain of Youth and sent Ponce de Leon to track it down for him, bring him some of that water, make him young.
Ponce De Leon missed Bimini and missed the Bahamas. When he finally sighted land off of his port bow, probably, it was the largest island he had ever seen in his life. It was the Island of North America.
Ponce De Leon was four feet eleven inches in his bare feet. According to my history book, he was the tallest man on his ship. It also says that in those days, the Spanish measured a man from the soles of his feet to the top of his HAT. I guess they didn’t take their hats off much, but when Ponce De Leon took HIS hat off, he was four feet eight inches tall. When he came ashore here, he met the Timucua Indians. They stood an average of seven feet in height, and you know what that word, “average” means. It means about half of them were bigger than that.
You can imagine this four foot eleven inch man in his Spanish armor outfit and tall plumed hat coming ashore, looking way up in the air at those big Indians and announcing in his sternest tones, “I am claiming all your land in the name of the King of Spain.” They probably thought he was an Elf.
We know the Timucua were good to Ponce De Leon. We know that because they allowed him to leave. When he left, he told the King of Spain what he had found. That made the king very happy, so happy that he sent six more expeditions here over the years. Apparently, the Timucua didn’t receive them as warmly. None of them returned. Finally, the king learned that the French had found North America too. They had established Fort Caroline on the banks of the St. Johns River, about fifty-five miles north of here. That made the King of Spain very unhappy.
He called upon his head of the Spanish Navy, don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, a knight of the order of Santiago. He said to him something like, “Pedro, I need you to go to Florida for me. Take the Navy and get rid of the French, all of them. Establish settlements along the East Coast to protect my treasure fleets and to make sure the French don’t come back. While you’re at it, take three priests with you and convert all those Indians on the Island of North America to Roman Catholicism. Do you think three priests will be enough? Maybe you should take four. How big is that Island of North America?” The Spanish didn’t really have a very good handle, yet, on what they had found here.
(By now you should have the Mission De La Nombre De Dios on the left side of the vehicle.)
When Menendez landed here, it was right over there to the left, where you see that big cross stuck in the ground. That’s where it is thought that he landed. It was the eighth day of September 1565. It was the height of our hurricane and he’s lucky he made it at all. There was a hurricane right on his tail and it struck here right after he did.
The first thing Menendez did was to march his men north, through that blinding hurricane, looking for Fort Caroline. When he found it five days later, he was disappointed to learn that the French had gone south looking for him, but they sailed south in the same blinding hurricane he had just marched through. So they were shipwrecked, scattered from Marineland to Cape Canaveral, more or less. That’s about twenty to a hundred twenty miles south of here.
Menendez went looking for them. He spotted them late one afternoon across the waters of the River of Dolphins, about twenty miles to the south. He set his camp for the night. When first light came, he sent one boat across the river and picked up ten of them. He brought them back and asked them the all-important question, “Are you Roman Catholic?”
They answered, “No monsieur, Huguenots, Protestants.” So, he marched them behind the sand dunes, out of sight from the other Huguenots and put them to the sword. He sent the boat back and got ten more and asked them the same question, “Are you Catholic?”
They said, “No. Protestants,” so he killed them too. He must have spent the whole day doing that because it would take all day to kill two hundred fifty French protestants, ten at a time, including time for the boat trips. This is why the Spanish renamed that river and inlet, “Matanzas.” That is the Spanish word that roughly translated means, “Slaughter.” It is the “River of Slaughters.”
Spain’s ownership of North America was hotly contested by the other European Nations. Everybody wanted a piece of the action, especially the English and the French. But no one contested it more fiercely or more consistently than the Native Americans. In this part of Florida, that was the people of the Timucua Nation.
|(The Timucua had an estimated population of about two hundred thousand when Menendez arrived. Their lands were said to lie between the area of Waycross Georgia and Ocala Florida. By the time the First Spanish Period came to an end in 1763, their population had dwindled to somewhat less than one hundred. European diseases including small pox, measles, syphilis and others decimated them. When the Spanish left for Cuba the remaining Timucua went with them. After that I lost track of what happened to them until I recently met a family from Cuba. I asked them if they knew anything about what happened. They said the information came down to them through their families who were there at the time. They said when the Timucua got to Cuba, the Spanish, there, tried to enslave them. They refused enslavement. The Spanish there, killed some. The rest died by their own hand. There are no more Timucua.)|
|El Castillo De San Marcos (Fort Marion)
Early settlements here were made of wood. They were pine, cypress, cedar and probably some oak. They had thatched roofs made of woven palm fronds. There were nine forts preceding the one we have today; wood stockades with thatched roofs. When that material dries, it burns nicely and it was burned. It was burned by the English, the French, by pirates and especially by the native Americans. Finally by 1658, the Spanish Royalty apparently was becoming weary of paying for replacement forts in Florida. Queen Mariana, through her regent, ordered that a stone fort be erected here, one that won’t be burned so easily. That posed a problem because Florida has no stone.
A little exploration revealed a stone like substance under the sands of Anastasia Island. That’s the land right across the bridge, over there to the left (we’re now approaching the fort). That stone like substance is a fossilized compaction of seashells bound together with salt, sand and calcite from the shells. It is a very soft and malleable material, easily shaped with a shovel or a hatchet, especially when it’s still moist from being underground. When it’s brought above ground and given time to dry, it gets hard enough to make a pretty good building block. That is what the fort here to the left is made of. It’s made of fossils. The Spanish called that material, “Coquina Rock.” Coquina Rock became a primary building material here for a ling time. Lots of things in St. Augustine are made of Coquina. You will see some of it on the tour.
|St. Augustine Inlet
As we pass the fort grounds, if you look to the left, you may see white caps in the distance. Those white caps are on the Atlantic Ocean and that is the St. Augustine Inlet lying between the ocean and us. That’s not the original inlet, though. The Army Corp of Engineers dredged this in the 1940’s, because the original Inlet, called “Salt Run,” today, tends to be shallow with migrating sandbars. It’s difficult for a boat of any real size to navigate it. To get to the original Inlet, one must go about half way out the new inlet and turn right after passing that first spit of land. From there, the old inlet meanders south several miles till it passes the St. Augustine Light House. The lighthouse can be seen from the fort, in the distance beyond the east end of the Bridge of Lions.
(Rounding the corner onto Avenida Menendez – The Bay on the left)
(Turning left on Hypolita Street from Avenida Menendez)
These streets are very narrow for some good reasons. First, it’s very difficult to march very many soldiers down a narrow street like this all at one time. This makes the town easier to defend. If you look ahead, you will see that this street bears to the left ahead of us. It’s not straight. A cannon ball cannot be fired straight through town because the streets aren't straight. When the sea breezes hit these narrow streets in the summer time, they pick up speed a little bit and cool the town off faster. Today this is called the Bernoulli Effect (Daniel Bernoulli 1700-1782).
None of this happened by accident. These streets were laid out exactly like this for exactly those reasons by order of King Philip II of Spain in his Decree of 1573. Philip even knew about the Bernoulli Effect, although I don’t know how. Bernoulli wasn’t even born until 1700. But Philip knew about the principle and wrote about it when he described how he wanted his streets to be laid out.
(At the first stop sign on Hypolita Street at Charlotte Street.)
Please notice the two story, yellow, stucco building in front of us on the left. It has one visible entrance to the building from the street, through the courtyard. That courtyard entrance is a signature of the First Spanish Period architectural style. They built their homes with the entrance through the courtyard. (Pulling ahead, slowly).
When the British got here in 1763, they began building houses like the two story red and white house ahead on the right. They built their homes with the entrance directly into the living area directly off the street. That is a signature of the British Architectural style from 1763 to the end of the British Period in 1784. They built their homes with the entrance directly into the living area directly off the street.
(continuing slowly ahead)
When the British got here, they found many one story, masonry houses with flat or thatched roofs, two rooms, no glass in the windows, and a door through the courtyard. The Spanish used to put wood rails in front of their windows as you can see ahead on the left. They called those wood rails, “Rejas.” They used the rejas instead of glass in their windows. The rejas worked pretty well for keeping out dogs and large raccoons but didn’t help much in keeping out rats and insects.
The British began adding wood frame, second stories to these houses with cedar shake shingle roofs and many overhanging balconies as can be seen all around. We think they added those balconies so they could empty the contents of their chamber pots as far from the house as possible without going outside in the rain or having to carry that material down stairs through the living area. We easily forget about what a recent innovation the concept of underground utilities is. In St. Augustine it was 1890. The first sewer pipe ran directly from the Ponce De Leon Hotel, straight down Cathedral Place, straight into the bay. The second one ran from the Alcazar Hotel, straight down King Street into the Bay. (Not much good for the oysters.)
(At the second stop sign on Hypolita Street at St. George Street)
When Henry Flagler was here, he was influential in changing the names of most of our streets to names with a Spanish ring to them. It’s odd that St. George Street, named for the Patron Saint of England kept its name through those years. Flagler got Tolomato Street renamed to Cordova Street. Picalota Road was changed to King Street, among others.
To the north on St. George Street lie the Shrine to St. Photios and the Old Wooden School House. When the Minorcan people arrived here in 1777, a portion of them were Greeks. They established the Greek Orthodox Church in St. Augustine and the Shrine to St. Photios. The Shrine is north of this intersection on the right.
The Old Wooden School House is a little farther on the left. If you go to visit the School House, when you finish they will give you a diploma so you can prove you’ve been to school.
(Still on Hypolita Street, at the corner of Hypolita Street and Cordova Street)
The building on the right, housing Scarlet O’Hara’s Restaurant is what we call Cracker Construction. A Cracker house is typically one story, cedar or cypress with a south facing porch, cedar shake shingle roof and no paint. The porch faces south because when the sun is high in the sky in the summer, the porch roof will provide shade. In the winter when the sun is low in the sky and the temperatures are cool, the sun can peek in under the roof and help warm the house. This house was built in 1879 and restored in the 1980s to become the home of this restaurant. That’s when it got its tin roof.
(Above) Four images of Florida's State Byrd, The Crane
No es la Fuenta De La Juvetud
Scaled Down version of the
|Cordova Street was originally the Maria Sanchez Creek bed. All the land to the left was once marsh and salt marsh. It was filled to support the building of the hotel and other things. St. Augustine’s western defensive perimeter stood on the right. It was called the Rosario Line. The Rosario Line was a sixteen to eighteen foot, dirt wall. It was planted with Spanish Bayonets. The Spanish Bayonet takes its name from the shape of its leaf. It’s shaped like a bayonet, long, stiff and with a needle like tip. If you get too close to those things, you discover that they also function like a bayonet. They will hurt you. Coming up on the right is a scale model of the Rosario Line. The tall plants with the spiked leaves are Spanish Bayonet Plants.
Appearing ahead on the left is the Tolomato Cemetery. This is the oldest Spanish Catholic Cemetery in the United States. I specify “Catholic” because non-Catholic people were buried outside of town. That place will come up later on the tour.
Just beyond the cemetery on the left lies a large Live Oak Tree with a Palm tree growing out of a knot hole about ten feet above the ground. We call that “The Love Tree.” The legend is that if you kiss your sweet heart under the Love Tree, your relationship will be long and enduring. (This is not the only combination tree like this in St. Augustine.) The question arising from the Love Tree is this. Is this one tree? Or two?
Just beyond the Love Tree on the left is the Old Drug Store.
(Southwest Corner of Cordova Street and Orange Street – turning left on Orange Street and into the Drug Store parking lot.)
The "Love Tree"
(above) Cubo Line and Moat
facing West from the Fort
(Above) Cubo Line facing west from the fort. This was and is a double log wall filled with dirt. The original had Spanish Bayonet Plants. (Below)
Once standing across the street
from the grounds of the Castillo,
and just to the north of the City
Gates, the Hotel San Marco was
one of the first major hotels built
for the tourism industry that was
growing in St. Augustine in the later nineteenth century. Equaling,
if not surpassing the size of some
of the Flagler hotels built on the
Alameda, The San Marco
predated the Casa Monica,
Alcazar, and the Ponce de Leon by
almost ten years. A month before
opening for the 1897 tourist
season, The San Marco burned to
the ground on November 7, after
arsonists disabled its fire-
prevention equipment and set the
hotel’s woodshed alight. The fire
spread slowly, allowing the
evacuation of guests and the
salvaging of the majority of the
furniture, but with only one fire
engine to attempt to put out the
fire, the hotel was eventually
engulfed completely. Valued at
$250,000 and insured at only a
fifth of that, the San Marco was
|The Old Drug Store was built on land originally used by the Timucua as a burial ground. This land was acquired in 1886 by a Mr. Thomas W. Speisseger. Speisseger [Spice-Aicher] was known far and wide for manufacturing his own patent medicines. He made them according to the unspoken convention of the day that they taste bad and make a person feel good. People used to believe that if medicine didn’t taste bad it wouldn’t help. Speisseger’s did. He made them from our nasty ground water. Often milky in appearance, it tastes and smells like sulfur. To that he added a little corn liquor and some, ahem, Opium. If those medicines didn’t cure you, you didn’t even care. He bought his opium, in those days from the Montgomery Ward Catalogue. Times have changed, eh?
Inside the Drug Store you will find a café, a gift shop and a free museum where they have on display samples of the kinds of medicines and medical implements sold by Mr. Speisseger. Some of those bottles still list Opium as an ingredient.
(Inside the Drug Store Parking Lot, facing the street)
The structure directly across the street from the Drug Store, in front of us is the Santo Domingo Redoubt. The people of St. Augustine built four of these on St. Augustine’s defensive out perimeters. This one is on the northern perimeter, known as the CUBO line. For a long time, St. Augustine was a walled city. We had the Rosario Line on the West, the Cubo line on the North and the rivers on the East and the South. The Cubo line stretched from the fort in the east, passing right in front of us to the west. It reached all the way to the San Sebastian River, blocking off access to the southern part of the peninsula where the City was located. There were three redoubts like this one on the Cubo line. Like the Cubo line, they consisted of a double log wall filled with dirt, like a gigantic planter. In it, they planted Spanish Bayonets and cactus. Outside was a moat. Some of these had cannons as a sort of back up defense system for the fort.
(Left out of the parking lot, immediate right.)
San Marco Hotel
The building directly in front of us is a parking garage built on the original site of the San Marco Hotel. The San Marco was completed in 1884 by a Mr. Isaac Cruft. It was a sprawling, wood frame structure, six stories high, elegantly appointed with towers on the top so high they could be seen sixteen miles at sea. This is where Henry Flagler stayed on his visit to St. Augustine in 1885 with is second wife Alice.
Henry wrote of his earlier visits to St. Augustine, saying the hotels where he stayed were dark and full of what he called consumptives. There were people hacking and coughing with diseases like tuberculosis, emphysema and cancer. People used to come to St. Augustine believing that the climate here would help them recover from what ever ailed them. That in Fact, is why Henry Flagler came to Florida on his first visit with his first wife Mary Harkness Flagler in 1881. Mary had become what Henry called “a consumptive.” She died about a year later. When Henry stayed at the San Marco Hotel in 1885, he wrote that it was light, bright and filled with healthy people enjoying their stay at a luxury resort hotel.
Because of that statement, it’s widely believed that the San Marco was the inspiration that led Flagler to build his luxury resort hotels, the Ponce De Leon, the Alcazar and others that he built further to the south. For that reason, Isaac Cruft, its builder is remembered as an unsung hero. Without the inspiration provided by his San Marco Hotel, Henry Flagler may never have given East Florida the major face lift it got in the 1880’s 90’sand early 1900’s.
The San Marco Hotel burned to the ground in 1897. The fire was the result of arson. Nothing was built here to replace it for over one hundred years until they built this parking garage opened the summer of 2006. The land was used during the years for baseball, tennis and other things of that nature.
Oldest Catholic Spanish Cemetery in the United States
If you are enjoying the tour, you will probably
enjoy Friar Bob's Books. Historic Tours says
Friar Bob is a "Seasoned Story teller." The
books prove it.
Hotel San Marco, St. Augustine, Florida. Ca 1885
|(turning right /East on Castillo Drive)
The coquina block building coming up on the right is the St. Augustine Visitors’ Information Center. In there you will find discount coupons for most of St. Augustine’s restaurants and attractions. Tour tickets are available there for the many tours offered in St. Augustine including the various ghost tours. Information is available regarding current events in town. There is something going on around here almost all the time. There are fairs, festivals and celebrations of all sorts.
The building ahead, beyond the stoplight, is called the William Warden Castle. Warden was one of the partners in ‘Standard Oil with Henry Flagler and John D. Rockefeller. He built this as a winter residence with seventeen bedrooms for his fourteen children and allowing for a little room for expansion, perhaps. The building stayed in the Warden family until 1937 when it was sold to Norton Baskins and his wife Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
Marjorie Rawlings was the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Cross Creek, the Yearling, The Sojourner and numerous other books. Her name came up on the quiz show, Jeopardy a few months ago. Alex Trebeck refused the answer because the contestant answered Marjorie Keenan Rawlings. Alex said that’s pronounced wrong and disallowed the answer because of the pronunciation. He said it’s pronounced [KIN un] because of the spelling K–I-N-N-A-N. Norton Baskins, Marjorie’s husband lived here until 1997. He was a nice man, well known and widely respected in this community. One thing Norton used to say was that he was afraid that after he died, no one would ever pronounce his wife’s name right ever again. It’s Kin-awn, accent on the second syllable. Alex Trebeck was wrong.
Norton and Marjorie didn’t live in this building. They lived in their beach house about ten miles south of here. That was a one story frame structure, up on the high sand dune, overlooking the sea. It was an old Florida style structure. We don’t build them like that any more. If you check the dimensions, you will see why. It was ten feet wide and one hundred feet long. It had no hallway. They had to go from room to room to get from room to room. There was a big, brick patio at the south end of the house with a barbecue pit where they entertained other writers of the day they were friends with, like Ernest Hemmingway for one. That house still exists but it’s privately owned and difficult to get to see it.
From time to time some event will pop up in town that makes it possible. In August 2008, there was a writers’ conference here and one of the events was lunch at the home of Marjorie Rawlings.
Marjorie died in 1953, but Norton continued to own the Warden Castle until he sold it to Robert Ripley in 1957. Ripley was apparently in poor health at the time. He died shortly after buying the building. His company continued with the plans to create Ripley’s first “Believe it or Not” Museum. This was Ripley’s first and he never saw it. Believe it or Not.
(Turn right on San Marco Avenue) (go slow)
Coming up on the right, in the shadows beyond the Visitor’s Center is a large coquina sphere. That is mile marker number zero for the Old Spanish Trail marking the path of the missionaries across North America. The last one is in San Diego California.
Ahead on the right, the City Gates stand just as they were built in 1808. In 1808, there was a drawbridge over the moat instead of the fixed walkway we have today. The moat was a real moat instead of this little token moat. As you pass the City gates if you look to the left, you will see the moat continues into the fort grounds. If you look to the right you will see a depression in the Earth where the moat once continued west all the way to the San Sebastian River. This is part of the Cubo Line. Here, you are crossing St. Augustine’s northern defensive perimeter into the Old City and the Spanish Quarter.
If you came through here in the 1880’s you might have noticed the Fort grounds were crowded with Indian Teepees. Those teepees belonged to the Apache Indians. They began showing up, right after Geronimo surrendered to the United States Army in Arizona in 1886. This was a sort of interim place for the Apache people to stay while the government figured out what to do with them. Today, their descendents live at the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and the San Carlos apache Indian Reservation. Those Reservations straddle the Salt River Canyon in Arizona along Highway 77 and U.S. 60 between Holbrook and Tucson Arizona. That’s very beautiful mountainous country. St. Augustine had been used as an Indian prison in the past. Some of the Plains Indians were brought here for a while. From here, their children were sent to the Indian School at Carlisle Pennsylvania to be de programmed and assimilated into Amero/Euro culture.
The United States Army was justifiably antsy about bringing that famous military leader Geronimo so close to his troops. Geronimo was left imprisoned at Fort Pickens, about four hundred miles west of here near Pensacola Florida. They say Geronimo was so frustrated with his captivity that he spent the entire time he was in that cell, pacing the perimeter. He did that long enough that he wore a groove in the floor, three feet deep. That can be seen today at Fort Pickens, near Pensacola Florida.
The Castillo de San Marcos, in those days, was called Fort Marion. Geronimo’s wife was among the captives brought here. She was pregnant when she arrived. She later gave birth to a son of Geronimo. She named him after the fort. His name is Marion.
If you had passed through here a little later, in the 1890s, you may have noticed the nine-hole golf course Flagler had built here on the Fort Grounds. Flagler built three golf courses in St. Augustine. Nothing is left of any of them.
|(Rounding the corner onto the Bay Front)
Ahead on the right is the Hilton Hotel. The Hilton stands on the original site of the Monson Motor Lodge. The Monson made international headlines in 1964 during the race riots, when the owner came outside and poured what he said was Muriatic Acid into the pool, announcing he was cleaning the pool. He did that to drive away the people who had come in off the street into the motel swimming pool. They were demonstrating there, for civil rights. Whether it was really muriatic acid is doubtful. I knew the man, Jimmy Brock. He was not a mean man. He died a year or so ago. He was eighty-five. He had the responsibility of protecting the experience of his guests at the hotel. He did what he could and harmed none.
The Civil Rights riots here were pivotal in the passage of the Civil Rights Bill. Before the riots, there was not enough support in Congress to pass it. Martin Luther King’s visit to St. Augustine and the Riots that took place here drew enough national press coverage and subsequent pressure from the people of the nation that the bill passed. That Jimmy Brock’s picture was posted in newspapers worldwide may even be a contribution to the passage of that bill. May he rest in peace and be remembered for being the good man that he was.
|(Turn right onto Cathedral Place)
The little statue on the big pedestal appearing on the left is a life-sized statue of Ponce De Leon, four feet eleven inches, counting his hat. He has been standing there ever since Dr. Andrew Anderson donated that statue at the opening of the Bridge of Lions in 1927. To get the statue, Anderson had to go to Puerto Rico where the original still stands. People here joke about why he is pointing to the north. The reason is that this is a casting of the original. He points to the north in Puerto Rico too. The reason he points to the North in Puerto Rico is that when he left his seat as the first governor of Puerto Rico, he went north and made history. He may have been a little guy, but he made a big impact here. His most significant discovery is said to be the Gulf Stream enabling Spain to get its treasure ships home faster.
The open pavilion on the left is called “The Slave Market.” The name is a brutal reminder of harsher days but the name is misplaced here. This was never a slave market. It was a produce market. It was a rare occasion for a slave to be sold here. The slave markets were in Savannah and Charleston, not here. The Slave Market got its name in the 1870s when a photographer was in town taking what he thought were exotic photographs. He found he could get more money for his photographs if they had exotic names. So he GAVE them exotic names. That is when our produce market became the Slave Market. The name stuck.
The plaza on the left was placed here by order of King Philip II of Spain in the same decree of 1573 that he used to lay out our streets. Philip said he wanted all his American Villages to start with plazas big enough to have military parades. I suppose he wanted to intimidate the Indians.
Coming up on the right is The St. Augustine Cathedral Basilica. This is the oldest Roman Catholic Congregation in the United States with parish records going back to 1598. The records would go back to 1565 but there was a fire in 1598 and the older records were lost. The church is usually open. If you would like to see it all you have to do is pull the door open and walk in.
|(Continuing west on Cathedral Place to Cordova)
The building directly ahead is the Ponce De Leon Hotel opened January 10, 1888. It’s poured concrete construction and has no rebar. The only steel reinforcement in this building is over the arches. Today the building houses Flagler College, a four year, co-educational, Liberal Arts College. Since it has no steel reinforcement to speak of, they had some contractors come in and look it over to see how it’s doing. The report was that there is no damage from settlement as a result of its lack of steel reinforcement. It’s doing just fine.
(Turn right on Cordova Street)
After you pass the clump of palm trees coming up on the left, if you look to the left you will see a rotunda with stained glass windows. Those windows were placed there by the interior designer Flagler hired for this hotel. That man was relatively unknown then, but he later specialized in stained and cut glass. Today everyone knows his name. It was Louis Comfort Tiffany. Those are early Tiffany originals. They are covered with Plexiglas to protect them from stones, bullets, hurricanes and what ever else may come at them. You can see them close up if you want to, by taking the tour of Flagler College. Today, those windows are insured by Lloyd’s of London for more than 30 Million dollars.
(Turn Left at the Methodist Church – that’s the second left)
Before Flagler could start construction on his second hotel, the Alcazar, he had a problem to solve. The problem was the existence of a Methodist church located on the property where he wanted to build. He went to the congregation and tried to buy the church. They refused. He tried repeatedly but met with nothing but rejection. Finally, he went to them and said something like, “Look. I need your church. Give me your church. I’ll build a new for you. It’ll be bigger, better, better quality, new parsonage, larger land size. We’ll use Hastings and Carrere, the same architects who built the hotel. It’ll be magnificent.” And it is. It is Grace United Methodist Church.
When the doors are open, these folks give free tours of the church, but they neither publish nor follow a tour schedule so we can’t tell you when they will be open. They are open most often on Saturday between 1:pm and 3:pm, but not always. Sometimes they are open on other days.
The house on the right just beyond the church is the parsonage or manse for Grace United Methodist Church. As you can see Flagler was as good as his word to them.
When this was all settled with the Methodists, Flagler was approached by a delegation from the Baptist community. He found out pretty quickly what they wanted was to buy land so they too could build a church. They said he owned all the land in town and to get land they had to come to him. Flagler didn’t sell them any land. He gave them the parcel ahead on the right where you see the big, yellow brick, Ancient City Baptist Church. He gave them this land on the conditions that the church be finished in one year, that it be worth at least $10,000 when it was done and that there never be a bell in the bell tower. It’s no puzzle why he required those three conditions. He lived two doors down the street on the left.
Ten thousand dollars doesn’t sound like much today considering the cost of construction. The church was completed in 1895. My grandfather told me that he started his first job about 1900 and his pay was thirteen cents per day. That puts some perspective on it. At thirteen cents per day, it would take two hundred ten years to save that much money, assuming no expenses and no interest.
|(Turn left on Sevilla Street)
As you complete the turn, you will see a big white house on the right. That is the James Ingraham House. It was built by Henry Flagler and given to his real estate executive, James Ingraham. Ingraham was the president of the Florida East Coast Railway and the Model Land Company. I think Flagler may have given him this house as an inducement to move here and take those jobs. Today, the house is the parsonage or manse for Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church, coming up on the right.
The church has a story too. Flagler had a daughter, Jenny Louise Benedict. She lived in New York. Jenny had a baby there she named Marjorie. Marjorie only lived a little over six hours. Jenny then developed what people used to call, “Child Birth Fever.” She was growing very ill and it was decided to send her to Florida hoping the climate here would help her to recover. Her father met her boat at Charleston South Carolina, but by the time Jenny got to Charleston, she was already dead. Flagler was heart broken at the loss of his daughter and grand child. He ordered that this church be erected in time to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of his daughter here in this building. That gave Henry’s workmen 361 days to build this church and they actually did it in that period of time. Henry hired 1,000 workmen and put them on twelve-hour shifts. They worked around the clock at triple pay.
Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church is modeled after St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice Italy. The difference between the buildings is that the one in Italy has a gold dome. Flagler’s church has a copper dome. This church has the fourth largest pipe organ in the United States with over five thousand pipes.
On the west side of the building is a mausoleum. Inside the mausoleum there are four coffins. Inside the first coffin rests the body of Henry Flagler. In the second coffin is the body of Henry’s first wife, Mary Harkness Flagler. The third coffin contains the body of their daughter Jenny Louise Benedict and her baby, Marjorie. The third coffin was designated for Henry’s third wife on the condition that she not remarry after Henry’s death, but she did remarry so the coffin remains empty.
|(Left and immediately right to continue on Sevilla Street)
As you complete the right turn on Sevilla Street, if you look to the left you will see a big brick chimney. That smokestack was placed there by the engineer/inventor Flagler hired to build dynamos in the room next to the smokestack. Those dynamos were there to produce direct current electricity so the guestrooms in the hotel could have electric lights. Today those dynamos are on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Their builder was Thomas Edison.
If you look to the left at the roof of the hotel you will see two large towers coming out of the roof. Those towers were there to supply storage for some six thousand gallons of water so the hotel could have hot and cold running water. Not only did this hotel have electric lights, it had hot and cold running water, in 1888.
The day the hotel opened, a crowd of people had gathered in front of the building to watch as all the lights were turned on for the first time. No one in St. Augustine had ever before seen incandescent lighting or electricity in use for any reason. The newspaper reports that they hung out there for hours. When asked why, they said they wanted to see if the lights would burn out – like candles. They didn’t burn out.
(Turn right/West on King Street)
King Street is the main thoroughfare east and west through St. Augustine. When Henry Flagler first came to town, it was called Picolatta Road. It was a one-lane dirt road. There were no buildings around us here, only orange groves. The trees lining the right side of the street were Live Oaks then, not palm trees. They were big live oaks providing a canopy of shade overhead. So what you have here is an old, dirt, country road with an oak canopy overhead, surrounded by orange groves. The house coming up on the right (just past the stoplight at ML King) is where the people lived who owned all this land. Their name was Anderson. This is the Markland House. It is one of the last full sized plantation houses of its kind still remaining in the area. Its original builder, Dr. Andrew Anderson died of Yellow Fever just two months into construction, November 1839. He left a young widow, Clarissa Fairbanks Anderson, married to her just about two years. They had a baby, Andrew Anderson Number 2. Clarissa, they say, worked with the house for the next five years before it was finished enough that she was willing to move into it. She moved in, in 1844.
Clarissa was not the kind of lady to drop the ball when faced with a little adversity. She was a New Hampshire Yankee. She said she was morally opposed to slavery but when Anderson died she inherited 5 slaves that Anderson owned outright and another band of 39 Anderson held under mortgage. She sold the 39 to satisfy the mortgage and looked into the laws, here, to consider freeing the remaining five. After looking into the law she said the laws were so oppressive against Black people that those folks would be “safer,” (her word) if she kept them. So she kept them as slaves. After the civil war when they were free to go they chose to stay with Clarissa for pay.
She was the kind of lady that when necessary, she would tie back her hair and work side by side with the slaves in her orange groves. They pruned the trees and re-budded after the freezes. She worked at keeping up a truck farm she had where she sold produce. When times were hard for her, like in the winter when she had no produce to sell or during the Civil War when the harbor was blockaded and she was unable to export her oranges, she “kept things together.” That was the expression she used in her correspondence with her family up north. She “kept things together” by renting rooms in the Markland house by letter of reference. She kept things together well enough that when that little boy grew up, she sent him to the New York Collage of Doctors and Surgeons, Princeton University and Harvard Medical School.
Young Anderson was certainly a chip off the old block. Anderson #1 had come to the United States from Scotland as a boy. His family lived in New York where he graduated from Columbia University Medical School. His first wife, Mary, was in poor health and to help her, the family moved to St. Augustine in 1829, believing the climate would help her recover. Her health deteriorated. In her last years, she got her best friend, Clarissa to come to St. Augustine to help out. Mary’s last wish was that after she died, Anderson #1 would marry Clarissa. Mary said Clarissa would make him a good wife. Mary died in 1835. The Markland House did not yet exist. The Andersons rented in town.
Two years later in 1837, Anderson married Clarissa. He later wrote to his brother Smith in New York saying Clarissa was a fine woman and he was fully pleased that he had married her. By 1839, Anderson was so in love that he set out to build a mansion, Markland House. But in 1839 Yellow Fever broke out. Dr. Seth Peck was caring for the needs of the community then and Anderson had retired to his Orange plantation, his new wife and their son Andrew #2. Peck contracted Yellow Fever and took to his bed. Anderson #1 came out of retirement to try to help the people of the community as a doctor. He too contracted Yellow fever, but unlike Peck, he announced that he didn’t have a very serious case of it and if it got worse, he would take care of himself. I think he was playing Mr. Macho man for that babe he had just married. It killed him.
When Anderson #2 set out for New York to go to school, he left a girl friend at home that died while he was gone. He finished school and returned to St. Augustine when North Florida fell to the Union Army in 1863. He lived with his mother at the Markland house, such as it was at the time. He didn’t marry. After Clarissa, his mother, died, he was so heart broken that he refused to live at Markland but rented it out and lived in town. Then he met Bessie Smethurst, thirty some years his junior. Bessie was a beautiful woman and Anderson was so inebriated with her that he – Finished the House - more than fifty years after his father had started it. I guess the orange doesn’t fall far from the tree.
|(turn left into Sebastian harbor Drive – San Sebastian Winery. Turn around and go back East on King Street.)
Before you turn back east on King Street, I want to ask you to try to visualize this place, as it was when Henry Flagler first came here in 1881. There were no buildings around us then, just Orange Groves and a few Mulberry Trees. The Mulberry Trees are here because after the freeze of 1835, Anderson #1 tried to get into the silk business. Silk worms like to eat Mulberry trees. Some of those trees are still here.
King Street was called Picolatta Road then, named after a small community by that name lying about twelve miles west of town. There isn’t much out there today. There are just a few houses and a produce company that calls itself, “Picolatta Produce.” Picolatta Road is a muddy mess. We haven’t solved our drainage problems yet. It has deep wagon ruts down the center from heavily loaded produce wagons coming into town from the western part of the county, hoping to sell their produce at the market or export it from the harbor. Because of the drainage problems, there is standing water in the area. What that means in North Florida is the air is thick with mosquitoes.
If you stop where the stoplight is today and look to the left you will see a rickety one lane wooden bridge. That’s the second bridge to ever exist across the San Sebastian River. The first one was destroyed about twenty-three or twenty-four years ago during what many people in this place still remember as “The War of Northern Aggression.”
There is no I-95 here. U.S. #1 exists but it’s nothing like we have today. It’s a simple dirt track even more primitive than Picolatta Road. It goes due north out of here on a compass heading of 360º. It was laid out with a hand held compass in the hand of Pedro Menendez in 1565. It was cut by the Basque seamen he brought with him when they were looking for Fort Caroline. That’s why this road is called United States Highway Number One. Because it is. To this day, it follows the same path Menendez actually cut, about a third of the way to Cow’s Ford.
Cow’s Ford was a small community about thirty five miles North of here right on the banks of the St. Johns River. It was a small port town. It’s not small any more. After we became a territory of the United States, they changed its name. They named it after some Yankee General. They call it Jacksonville. In all fairness, I have to admit that Andrew Jackson was not a real Yankee. He was from South Carolina, but if you ask anyone who lives here in St. Augustine, whose family has been here for a few generations, they will tell you that South Carolina is ”WAY UP NORTH!”
This is what Flagler found when he came here, attitudes and all. There is no I-95, no U.S. #1 as we know it, no railroads, no airports, no airplanes. The only way a person can get here is on a horse or a sailing vessel. Flagler used to come down the St. Johns River as far as the Village of Tocoi. From there he would take a horse drawn wagon eighteen across the swamps to get here, slapping mosquitoes the whole way, no doubt.
Here in this pastoral fishing village with its orange groves and its mulberry trees; here in this remote rural village that’s so hard to get to, at the east end of this mud track with the wagon ruts, among the mosquitoes, we have this multi-millionaire, a Yankee from New York, building a posh, 350 bedroom hotel, with electric lights, hot and cold running water! He might even have had a phone in there by 1888. The people around here, thought he was a little crazy. None of the other hotels had such things and they got along just fine.
Maybe he was a little crazy, but he had plans for overcoming some of the difficulties. And he had the money behind him to make it happen. He was advertising, for one thing, in London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, Baltimore, Boston – everywhere. He was buying thirty gauge railroads up and down the East Coast, upgrading them to Standard Gauge and combining them to form The Florida East Coast Railway. So, when the hotel opened, the plan came together. The railroad trains started arriving.
(crossing Riberia Street, still East bound slowly on King Street)
The only fly in the ointment for Flagler that year was the fact that we had Yellow Fever all over Florida the summer and fall of 1887, so by January of 1888, people were afraid to come here. Traffic was light that first season.
The building appearing ahead on the right is Hamblen True Value hardware Store. They opened in 1875. It’s very likely Flagler did business with them when he was building his hotels and churches. (Hamblen hardware closed February 11, 2012 after 137 years in business.)
The building just beyond it on the right is owned by Ashlar Lodge #98 Free and Accepted Masons of Florida. This is the twelfth Masonic Lodge to exist in St. Augustine. Most of the others were closed by order of the Roman Catholic Church, under the rule of Spain. This lodge was chartered January 18, 1888, eight days after the Ponce De Leon Hotel opened.
(Above) San Marco Hotel 1884-1898
Ponce De Leon Hotel
Opened as Flagler College 1968
continue east across ML King. =============
Santa Monica Hotel (Above)
Henry Morrison Flagler
Pictured at the age of 53
Traverse Board (above)
Be wary. Magical Creatures live in thse roots.
Rain Tree (Above)
|Coming up on the left is the front entrance of the Ponce De Leon Hotel, Flagler College today. In front of the front entrance is a statue of Henry Flagler pictured at the age of 53. Behind Henry are two signs that say, “Tours daily.” The fine print at the bottom of the sign indicates the hours for the tour. Generally speaking, when class is in session, the tours are at 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. When class is not in session, the tours are “at the top of each hour, from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M.” If you take the tour of the college you will see the tiffany stained glass windows, Maynard paintings and numerous other art treasures.
(turn right on Granada Street)
When Flagler finished the Ponce De Leon Hotel in May 1887, his workmen crossed the street and began working on the Alcazar, directly across the street from the Ponce De Leon. He built the Alcazar for various reasons and among them are two very good ones. He knew that there would be times when he had more people than rooms at the Ponce De Leon. With the Alcazar, he would have somewhere to put them. He also knew that at night, there isn’t much to do in St. Augustine. There still isn’t much to do at night in St. Augustine. When he built the Alcazar, he wanted to address the problem of keeping his guests entertained. He put a casino in there. He also had a bowling alley, a billiards parlor, a ballroom, one of the country’s first indoor swimming pools. It was fifty feet wide and one hundred twenty five feet long. All that is on the first floor.
On the second floor, he put a gymnasium complete with a steam bath, Russian bath, Turkish bath and other therapeutic baths. There’s a shower stall in there with sixteen showerheads. You can get very rinsed off in such a thing after your steam bath. He showed silent films in here after 1900 and rented bicycles in the back parking lot. That’s the bicycle with the big front wheel and small rear wheel. They called them “Wheelies,” or “Ordinaries.” Flagler had a full time employee back there, teaching people to ride that contraption.
By 1930, the Alcazar was out of business, boarded up, empty, closed. America had changed its face. We had the Great Depression. There wasn’t as much money floating around as there had been and what people were traveling, were traveling in automobiles. They wanted to see as much of the country as they could in the time available and they wanted to have fun driving those machines that they had just bought. So the Alcazar stayed closed for seventeen years. In 1947, Otto Lightner showed up in St. Augustine. He owned a museum in Chicago. He was in declining health and he wanted to move to Florida for the climate. He had lymphoma. He bought the Alcazar, moved his museum here and was dead a year later. So, by 1949, the building was boarded up again. It stayed that way another eleven years until the City of St. Augustine gained control of the building. They made it City Hall. It’s still City Hall. The city re-opened Lightner’s museum in the south end of the building.
Lightner had made his money in the Hobbies Magazine business, advocating primarily, the hobby of collecting. He said anyone could enjoy that hobby and experience the thrill of finding new acquisitions for their collections, even if all they are collecting is bottle caps.
He lived by what he preached. He traveled the world and when he found things he thought were interesting, he bought the whole collection, brought it home and put it in his museum. He was an avid collector himself. He collected collections. That’s what’s in this museum.
The rotunda coming up on the left held the shallow end of the swimming pool. This was screened off for the gentlemen to have private conversations about big business and smoke their big cigars. The second floor of the rotunda has some of the therapeutic baths mentioned earlier. The entrance, just beyond the rotunda goes to the swimming pool.
In 1968, when Flagler College opened its doors as a school, their first drama instructor was a “Man called Paladin.” Richard Boone from “Have Gun Will Travel,” was their first drama instructor. Boone was instrumental in converting this swimming pool to a theater. So, today, instead of public swimming, we have plays. On either side of the pool there were once alcoves, places where people wanting privacy perhaps, could swim in there. Today, those alcoves are antique shops lying on either side of the swimming pool.
In the deep end of the pool is the Café Alcazar. They are only open for lunch, but they have a very creative menu and live music. The last time I had lunch there I had “Artichokes Giovanni.” It was delicious and only $11.95 plus drinks.
If you are enjoying the tour, you will probably
enjoy Friar Bob's Books. Historic Tours says
Friar Bob is a "Seasoned Story teller." The
books prove it.
If you are enjoying the
tour, you will probably
enjoy Friar Bob's Books.
Historic Tours says
Friar Bob is a "Seasoned
Story teller." The
books prove it.
Aleister thinks outside of
the box, at the
Fountain of Couth, in the
Valley of the
Shadow of Beth, even
when he meets the not-
In Aleister Through the
nothing is just Black and
White (or White and Black - whatever).
As you pass the Hotel Alcazar, ahead on the right, the third building from the corner on Bridge Street is a two story, white house, trimmed in red. That is the home of Cora Tyson. She still lives there. Ms. Tyson was one of the people who gave shelter to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the race riots here. Many angry people were looking for Dr. King then. He was wisely maintaining a low profile in the home of Cora Tyson and two other places. The church across the street from Ms. Tyson’s home is Trinity United Methodist Church. Dr. King preached there in 1964.
Monica Hotel. The name is appropriate for a hotel here. Santa Monica was St. Augustine’s mother.
Scroll down. Continued Below.
else, to give you a good time and a good tour.
The Tour Guide finds it discouraging if he or
she thinks no one is listening. Tour Guides
usually know a great deal about their subject,
amusing things, shocking things, thought
provoking things. If you are actively listening
and the Tour Guide knows that, you will get
the best he or she can give you.
Ask questions. If there is time, the Tour Guide
will take pleasure in filling in the gaps,
answering your questions as fully as possible.
Friar Bob gives an historical tour. History is
funny, painful and it raises questions and fills in
answers to who we are today and who we
were, once upon a time. We’ve come a long
way from when the Spanish nailed dead,
Protestant, Frenchmen to trees with notes on
their chests about “what we do to heretics.”
Those paths to today are filled with colorful
personalities, deceit, intrigue and adventure.
We Tour Guides love our towns and we want
to share that love with those who are new to
our area and those who live nearby who want
to know what passed here before us.
A live tour is much like live theater. If you want
the full effect, place yourself at the foot of the
stage. If you have other interests than listening
to the tour, like translating to others, playing
with your children, calling out to pedestrians,
pretty girls, whistling at brides, the foot of the
stage is not the best place to sit.
One our number tells the story of George C.
Scott, playing live on Broadway. A woman in
the front row of seats, placed her purse ON
the foot of the stage. When Scott came near in
his performance, he gently nudged the purse
toward the woman. She failed to take the hint.
Scott did it again. She failed to take the hint,
again. When Scott was near a third time, he
took a couple of running steps toward the
purse and kicked it, like a star quarterback
going for an extra point. The purse flew
skyward, its contents scattering throughout the
theater. The audience roared with laughter and
We tour guides and other actors find this story
hilarious because we know exactly how
George C. Scott was feeling when he broke
character, disrupted the play and expressed
himself honestly and openly. I think his
message was simply, if you want a good
performance, stay off the stage.
Few of us have the standing of a personality
like George C. Scott, but all of us admire what
he had the courage to do. Mostly, we just
quietly go on with the show, ignoring rude
behavior that disrupts the experience for all
others present. Bravo! George C. Scott!
Turn right/East on King Street (right lane)
television. Wooley later became known for his song, “Purple People Eater.” That song sold over 100 million copies.
|The building directly ahead is the home of O.C.White’s Restaurant today. It originally was the home of Colonel William Worth. He was one of the people in charge of the American Military during the first and second Seminole Wars.
Those wars were exciting times here in St. Augustine. This was a major military center with troop ships and supply ships crowding the harbor. The town was full of soldiers and refugees from the interior – people fleeing those rampaging Indians. It was a time of prosperity for the city because of all those people here spending money for food and housing. But it was also an uneasy time because it was widely feared that the Seminoles would launch a full frontal assault on the city at any time.
Dr. Andrew Anderson (#1) wrote home to his brother Smith in New York trying to obtain one of those new, repeating rifles that had just come on the market from Colt. He said he was looking for somewhere to send his women to get them out of harm’s way, and this place was harm’s way.
Those wars came about in this way. While the European settlers were moving into the North American Continent, some of the Indians moved south to get away from them. Notably, they were Creeks. They were Red Stick Creeks, Lower Creeks, probably numerous Choctaw and Cherokee, Ojibwa and Chippewa. When they got to Florida, Florida was still Spanish. The Spanish welcomed them and called them Cimarrones, “Wild People.” The Spanish wanted the coastlines and the Cimarrones wanted the interior of Florida so they got along fine together. When we became a territory of the United States, that changed.
American Settlers began moving into the interior. They wanted that valuable farmland. This drove the Cimarrones further south and further south. Finally the Cimarrones had no where further south to go. They had their backs to the sea. After the first two years of this, a treaty was signed, five miles south of here at Moultrie Creek, September 1823. The treaty provided that the Indians could have the interior, but within ten years, by 1833, the many violent episodes that arose between the settlers and the Indians resulted in full war.
A complicating factor resulted from the fact that every time a slave escaped, if they could they would go join the Cimarrones, or Seminoles as the English speaking Americans began to call them. Slaves joined them from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia as well as Florida. There came to be so many slaves among the Cimarrones that the white communities were beginning to become paranoid. They believed that there would eventually be a full slave uprising and that the Indians would side with the slaves. They believed that because the Indians made statements to this effect. That the Blacks were the most ferocious warriors they had because they had the most to lose if captured. If the Blacks were captured, the best they could expect was slavery and at worst, hanging. In their paranoia, people in the white communities began taking pot shots at Indians when they got too close. That was a very bad idea.
The Seminoles had their backs to the sea in South Florida. They had no where to go to get away. There was a lot of tension over the ownership of the land, especially in view of the broken treaty of 1823. Now, they were being shot at. They did what they had to do. That was, to stand and fight. The Cimarrones fought fiercely. The Seminole Wars are remembered as the longest, costliest and bloodiest of America’s Indian Wars and they never surrendered. To this day, there is sovereign Seminole Land in the south of Florida.
(at the end of the street, it is necessary to turn right on St. Francis Street)
As you cross Marine Street, if you look down the street to the left, on the right side of the street, there is a white wall. That is the front of the United States National Cemetery where the troops are buried who were killed right here and near here in those Seminole Wars. The remains of 1,468 young men lie in those graves. One hundred eighty five of them are unknown soldiers.
|The Gonzales-Alvarez House is coming up on the right. This is St. Augustine’s Oldest House. If you tour the Oldest House, they will treat you to explanations and demonstrations of how people faced the challenges of living in Pre-Electricity Florida with no glass in their windows. They even had an innovative way to filter this nasty ground water we have here. They filtered it through pumice.
The Oldest House is said to have been built “sometime after 1702.” It always puzzled me as to why it was expressed in that way. This is why.
In 1702 we had a visit from James Moore. He was the British Governor of the British Colony of South Carolina. Moore had the dream in his heart of making Spanish Florida his and British. He sailed some troop ships down the St. Johns River to our West, more down the Atlantic Sea Coast to our East and he invaded St. Augustine from the East and the West at the same time. Then he spent the next fifty days burning our town to the ground and looting. When Moore finally left, nothing remained standing except the Castillo De San Marcos, where the people had taken refuge. That place has never fallen in battle. That is why they say the Oldest House was built sometime after 1702. Everything in St. Augustine, except the Castillo was built “sometime after 1702.”
After Moore’s invasion, it was decided that St. Augustine should be a walled city to prevent that sort of thing from ever happening again. The people went to work and by 1704 we had the Rosario Line on the West and the Cubo Line on the north.
Ahead on the left side of the street is a two-story, masonry house with a red and white, overhanging balcony. This is the Llambias House, St. Augustine’s second oldest house. It was originally First Spanish Period architecture. The way to tell that is by the fact that there is no entrance off the street. One must enter through the courtyard, signature entrance of the First Spanish Period style. The second floor, hip roof and balcony might lead one to believe that those additions were done during the British period, but they were not. They were added during the American Colonial Period in 1838. If the second floor had been added by the British, it would be frame, not masonry.
(turn around and go back – facing East, now, on St. Francis Street)
The big building on the right is the Florida National Guard Barracks. A Franciscan Friary originally stood here, built around 1600. In 1763, it became the site of a British Barracks. At that time the Peavett family purchased the Oldest House on the left. It was the Peavetts who added these British features to this First Spanish Period house, like the door directly into the living area directly off the street. First Spanish Period builders always used the courtyard door, and this one is clearly visible. Other British additions to this house are the wood frame second floor and the cedar, shake shingle roof.
The Peavetts moved their family into the second floor living area and opened a PUB on the first floor where they served beer to the British troops across the street for about fourteen years. Mary Evans Peavett made a lot of money in that place and everyone remembers what Benjamin Franklin said about beer. He said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
|(must turn left/north on Avenida Menendez)
If you look across the river from here, you can see the St. Augustine Light House. If you go there, you will find a large nautical museum. The Light House keeper’s house is a two story brick house that has been fully restored. The Light House itself is open to the public. For a fee you can climb the 219 steps to the top and at the top there is a large wrap-around observation platform. You can walk all the way around the top of the light house if you want to. It’s a great place for photography.
There you will learn the story of the light house keeper’s son. He was a curious and intelligent boy, into everything. He became interested in parachutes. He would tie a string to the four corners of a handkerchief, a stone in the middle, throw it up in the air and watch it float to the ground. It’s kind of fun. But this kid was more aggressive than that. He took a large parachute and the family cat to the top of the Light House and tossed them over the side. The cat made it to the ground uninjured, but they say that cat didn’t come home again for three months.
The sea wall on the right is the last public works in St. Augustine built using slave labor. It was built between 1833 and 1844, the early years of the Seminole Wars. Its engineer was a Lt. Robert Tuttle, an 1826 graduate of West Point Military Academy. Those wars dragged on until 1858.
The building ahead on the right was built on the original site of Capo’s Bath House. In the 1880’s and 90’s it was hard to get a bath in St. Augustine, but if you came here and paid 5 cents, you could get a hot bath. If you came early enough in the day, you might even get fresh water for your bath.
In 1839, St. Augustine had a unique visitor by the name of Robert Jenkins. Jenkins had been in prison in London at the time when London released its prisoners to populate the State of Georgia. While Jenkins was in prison in London, someone cut off one of his ears. So, Jenkins came to the British Colony of Georgia with one ear and learned a new trade, smuggling. He was arrested in St. Augustine in 1839 for plying his new trade here.
When he got away, he went to the governor of Georgia, then James Oglethorpe, and complained that the Spanish in Florida had cut off his ear. Oglethorpe had the same dream in his heart as Moore, thirty-eight years earlier, that of making Spanish Florida his and British. He sailed down the St. Johns River and burned some Spanish communities. Then he came here and burned ours. He wasn’t as effective as Moore had been. By the time Oglethorpe got here, we had learned a little and many of our buildings then were coquina rock. That doesn’t burn as well.
Oglethorpe set up a battery of cannons on the north end of Anastasia Island and began shelling our fort with twelve-pound cannon balls, June 1740. The Spanish in Cuba heard about the siege and sent a supply ship that anchored off the Jupiter Inlet about sixty miles south of here. They sent boats up the river, bypassing Oglethorpe’s cannons. Oglethorpe was guarding the Inlet, not the river. He could see the fort was getting supplied with food and gave up on the idea of starving them out. Hurricane season was upon him. By then it was July 1740, so he packed up his twelve pounders and went back to Savannah. That was called the War of Jenkin’s Ear. It was later lumped together with the War of Austrian Succession.
One of Oglethorpe’s people was keeping a personal journal. He wrote in his journal that hitting this fort with a cannon ball was much like “sinking a knife into a round of cheese.” Oglethorpe had state of the art weapons. He could have knocked down a concrete, brick or even a granite fort. But our fort is none of those things. Our fort is a fossilized compaction of sea shells; soft stuff. When the cannon balls would strike, they would sink in about a foot and a half and stop. The most amazing thing was that the coquina rock had a spring-like action to it and it would snap shut behind the ball, giving the illusion of swallowing the ball.
Remnants of plaster remain on the fort today. The Spanish had plastered the fort red and white, Spain’s colors. The idea was that anyone sailing into the harbor would know by the color of the fort that they were in Spanish territory. The only way Oglethorpe could tell that he was hitting the fort is that he was chipping the plaster off. Then when the sun went down at night, the Spanish would come down the walls in the darkness and patch the damaged plaster. So, that when the sun came up in the morning, the fort would look just as good as it had the first day Oglethorpe was here.
It’s fun to imagine Oglethorpe’s frustration. He was sitting on the north end of Anastasia Island in his traditional wool uniform in Florida’s June and July heat. He probably was constantly slapping mosquitoes and yellow flies. He more than likely had a mess of ticks and chiggers on him and his troops were making remarks about “attacking a self healing fort.” It’s easy to imagine that for the rest of that man’s life, when any reference was made to him about this place, he probably stiffened his shoulders, took a deep breath and changed the subject.
|Just beyond the city gates on the left is the Huguenot Cemetery. This was where they buried non-Catholic people, outside the city gates. Most of the people in that Cemetery, though, arrived there as a result of the plague of Yellow Fever that broke out in 1821. They say people were dying faster than they could dig holes. Some of those graves contain as many as twenty-five bodies.
Yellow fever was a real scourge in Florida and the tropics in general. No one knew where it came from. They didn’t know when it would show up, how to keep it from spreading or how to effectively treat it. The one thing they knew then, about Yellow Fever was, if you got it, you would very likely be dead in three or four days. By the eighteen eighties, they were getting the idea that mosquitoes might have something to do with it. They started trying to keep their grass cut short in the summer and fall to control the mosquitoes and maybe keep the Yellow fever away. They also made the observation that in years when Yellow Fever appeared, it would disappear after the first frost, when winter came. This further supported the idea that mosquitoes might have something to do with it. As it turned out, they were right.
Ahead on the right is the best restaurant in Uptown San Marco. It’s called La Pavillion. They are in their thirty-second year in that location and they provide continental cuisine. The last time I was here I had Sauerbraten und Spätzels. They serve French, German and other ethnic dishes. This is where Jacques Cousteau used to come to eat when he was in town getting the Calypso worked on. The building La Pavillion is in was built in 1868 by a Mr. Duff Green. They say, Duff Green was a card-playing buddy with Henry Flagler. Some argue with that saying that Flagler was a staunch Presbyterian. He didn’t smoke, drink, chase women or play cards. I’ll tell you something about that. I have a picture of him in one of my history books with a big cigar stuck in his mouth and his third wife sitting on his lap. He might have played cards.
In 1965, the people of St. Augustine and others wanted to do something special to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the landing of Pedro Menendez and the establishment of the City of St. Augustine. In 1965, they completed a new Catholic Church, Prince of Peace Votive Catholic Church, ahead on the right (at the Mission). This is the last building in St. Johns County built using Coquina Rock. As part of the same celebration, they erected the huge cross on the Mission grounds, marking the spot where they think Menendez landed. It is two hundred eight feet tall and weighs over seventy tons.
The story of the landing goes like this. The first boat to bump the beach, that day, had Father Lopez on board. The second boat had Menendez. Menendez got out of his boat and ordered that shelters be erected for his troops. Father Lopez said no no no. First we must build an altar and give thanks to God for the safe passage we just had across this wild Atlantic Ocean. So the first European structure on the North American Continent was a Christian Altar. There is a replica of it on the grounds of the Mission de La Nombre De Dios [The Mission of the Name of God.]. Also on the Mission grounds is the first shrine on the North American continent to the Virgin Mary.
The City of Aviles in Spain, our sister city and the birth and burial place of Pedro Menendez, sent to us in St. Augustine, the outer casket from the coffin of Pedro Menendez. I have no idea why they did that. As the story goes, Menendez died on his ship. They put him in a temporary coffin and sent him home to Aviles. When he got home, they took him out of the temporary coffin and put him in a permanent coffin and then buried him. In 1911, they sent us the temporary coffin. That is what they are calling, “the outer casket.” It’s on display in the Shrine Gift Shop on the Mission grounds.
|(Pass Ocean Avenue, Ballard Street and turn right on Williams Street. Go to the stop sign and stop. This is the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Williams, facing the entrance to the Fountain of Youth)
This is Magnolia Avenue, to the right and the left. The trees you see lining the street are Live Oak Trees. There are no Magnolia Trees on Magnolia Avenue. Magnolia Avenue is listed by the National Geographic Society as being one of the top ten most beautiful avenues in the United States. It’s easy to see why they say that.
I’m sure you remember the United States Ship, the Constitution. They nick-named her Old Iron Sides because the wood she was made of was so tough that the British Cannon Balls in the war of 1812 just bounced off of her sides. That’s because Old Iron Sides was built from the wood of the Live Oak Tree. This is a very tough species of Oak and it’s very common in the southeastern United States. The trees used to build The Constitution came from some of the barrier islands off the coast of Georgia.
|(exit the Fountain of Youth. Turn right on Magnolia Avenue, then left on Dufferin Street)
At the Old Jail you will find some things worth seeing. The Old St. Augustine Museum is there. It is a time line museum of the history of Northeast Florida. There are numerous displays representing the various periods of our history. You can actually pick up a piece of genuine Spanish silver there. You can’t take it home with you, but you can pick it up.
The Old Jail itself is an interesting tour. It was built in 1891 because Mr. Flagler didn’t want to have a jail next door to his Ponce De Leon Hotel down town. You can imagine why. They built that thing downtown with no glass in the windows, no electricity, no plumbing. They worked the prisoners at hard labor and gave them no means to bathe. They were probably a pretty stinky bunch. To make matters worse, they gave them a bucket in the corner of their cells for the prisoners’ convenience.
You can easily imagine Henry Flagler walking past that place for the first time and getting his first whiff. I visualize him in his black tuxedo, heading for the ground breaking for the hotel. He probably did a double take, said something we can’t repeat here and ordered, “get that thing out of here right now!”
He provided the money to build one just like it, a mile out of town, far enough away that he couldn’t smell it from his hotel. They built this jail the same way. It had no glass in the windows, no plumbing, no electricity, hard labor for the prisoners, bucket in the corner of the cell and no showers. This place functioned as our county jail until 1953. It was a hanging jail. There were at least eight people executed here and more died by murder inside its walls. Many of the people who work in the tourist industry in St. Augustine, refuse to work in the Old Jail or to even go inside. They say it has too much paranormal activity, especially on the upper floors. It makes an interesting tour.
The Old Jail is also the home of Old Town Trolley Tours of St. Augustine. The trolley tours of the city are an easy and convenient way to get around town and learn about the history of this interesting, old place. If you come to the Old Jail for the tour, ask for Friar Bob.
Friar Bob has been widely published under his own name, Robert G. Makin. You can find his works at Dandelion Books, Amazon Books and Smashwords.com. His works can be ordered through Barnes and Noble, Books A Million , Borders and other places. His articles can be found in numerous places. He has been published most recently by Ezinearticles.com
These articles are:
The Great Chicken Invasion ( of St. Augustine Beach)
The Ghost of the Lightner Room (Lightner Museum)
Origin of the Name of God
Observations on ePublishing
This work was primarily done by Gil Wilson who is to be commended for the enormous amount of work he devoted to this project. While no exhaustive history, like this one, is without error, this one provides the most in depth presentation of St. Augustine's history I've seen in a single work, second only to Dr.Thomas Graham's Awakening of St. Augustine (St. Augustine Historical Society 1978), although Graham's book covers only the period from 1821 to 1924. Dr. Bronson's history tackles ALL of St. Augustine's history and does so in a nicely formatted and easy to navigate web site: http://drbronsontours.com/
Thanks for the hard work, Gil,