Old Town, St. Augustine

December 17,2021 we left our Vero Beach SOWER project and after a brief stop in Crescent City visiting with some friends, we pulled into the R V park in the oldest continually occupied city and port established by Europeans in the continental United States.

We spent four days touring this beautiful old city; this old city located on the Atlantic coast of Northeast Florida. A city founded September 1565 by Spanish Admiral Pedro Menedez de Aviles. This man was Florida’s first governor and the one who named the city. It was August 28,1565 when he first sighted this Florida land while bringing settlers, supplies, and troops to this new land. This day happened to be the feast day of Saint Augustine. So the Spanish admiral named the city San Augustin.

For over 200 years, it was the capital city of Spanish Florida. In 1763 it was designated as the capital city of British East Florida. In 1783 Great Britain returned Florida to Spain. In 1819 Spain ceded Florida to the United States and Saint Augustine was designated the capital of the Florida Territory. Florida became a state on March 3, 1845, but Tallahassee became the capital of American Florida in 1824 because it was the midway point between the two principal cities which I believe was Saint Augustine and Pensacola.

We were able to meet up with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandson that live in Florida at the Sun Outdoor R V park right in St. Augustine.

Entrance to Sun Outdoors R V park St. Augustine https://www.sunoutdoors.com/florida/sun-outdoors-st-augustine

We spent 4 days in Old Town, Saint Augustine during the 28th year of their “Night of Lights”. The National Geographic Traveler says the Night of Lights is well known as one of the ” 10 Best Holiday Lighting Displays in the World”. Old Town displays over 3 million lights in their 20 blocks historic area.

The Old Town Trolley runs through the Historic District with 22 hop-on hop-off stops. https://www.trolleytours.com/st-augustine?ref=VisitStAugustine.com&type=list&phta=augustine

We didn’t do everything there but we hit many interesting sites and ate at a couple good eating places. One of them was called Pizza Time.

Pizza Time is located on the narrow, historic, pedestrian-only Saint George Street. Right outside the restaurant is the sign that says this is the Second Best Pizza Place in the Nation. That’s according to Trip Advisor. It was a great restaurant, good Pizza with good service. Nowhere could we find anything that said where to find the Best Pizza Place in the Nation.

The Pedestrian Only Saint George Street ( Rainy Day)

We also ate at a cool Mexican Restaurant in St. Augustine, but outside the historic area called Cantina Louie’s. It, also, was very good.

And, we can’t forget the World’s Best Oasis restaurant on Anastasia Island.

We really did do more than eat! The main thing people think of when you say Saint Augustine is the Fountain of Youth. The archaeological park where the Fountain of Youth sits is 15 acres. Besides the Fountain of Youth exhibit, there’s a settlement to explore and hear about the native Timucuans who were there to greet the Spanish Explorers and Juan Ponce de Leon when they arrived in the early 1500s. According to the guide stationed at the Fountain of Youth, Ponde de Leon, like many others came looking for spices and treasures, not for the Fountain of Youth. She also pointed out, it was the natives that pointed him to the little spring of fresh water that was bubbling up from the ground while he was trying to find freshwater to drink since they couldn’t drink the ocean salt of inlet brackish water. That was all the water that surrounded them.

There was also a planetarium on-site with a narrative explaining how the early explorers used the night sky for navigation. And there was a military recreation with a canon being fired.

Beautiful Peacocks were roaming the grounds everywhere.

While touring the Pirate Museum we learned that since the Gulf Stream flows parallel from the Florida Keys up the east coast of Florida, it makes a good route for Spanish supply ships to travel. And, they made stops in Saint Augustine. After storms or rough seas, many ships were lost or beached and became easy picking for pirates for goods and “new recruits – willing or unwilling”. Many pirates frequented this area of Florida. The Pirate Museum displayed several artifacts and told the history of some of the more frequent pirates in the area. Some of the more frequent visitors were the Englishman Robert Searles, Henry Jennings from Jamaica, Sir Frances Drake from England, Anne Bonny ( who dressed like a man, since women weren’t allowed to be pirates), Black Bart, Edward Teach aka Blackbeard and many, many more.

These pirates were nothing like Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean. They were brutal. They killed many people. They kidnapped many people and once they burned down most of Saint Augustine.

Oddly enough, they had a Code of Conduct for the Pirate crews to keep things fair. Below is a picture of the Code, but just a few of the rules were these:

I –Every man shall have an equal vote in the affairs of the moment. He shall have an equal title to the fresh provisions or strong liquors at any time seized.

II – Every man shall be called fairly in turn by the list on board of prizes. But, if they defraud the company to the value of even one dollar, they shall be marooned. If any man rob another, he shall have his nose and ears slit and be put ashore where he shall be sure to encounter hardships.

III- None shall game for money either with dice or cards

IV-The lights and candles shall be put out at eight at night and if any of the crew desire to drink after that hour they shall sit upon the open deck without lights.

Pirate Code

A gruesome place we visited was the old Jail. The sheriff in town was a very sadistic man and very few prisoners made it out of there alive. The sheriff made a fine living hiring out prisoners to work long hard hours. Many times they would spend days or weeks in the outside “transport jail” if the job wasn’t completed.

Aside from being totally outside, there was very little difference from being in the jailhouse. The jailhouse had bars on the windows but nothing to stop the wind, rain, cold, or heat from coming in. Prisoners were given very little clean food, water, or any medical treatment. The jail opened in 1891 and was closed permanently in 1953 after a 19-year-old man died after being imprisoned for a very short time.

One of the last places we visited was the Old Fort – Castillo de San Marcos. Between the years of 1672 and 1695, the Spanish built the fort to protect them from the British. It was a pretty interesting tour of the fort. There was a drawbridge over the dry moat that housed all the farm animals and gardens. The walls were 14 inches thick and the material used to construct them was Coquina Stone.

The Coquina stone is formed from decaying organisms, seashells, and limestone found on the ocean floor. It actually gives a little when hit by a cannonball causing them to bounce off the wall instead of penetrating the wall. The Spanish built the fort from 1672 to 1695 to protect them from the British. In 1763, the British took over the fort and changed the name to Fort Saint Mark. In 1825 the United States took control of the fort and named it Fort Marion . From 1861 to 1862 the Confederate Forces occupied the fort. From 1942 to 1945 the U S Coast Guard used if for a training base. Presently, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is the site of the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States.

All of these attractions have an admission fee, and it costs to ride the trolley, so before you visit the city, you may want to check with Visitor Center https://www.visitstaugustine.com/thing-to-do/visitor-information-center about prices, discount tickets, lodging, etc. so that you can plan ahead for a successful, enjoyable visit. We would recommend visiting this city for the entire family.

Next, we’ll tell you about our SOWER project at Whispering Pines Baptist Camp in Citronelle, Alabama

Until then…