St. Augustine

IMG_6527We left New Smyrna Beach early in the morning as the sun was coming up.  That line I had a problem putting on, well I also had a problem getting it off.  Kent said he would try, guess what it’s not as easy as it looks.  With all lines off thanks to Jim and Cindy’s (The Journey) help we are now under way.  We have a 66 mile day to navigate with our destination at Rivers Edge Marina, St. Augustine, Florida.   We will not be going to the Ponce de Leon inlet but will be able to see the lighthouse before we make the turn.  Ponce de Leon Inlet is between St. Augustine Inlet 55 miles to the north and Cape Canaveral Inlet 65 miles to the south.  The inlet is subject to continual shoaling, swift current, strong winds and passage is best left to those with local Knowledge, I agree.

Ponce de Leon Inlet Light house is located at the Ponce de Leon Inlet in Central Florida. The light house is 175 feet high the tallest one in Florida.  The light house was complete in 1887 and when the lamp was light could be seen 17 nautical miles away.  It was in 1927 that the name Mosquito Inlet was changed to Ponce de Leon.  The U.S. Coast Guard in 1939 took over seeing the light house until 1970 when the town of Ponce Inlet accepted the property.  In 1982 the light was restored to active service primarily because high-rise buildings blocked the coast guards beacon on the other side of the inlet.  We didn’t get to tour this light house due to transportation but this picture shows you how close we got to it by  boat.  The picture doesn’t do it justice from the water it was outstanding to see even this far way.

The water we are traveling on is called the Ponce de Leon cut, its beautiful and we could see the sand dunes on the port side (left) caused by strong winds.  The weather is warm and sunny what a great day to be navigating.

IMG_6559We are now navigating on what they call the Halifax River which is part of the AICW.  The waterway was originally known as the North Mosquito River, but was remanded after George Montagu-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax, during the British occupation of Florida 1763-1784.

This area is called Smith Creek it’s narrow, beautiful, and you have to watch out for crab pods.

IMG_6590We are now on the Matanzas river located in St Johns and Flagler counties, in Florida on the AICW.  This is a narrow channel sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean by Anastasia island.  The Matanzas River at St. Augustine was the main entrance to the historic city,  Americas oldest port.  The southern portion of the river was traditionally considered the backdoor to the city of St. Augustine and control of the river was considered a strategic necessity for early Spanish colony at St. Augustine. The last picture shows the Atlantic Ocean and the big waves.  I’m glade we are on the AICW.

Look at these beautiful home you can see that the tile roofs of their homes match the tile roofs on their boat lifts.

We are staying at River Edge Marina in St. Augustine Florida.  The marina is a short walk across the bridge to Old Historic town St. Augustine and a half a mile walk to the grocery store.  We had only planed on two days when we arrived but changed it to three. Tuesday morning we walked across the bridge to Old Historical St. Augustine and took the trolley that gives you a tour of all the historical sites with the history.  We decided that we would book a week, there is so much to see and do.  Kent said its like Galena, Il. back home on steroids.  I think you could spend a month here sightseeing and shopping they have so many quaint little stores.  If I went shopping here I know I would be very happy don’t think Kent would. Ha Ha

IMG_6595St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest city.  It was founded by Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles for the Spanish crown in 1565, on the site of a former native american village called Seloy.  He named the settlement San Agustin as his ships settlers had sighted land eleven days earlier on August 28, the feast day of St. Augustine.  The Adams-Onis treaty negotiated in 1819 and concluded in 1821 is when Spain ceded Florida to the United States.  St. Augustine was still its capital until 1824 when Tallahassee was made the capital.  The Territorial period 1821-1845 was marked by protracted wars with the creek Indians groups who occupied the peninsula know as Seminoles.  During the second Seminole war 1835 to 1842 the United States Army took command of the Castillo de San Marcos.  They remained it Fort Marion after General Francs Marion who fought in the American Revolutionary war.

The old city gates are a striking sight towards the north end of St. George Street.  They were at one time the only entrance into St.Augustine.  The two ancient columns made of stone were built-in 1808, as a line of defense for the city.  They are a symbol of the turbulent times faced by the original American colonists and a truly memorable landmark.


The Bridge of Lions is a double-leaf bascule bridge that spans the ICW in St. Augustine Florida. Two marble Lions copies of the Medici lions have guarded the bridge since 1925.  Prior to the Bridge of Lions in 1925 there was a wooden bridge called simply “The Bridge to Anastasia Island” it was built-in 1895 and after a major renovation in 1904 the bridge could accommodate at trolley. The span contained no rise and had a movable opening for ship traffic and charged a toll for transit. From its earliest days, it was hailed as “The Most Beautiful Bridge in Dixie.” It has long been a symbol of the nations’ oldest city.  We will be going through this beautiful bridge when we leave St. Augustine.

The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest Masonry Fort in the continental United States and located on the western shore of Matanzas Bay in St. Augustine, Florida. There were nine wooden forts built for defense over the next 100 years.  After the 1668 attack of the English pirate Robert Seattle, Mariana Queen Regent of Spain approved the construction of a masonry fortification to protect the city.  The Castillo is a masonry star fort made of stone called coquina (Spanish for small shells,) made of ancient shells that have bonded together to form a type of stone similar to limestone.  The coquina was quarried from the kings quarry on Anastasia Island across Matanzas Bay from the Castillo and ferried across to the construction site.

This is the bay they would have crossed back then how beautiful it is today. Construction began on October 2, 1672 and lasted 23 years with completion in 1695.  The fort has four bastions named San Pedro, San Agustin, San Carlos and San Pablo with a ravelins protecting the sally port. Surrounding the fort was a moat which could be flooded to a depth of a foot during high tide from the Matanzas bay, prior to an attack via the use of floodgates built into the seawall.  Multiple embrasures were built into the curtain wall along the top of the fort as well as into the bastions, for deployment of cannon of various calibers.

In 1738 Spanish engineer Pedro Ruiz de Olano, redesigned and rebuilt the interior of the fort.  The interior rooms were made deeper and vaulted ceilings replaced the original wooden ones. The vaulted ceilings allowed for better protection from bombardments and allowed for cannons to be placed along the gun deck, not just at the corner bastions. Then in 1821 the United States received the fort from Spain and named it Fort Marion. In October 1837 Seminole chief Osceola was taken prisoner and held captive in the fort until he was transported to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan island in Charleston Harbor.  In 1861 Florida secede from the United States in the opening months of American Civil War. Union troops withdrawn from the fort leaving only one man behind as caretaker.  In January of 1861 Confederate troops took over the fort but the Union took it back on March 11, 1862 and was used as a military prison.  In 1886-1887 491 Apaches were held prisoners at the fort.  In 1898 over 200 deserters from the Spanish-American war were imprisoned at the fort.  In 1900 the fort was taken off the active duty rolls after 205 year of service under five different flags.  This fort has been featured on many television shows including monumental mysteries and ghost adventures.

Henry Flagler a co-founder with John d Rockefeller of the standard oil company in 1883 spent winters in St. Augustine.  They found the city charming but saw the need for a luxury hotel that would attract wealthy people of high society but the transportation systems was inadequate.   Flagler had the idea to make St. Augustine a winter resort for wealthy Americans from the north and to bring them south.  He bought several short line railroads and combined them in 1885, to form the Florida East Coast Railway.  He built a railroad bridge over the St. Johns River in 1888, opening up the Atlantic coast of Florida to development.

Flagler_College,_Ponce_de_Leon_Hotel,_St._Augustine_FL,_South_courtyard_view_20160707_1Flagler began construction in 1887 of two large ornate hotels, the 540 room Ponce de Leon and the Hotel Alcazar.  He bought the Casa Monica Hotel across the street the next year.

The hotel Ponce de Leon was designed in the Spanish Renaissance style by New York architects John Carrere and Thomas Hastings fresh out of school.  The hotel was the first of its kind constructed entirely of poured concrete using the local conquina stone as aggregate.  The hotel was wired for electricity at the onset with power being supplied by D.C. generators supplied by Flagler’s friend Thomas Edison.  This was the first hotel built with both electricity and running water in every hotel room. Originally the twin towers of the hotel were water storage tanks that contained 8,000 gallons each, providing running water for hotel guests. Flagler wanted the hotel built-in 18 months so he hired 300 to 400 men.  He had three shifts working seven days a week and two cement mixers, working 24 hours a day.  Flagler had to fill in a creek to make way for the hotel Ponce de Leon.  Interior elements of the hotel are credited to Louis Comfort Tiffany, for the 76 stained glass windows and George W. Maynard for the murals in the rotunda and dining room. The first picture below is the rotunda to the hotel and this picture doesn’t show its real beauty.  Can you imagine walking into this hotel and spending three months here?

It took 50 men working three sifts to lay the tile in the Rotunda of the hotel. There are some flaws in the tile work.  Sometimes you will see only three black tiles with one missing of the four. The story is Flagler believe that everything is not always perfect and it was deliberately done.

Your stay at the Ponce de Leon was seasonal from Christmas to Easter, at a cost of $4,000 which to-day would be about two hundred thousand.  If a guest had a complaint Flagler would fix the problem.

Women were not allowed to be with their husband when they paid for their room. Rumor has it if a woman saw that much money they would either pass out or go blind. The women were escorted into the parlor room where they waited for their husbands.  I don’t think waiting in this beautiful room was difficult.

While constructed originally as a hotel the Ponce de Leon has been used in many other way with Coast Guard training during World War II, a social center, and then in 1968 it became Flagler College. Which today has 2,700 students with 29 majors and 34 minors with the largest majors being business.  Our tour guide was a student and she informed us the hotel rooms are now dorm rooms with each room being a different size and they each have non working fire-place.  The college started out all girls 1968 and reorganized as coeducational in 1971.  Now who would not want to go to school in such a beautiful historical place.  I was told no men not even your father were ever allowed in your dorm room and it still holds true today.

Flagler marketed his hotel as healthy so he built the hotel Alcazar as an extension for the Ponce de Leon so guest could rejuvenate themselves.  The hotel had a steam room, turkish bath, massage parlor, sulfur baths, gymnasium, a three-story ballroom, and the worlds largest indoor swimming pool.  After years as an elegant winter resort for wealthy patrons the hotel closed in 1932.

Then in 1947 Otto C. Lightner purchased the Alcazar hotel to house his extensive collection of Victorian Era piece.  Two years later Mr Lightner became ill and turned the building over to the city of St. Augustine.  They have now turned the hotel Alcazar Hotel into the Lightner museum displaying Lightner’s fine collection.  We went through the three floors of his museum.  What a beautiful collection he had.  We saw mechanical musical instruments, Tiffany stained glass, crystal, and charming victoria shop windows displaying a variety of daily life yesteryear. The building its self was beautiful with so much detail.

The swimming pool is now a restaurant.  After you have lunch at Cafe Alcazar, you can tell your friends you ate in the largest indoor swimming pool of its time. Our tour guide told us the swimming pool did have water in it when hurricane Mathew came through.

Henry Flagler worshiped with the Presbyterian congregation in St. Augustine during his stays in the city.  Flagler approached the trustees and offered to build them a new sanctuary and Manse.  The church was built-in 1889 and dedicated in honor of his daughter Jennie Louise Benedict, who died following complication from childbirth at sea the same year (hence the word Memorial).  Herman A. Schladermundt a German artist designed the 92 stained glass windows in the church.  The Memorial Presbyterian Church not only stands as a memorial to Flagler’s  daughter but as a monument to his own faith and vision. Upon Flagler’s death in 1913, he was interred in a marble mausoleum within the church beside his daughter Jennie and her infant Marjorie (buried in her arms) as well as his first wife Mary Harkness Flagler.  There are however four Tombs one is empty, this was for his third wife Mary Lily Kenan.  She was to be buried in the mausoleum providing she didn’t remarry.

The Gonzalez-Alvarez is known as the oldest surviving Spanish Colonial dwelling in Florida dating back to 16th century.   The two-story coquina stone (a sediment formed by ancient seashells) house built-in the years after the English burned the city in 1702.  The first floor had hand-hewn cedar beams and early Spanish colonial elements such as the house’s orientation to take advantage of winds and tabby floors. The house was sold to Major Joseph Peavelt in 1775 during the British colonial period.  He built the second floor with a framed in porch and glass windows.  So the Spanish built the first floor and British built the second floor.  The oldest house opened as a museum in 1893. The house is furnished to represent its different periods.  A small kitchen is in the back separate form the house.

The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse is touted as being the oldest wooden school building in the United States.  The exact date of construction is unknown, but it first appears on tax records in 1716.  There are no extant wooden buildings in St. Augustine built prior to 1702, when the British burned the city.  The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse is encircled by a large chain placed there in 1937, to help anchor it to the ground in case of a hurricane. The walls are made of bald cypress and red cedar, which are held together by wooden pins and iron pikes.  The schoolmaster and family lived on the second floor above the classroom and the kitchen was located in a separate building, to reduce the heat and threat of fire. The building originally belonged to Juan Genoply.  The classroom was shared by boys and girls.

The Old Jail (also know as authentic Old Jail) was built-in 1891 by P.J. Pauley from St. Louis and financed by Henry Flagler.  He wanted it built to resemble a fine hotel.   The jail was built to house up to 72 prisoners, it had a maximum security area with a death row cell for those condemned to die, general population, women’s section, and a lower level kitchen.  A total of 8 men were hung from the gallows on the jail compound during its history.  The second story of the jail consists of an office for the sheriff and living quarters for his family.  The old jail housed prisoners for over 60 years and served as the St Johns County Jail until 1953.  The jail was moved and sold to Henry “slim” McDaniel.

The authentic Old Drugstore takes you back to the early days when St. Augustine was but a  Spanish hamlet.  It was built by Antonio Gomass in 1739 as a place of revelry within the jurisdiction of the city for protection, but away from the actual settlement.  They sold liquor, tobacco, medicine, and Indian remedies.

We didn’t stop and tour the Ripley’s Believe it or not just drove by in the trolley.  The museum is the original Ripley’s opening in 1950 just a few months after Robert Ripley’s death.  They have a full statue of David on the ground of Ripley’s Believe it or not.  The hedges have now grown tall enough to cover most of the statue.  You can walk between the hedges and see the full statue.

St. Augustine Distillery is a locally owned and operated artisanal spirits distillery in Historic St. Augustine.  Located within a beautiful restored ice plant from the turn of the century.  We toured the distillery and then got to tasted the Rum, Gin, Vodka, and Bourbon they produced.  We were told that they lose 18% of the product due to leakage as you will notice in the picture.  The tour guide said the angles have to drink.  Above the distillery is the Ice Plant a vintage inspired bar and restaurant.

Villa Zorayda (also know as the Zorayda Castle) was built-in 1883 by the eccentric Boston millionaire Franklin W. Smith, as his winter home.  His home was the first residence built-in the Moorish Revival style in Florida, and the first poured concrete building in St. Augustine.  Smith’s concrete mix, which used crushed coquina shells as an aggregate and his method of pouring it in successive levels was adopted by Henry Flagler.

Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is a privately owned park in St. Augustine located along Hospital Creek part of the ICW.  We rode through on the trolley but didn’t stop and actually tour it.  It has been touted as the likely 1513 Florida landing site of Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon.  The park contains an artesian well claimed to be the freshwater source referred to by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas.  Archaeological excavation made by Dr. Kathleen Deagan on the parks grounds in the 1990 uncovered remains of the first Spanish settlement and its fortification in St. Augustine.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine the seat of the Catholic Bishop of St. Augustine was constructed over five years between 1793-1797. Originally established in 1565 and rebuilt after two fires in the 18th century.  It’s the oldest church in Florida.  The Roman Catholic Church was integral to the Spanish monarchy and to Spain’s history.  In fact, from the mid 1500 to the mid 1600, the kingdom was in the midst of a Catholic Revival in opposition to the Protestant Reformation.  The first two churches were constructed out of wood and burned down replacing it with the third church in 1797 made from coquina and cement.  Then in 1887 fire had plagued the cathedral again but the damaged was not total and the exterior shell of the of building were still salvageable.  Reconstruction was started because of  donations from Henry Flagler and the congregation.  The Cathedral has an exposed bell tower in the front this is a well-known symbol of the Spanish mission.  The cathedrals eclectic facades is a combination of Spanish mission and Neoclassical styles. Spanish mission features include curving bell gables, limited fenestration, clay roof tiles, and comparatively unadorned walls.  We were able to tour the cathedral.  When you stepped inside you looked around in ah.  The beautiful stain glass windows showing the life of St. Augustine.  The  walls are adorned with exquisite murals that depict scenes from the history of the Catholic Church in the development of the New world. The exposed ceiling with decorated varnished chords.

We found several very unique bars,  Ann O Malley’s is a snug Irish pub.  The Scarlet O’Hara’s has been in business for over 40 years. It has a southern atmosphere worthy of Scarlet O’Hare with a ghost bar upstairs.  The food was very good and reasonable priced.  Taberna del Gallo the old-time tavern is light with just candles and lanterns inside and on the patio just like it was when constructed in 1736. The Taberna del Caballo is actually two structures built atop the historic foundation of the de Hita house and the Gonzalez.  Both homes once belonged to cavalrymen and their families.  In 1764 they became the property of the British.

We had lunch on Sunday at MOJO BBQ with Liz&Johnny and Liz’s brother Al and his wife Yvonne who were visiting from Orlando Florida.

The best part of staying in St. Augustine for a week Johnny and Liz (Anchor Down) caught up to us and we will be traveling together again.  We had not seen them since Dog River Marina, Mobile Alabama the first part of November.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog about St. Augustine. This is just a small portion of what there is to see.  I loved the history (no shopping) and will put this on the top of the list of beautiful places we have seen with more to come.

Leave a Reply