History of St. Augustine, Florida

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St. Augustine is the oldest town in Florida. Located in St. John’s County, St. Augustine is a historic city that was once home to the Timucua tribe before being founded by the Spanish and also occupied at different times by the French and the English.

The following is a timeline of the history of St. Augustine:

Between 1100 to 1300 C.E.:

  • The Timucau tribe establish a village in what is now modern day St. Augustine.

1513:

  • On April 2, Juan Ponce de Leon comes ashore on the Florida coast, just north of St. Augustine, and claims Florida for the Spanish crown.

1564:

  • A group of French Huguenot settlers build Fort Caroline near the mouth of the St. John’s River just east of modern day Jacksonville.

1565:

  • On September 8, St. Augustine is founded by Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés when he lands at St. Augustine during a Spanish expedition to Florida to remove the French Huguenot settlers per order of King Philip II.
  • On September 10, Frenchman Jean Ribault arrives at mouth of the St. John’s River to resupply the French settlement but discovers that Menendez is in St. Augustine and sails there to attack his ships but a hurricane strikes and carries his ships away and wrecks them on the Florida coast between present-day Daytona Beach and Cape Canaveral.
  • At the same time, Menendez and his forces attack and destroys Fort Caroline, then settles the area around the Timucua village of Seloy and names the settlement St. Augustine.

1573:

  • The Plaza de la Constitucion is established on St. George Street.

1586:

  • English sea raider Sir Francis Drake arrives in St. Augustine with 21 ships and raids and burns the town.

1598:

  • Spanish Governor Gonzalo Méndez de Canzo builds his residence on the site of the present Government House on King Street.

1599:

  • On March 14, the convent of St. Francis in St. Augustine is burned.

1650:

  • The Arrivas House, an early Spanish Colonial-style house made out of shell concrete, is constructed on St. George Street sometime between 1650 and 1680.

1665:

  • Boucanier John Davis raids and burns St. Augustine.

1668:

  • English privateer Robert Searles raids St. Augustine, destroying much of the city and badly damaging the Spanish wooden fort in the city.

1672:

  • Construction begins on Castillo de San Marcos, a stone fort built by Spanish forces and designed by the Spanish engineer Ignacio Daza.
Castillo de San Marco in St. Augustine, Florida
Castillo de San Marco in St. Augustine, Florida

1689 – 1690:

  • Governor Gonzalo Méndez de Canzo’s 1598 house on King Street is replaced by a two-story masonry house. That house is later burned during the British attack on St. Augustine in 1702.

1691:

  • The O’Rielly House is built on Aviles Street and is later purchased by an Irish Catholic priest named Father Miguel O’Rielly in 1785.

1695:

  • Construction of the core of Castillo de San Marcos is complete.

1702:

  • British forces from the Carolinas attack St. Augustine and begin a two-month siege on Castillo de San Marcos but fail to take the fort.
  • The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, a small house that later became a schoolhouse in the 19th century, is built sometime between 1702-1716 on St. George Street.

1706-1713:

  • A new Government House is constructed on the site of Governor Gonzalo Méndez de Canzo’s 1598 house on King Street.

1720:

  • The Gallegos House, a simple house constructed out of oyster-shell concrete, is constructed for Juan Garcia Martinez Gallegos on St. George Street.

1723:

  • The Gonzalez – Alvarez House, a stone vernacular-style house that is considered the oldest surviving house in St. Augustine, is built on Francis Street.
Gonzalez – Alvarez House on Francis Street in St. Augustine, Florida
Gonzalez – Alvarez House on Francis Street in St. Augustine, Florida

1725:

  • The Arrivas House on St. George Street is replaced sometime around 1725 with a building made of coquina.

1727:

  • Colonel Palmer of South Carolina attempts to attack St. Augustine but fails because the city is heavily fortified with gates and walls.

1740:

  • Governor of the British colony of Georgia, General James Oglethorpe, mounts an even stronger British attack on St. Augustine but he also fails to take fort Castillo de San Marcos.

1743:

  • Oglethorpe attempts to attack St. Augustine again with his native allies and captures and kills 40 Spaniards.

1749:

  • The Avero House is built on St. George Street.

1761:

  • The Rodriguez-Avero-Sanchez House is built on St. George Street.

1763:

  • Florida and St. Augustine come under British control for the first time with the Treaty of Paris and
  • Castillo de San Marcos is renamed Fort St. Mark.
  • The Fish Island Site, one of Florida’s earlier fruit plantations, is established by Jesse Fish on Fish Island on the Matanzas River.

1777:

  • Settlers from a failed colony in New Smyrna (south of St. Augustine) move to St. Augustine.
  • A historic Spanish-Colonial-style house now known as the Ribera House on St. George Street is demolished.

1784:

  • Spain regains control of Florida from the British.
  • Fort St. Mark is renamed Castillo de San Marcos after Florida is taken over by the Spanish again.

1788:

  • By 1788, the Gallegos House is replaced by a timber-frame house built by Lucia Escalona.

1793:

  • Construction begins on the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine on Cathedral Place.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, Cathedral Place, St. Augustine, Florida, circa 1888
Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, Cathedral Place, St. Augustine, Florida, circa 1888

1797:

  • Construction is completed on the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine on Cathedral Place.
  • The Ximenez-Fatio House, a Second Spanish Period-style house, is built for Spanish merchant Andres Ximenez.

1798:

  • Merchant Sebastian de Oliveros purchases a house now known as the Oliveros House on St. George Street and rebuilds it using coquina.

1812:

  • A group of American frontiersmen attack St. Augustine during the War of 1812 but fail to capture it.

1821:

  • On February 22, the United States acquires Florida from Spain.
  • On July 12, the flag of Spain is lowered and the American flag is raised at Castillo de San Marcos, which is renamed Fort Marion in honor of Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion.
  • The Huguenot Cemetery, a Protestant cemetery, is established when the Presbyterian Church purchases a Potter’s field just outside of the city gates to use as a church burial ground.

1822:

  • Florida is organized as a U.S. territory.
  • St. Augustine is officially incorporated as a city in Florida.

1824:

  • The St. Augustine Light Station is built on the north end of Anastasia Island.

1828:

  • The St. Augustine National Cemetery is established on the grounds of the St. Francis Barracks.

1830:

  • The population of St. Augustine in 1,708.

1837:

  • In August, Fort Peyton is established by the United States Army on the south side of Moultrie Creek.
  • On October 26, Osceola, the Seminole war leader, is captured and sent to Fort Marion with the two Chiefs Coacoochee and Hadjo. Both Coacoochee and Hadjo escape but Osceola is sent to Charleston where he later dies in captivity shortly after.

1833:

  • The Government House on King Street is rebuilt and expanded using federal funds and architectural plans drafted by Robert Mills.
  • A wooden building that serves as open air market at the Plaza de la Constitucion collapses.

1836-1846:

  • The sea wall is constructed.

1839:

  • Markland, also known as the Andrew Anderson House, a Greek Revival-style house, is built on King Street.

1840:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 2,450.
  • Stanbury Cottage, a Gothic Revival-style building, is constructed on St. George Street.
  • An open air pavilion that later becomes a slave market is built at the Plaza de la Constitucion.

1845:

  • Florida becomes a U.S. state.

1850:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 1,934.

1860:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 1,914.

1861:

  • Florida secedes from the United States and joins the Confederate States of America.

1862:

  • Union troops retake control of St. Augustine from the Confederates and it remains in control of it for the rest of the American Civil War.

1868:

  • Henry Wheeler purchases a parcel of land on Magnolia Ave that has a freshwater spring believed by some to be the Fountain of Youth and opens the site to visitors as a tourist attraction.

1869:

  • The Stanbury Cottage, a Carpenter Gothic-style building, is constructed on St. George Street.

1870:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 1,717.

1873:

  • The Government House on King Street is remodeled again using plans by William M. Kimball.

1875:

  • The United States sends Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Comanche Indians to Fort Marion to be imprisoned.

1877:

  • Moultrie Church is built on Wildwood Drive.

1880:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 2,293.

1883:

  • Villa Zorayda, a Moorish Revival-style mansion, is constructed as a winter home for Boston millionaire Franklin W. Smith on King Street.

1885-1888:

  • The Ponce de Leon Hotel, a Spanish Colonial Revival-style hotel building, is constructed for Henry Flagler on King Street.

1888:

  • The Horace Walker House, a Moorish Revival-style house that is also known as Castillo Sebastian, is built on Old Mission Avenue.

1886:

  • Around 77 Apache Indians are sent to St. Augustine to be imprisoned in Fort Marion.
  • The Grace United Methodist Church is built on Carrera Street.

1887:

  • The Great Fire of 1887 burns part of St. Augustine.
  • Hotel Alcazar, a Spanish Renaissance hotel building, is constructed on King Street for Henry Flagler.

1890:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 4,742.

1891:

  • The Old St. Johns County Jail is constructed on San Marco Avenue.

1893:

  • On May 20, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is constructed and opens to the public.

1898:

  • The St. Augustine Water Works is constructed on San Marco Avenue.

1900:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 4,272.

1903:

  • The Xavier Lopez House, a Queen Anne Revival-style house, is built on King Street.
  • The Old Benet Store, a Spanish-Colonial-style commercial building that was constructed sometime during 18th century, is demolished on St. George Street.

1906:

  • The Record Building is constructed on Cordova Street.

1907 – 1910:

  • The Solla Carcaba Cigar Factory Building is constructed on Riberia Street.

1908:

  • The Oliveros House on St. George Street is demolished.

1910:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 5,494.

1914:

  • Another large fire destroys part of St. Augustine.

1920:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 6,192.

1927:

  • The Bridge of Lions is constructed over the Matanzas River.

1930:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 12,111.

1931:

  • The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse on St. George Street opens as a historic house museum.
Oldest schoolhouse, St. George Street, St. Augustine, Florida, in 1930
Oldest schoolhouse, St. George Street, St. Augustine, Florida, in 1930

1934:

  • Workers discover a burial site of the Timucua tribe at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.

1940:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 12,090.

1942:

  • Fort Marion is renamed its original name Castillo de San Marcos.

1947:

  • On August 20, Chicago publisher Otto C. Lightner purchases Hotel Alcazar on King Street and converts it into a museum called the Lightner Museum.

1948:

  • The Lightner Museum on King Street opens to the public.

1950:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 13,555.

1960:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 14,734.
  • The Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board purchases the Arrivas House on St. George Street and restores it.

1962:

  • The Gallegos House on St. George Street is reconstructed and opens to the public as a historic house museum.
  • The Salcedo House, a Colonial-style house that once stood on St. George Street during the First Spanish Period (1565-1763), is reconstructed on St. George Street and opens as a historic house museum.

1963:

  • The Colonial Quarter Museum, a living history museum depicting life in St. Augustine in the 1740s, opens to the public on St. George Street.
  • Between 1963-1964, the St. Augustine Movement, a local Civil Rights movement that was a part of a wider Civil Rights movement in the U.S., takes place in St. Augustine.
  • In the summer, local dentist and NAACP member Robert B. Hayling leads a series of pickets and sit-ins against local segregated businesses in the city.

1964:

  • The Triay House, a Spanish Colonial-style house that once stood on St. George Street during the First Spanish Period (1565-1763), is reconstructed on St. George Street.
  • The Florida Heritage House, a reconstruction of a late Spanish colonial style house, is built on Aviles Street.
  • On May 18, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr visits St. Augustine to advocate for African-American rights in the city in an attempt to end desegregation in the city and drum up national support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was stalled in a congressional filibuster.
  • On May 29, gun shots are fired at the rented beach house where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is staying in at Crescent Beach.
  • On June 10, the U.S. Senate votes to end Sen. Robert Byrd’s filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • On June 11, Dr. Martin Luther King and and Rev. Ralph Abernathy are arrested at the Monson Motor Lodge for an attempted sit-in at the segregated establishment.
  • On June 12, State Attorney Dan Warren calls the St. Johns County Grand Jury into session to investigate the violent racial conflicts in St. Augustine.
  • On June 18, the St Johns County Grand Jury asks King and the SCLC (Southern Christina Leadership Conference) to leave St. Augustine for one month to diffuse the racial tension in the city. King refuses and calls the request a request “an immoral one.”
  • On June 18, civil rights protestors jump into the segregated pool at the Monson Motor Lodge spurring manager of the hotel, James Brock, to pour muriactic acid into the pool to force them to get out.
  • On June 20, civil rights demonstrators are attacked at a local segregated beach along with a 15-year-old African-American girl whose nose is broken in the attack.
  • On June 24, a KKK rally is held at the slave market at the Plaza de la Constitucion.
  • On June 30, Florida Governor C. Farris Bryant announces the formation of a biracial committee to restore interracial communication in St. Augustine.
  • On July 1, King and the national SCLC leaders leave St. Augustine the day before the Civil Rights Act is signed into law on July 2.
  • On July 15, white segregationists picket local businesses that serve African-Americans.

1965:

  • St. Augustine celebrates its 400th anniversary.
  • The Ribera House and the Marin-Hassett House, two Spanish Colonial-style houses that once stood on St. George Street during the First Spanish Period (1565-1783), are reconstructed on St. George Street.
  • The Spanish Military Hospital, a military hospital that once stood on Aviles Street during the 18th century, is reconstructed on its original foundation on Avile Street.

1966:

  • The Sanchez de Ortigosa House, a Spanish-Colonial-style house that once stood on St. George Street during the First Spanish Period (1565-1763), is reconstructed on St. George Street.
  • The St. Augustine Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission purchases the Cerveau House, a historic 19th century house, on Cuna Street.
  • The Santoyo House, a Spanish Colonial-style house that once stood on St. George Street during the First Spanish Period (1565-1763), is reconstructed on St. George Street.

1967:

  • The Benet Store, a Spanish Colonial-style commercial building that once stood on St. George Street during the 18th century, is reconstructed on St. George Street.
  • The Ortega House, a Spanish Colonial-style house that once stood on St. George Street during the First Spanish Period (1565-1763), is reconstructed on St. George Street.
  • The Luciano de Herrera House, a Spanish Colonial-style house that once stood on St. George Street during the Second Spanish Period (1784-1821), is reconstructed on St. George Street.

1968:

  • Flagler College opens in the former Ponce de Leon Hotel on King Street.
  • The William Watson House, a Colonial-style house that once stood on Charlotte Street during St. Augustine’s British period (1763-1783), is reconstructed on Charlotte Street.

1969:

  • The Gomez House, a Spanish-Colonial-style house that once stood on St. George Street during the First Spanish Period (1565–1763), is reconstructed on St. George Street.
  • The Rodriguez House, a tabby house that once stood on St. George Street during the First Spanish Period (1565-1763), is reconstructed on St. George Street.

1970:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 12,352.
  • The St. Johns County schools are formally integrated.

1973:

  • St. Augustine City Hall is moved into the former Alcazar Hotel on King Street.

1975:

  • Dr. Kathy Deagan begins excavating the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park and later discovers the 1565 settlement site of Pedro Menendez de Aviles on the property.

1980:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 11,985.

1990:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 11,692.

2000:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 11,592.

2003:

  • The Monson Motor Lodge on Avenida Menendez is demolished.

2010:

  • The population of St. Augustine is 12,975.

2011:

  • The St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument, a monument dedicated to the civil rights activists in St. Augustine in the 1960s, is erected in the Southeast corner of the Plaza De La Constitucion.

Sources:
Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board Guide Book. State of Florida, 1971, ufdc.ufl.edu/AA00000568/00001/1j
“Guide to St. Augustine as it is today.” Exploring Florida, fcit.usf.edu/florida/docs/s/staugtoday.htm
“St. Augustine, Florida.” Dr. Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute, kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/st-augustine-florida
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in St. Augustine.” Florida Times Union, 3 April. 2018, jacksonville.com/photogallery/LK/20180403/NEWS/403009998/PH/1
Edwards, Jennifer. “Osceola’s capture site hidden.” The St. Augustine Record, 19 Oct. 2009, staugustine.com/article/20091019/news/310199931
“Timucau Indians.” Peach State Archaeological Society, peachstatearchaeologicalsociety.org/index.php/11-culture-historic/392-timucua-indians
“Our History.” St. Augustine, Florida, citystaug.com/693/Our-History