While the first settlements that would go on to form the original 13 Colonies were English settlements like Jamestown and Plymouth, the first European settlement in what is today America was in Florida. If in Virginia be sure to see the "Historic Triangle" of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. In Massachusetts, one can see a replica of the original Mayflower and see historical Plymouth.
The Spanish were the first to the Americas and were the first to colonize them. Florida was never an important colony and always had a low population - strange now as it has the third-largest population in the States.
The History Of St. Augustine
St. Augustine is located on the Atlantic coast of northeastern Florida and is today the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the contiguous United States. It was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers.
- Founded: On September 8, 1565
- Founded By: Spanish Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Florida's First Governor
It was given the name "San Agustín" as the Spanish ships had first sighted land in Florida eleven days earlier on August 28 - the feast day of St. Augustine. The settlement would go on to serve as the capital of Spanish Florida for more than 200 years.
Later on, the British won control of Florida in 1763 and it was the capital of British East Florida. This was a part of the fallout of the Seven Year's War - the Spanish population in Florida largely moved to Cuba. But the British were unable to raise Florida's low population or increase its economic output. So twenty years later the British returned Florida to the Spanish in 1783.
A generation later the Spanish ceded Florida to the young United States in 1819 and St. Augustine was designated the capital of the newly formed Florida Territory (after the ratification of the treaty in 1821). This ended 300 years of Spanish rule over the Florida peninsula.
But St. Augustine's days as the long-running capital of Florida were numbered and the Florida Territory moved its government to Tallahassee in 1824.
- Capital: Moved To Tallahassee in 1824
Today St. Augustine's distinct historical character has made it an attraction worth visiting. While being a tiny city, it is the oldest in the continental United States with historic sites all around downtown.
- Population: 15,000 (70,000 Metro Population)
According to Visit St. Augustine, Aviles Street is the oldest street in the country. Archaeologists dug several layers under the brick paving and found pottery shards from the earth 1600s. It is also home to the town's original artist districts dating from the 1930s.
- Oldest: Oldest Street In The United States
The streets are also home to some of the town's oldest historical sites like the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum, the Spanish Military Hospital, and the Father O'Reilly House Museum.
Castillo de San Marcos
The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the continental USA. It is a large Spanish stone fortress built to defend Spain's claims to the New World. At an age of over 315 years (for the original fort) it is the oldest structure in St. Augustine and one of the main attractions in the city today.
- Listed: As A National Monument
There are plenty of things to see and do in the fort. One can explore the numerous rooms that once housed prisoners and soldiers or see the large interior courtyard and the gun deck.
There are regular daily programs and ranger-led tours - these are free if one has an admission ticket. There are even cannon firings and other weaponry demonstrations. There are held on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.
- Opening Hours: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm (Ticket Booth Hours 8.45 am to 4.45 pm)
- Validity: Tickets Valid For 7 Days
- Adults: $15.00 (Aged 16 and Over)
- Children: Free (Aged 15 and Under if Accompanied By An Adult)
Oldest House Museum
The Oldest House Museum Complex is made up of two museums, a colonial kitchen, an ornamental garden, and a museum store. Guided tours are conducted every half house and delve into the culture and history of St. Augustine by discussing the residents of the Oldest House.
- Oldest: Oldest Surviving Spanish Colonial Residence in Florida
- Open: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm Daily
- Cost: $10 Per Adult
- Tours: Every Half Hour
It is the oldest surviving Spanish colonial residence in Florida and is owned and operated by the St. Augustine Historial Society. Here one can also enjoy five centuries of Florida coastal maps, gardens with the native Muscadine grape, and more. The St. Augustine Surf Culture and History Museum is also located in the complex.
There are so many more historical attractions in St. Augustine as well as reenactments in the colonial quarter just waiting for you.