St. Augustine bills itself as the oldest city in the United States. When we stopped here we parked at the Stagecoach RV Park just off Interstate 95.
The territory we now know as Florida was first claimed for Spain by Ponce de Leon in 1513. On September 8, 1565, St. Augustine was founded by Spanish admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles. In 1763, the Spanish gave up Florida to Great Britain following the Seven Years’ War, only to regain control in 1784. In the years following the American revolution, it became increasingly difficult for the Spanish to control the Florida colony so in 1819 they relinquished it to the United States.
In the late 1800’s, Florida began to emerge as a winter retreat for northern visitors. During this time, Henry Flagler and his second wife spent part of their honeymoon here. Flagler, who along with John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company, decided to develop St. Augustine into a winter resort for the northern rich. As it turns out, the northern rich ended up congregating in Palm Beach but Flagler built two luxury hotels in St. Augustine, the Ponce de Leon and the Alcazar. Flagler was also in the railroad business and he built the Florida East Coast Railroad which he eventually extended all the way to Key West.
Flagler’s Ponce de Leon hotel eventually became Flagler College. In 1968 it was founded as a women’s college then became co-ed 20 years later. The hotel’s dining room is still used as the school “cafeteria”. This beautiful room has perhaps the largest collection of Tiffany glass in the world.
On Anastasia Island we toured the St. Augustine Lighthouse. The lighthouse here was preceded by a series of wooden watchtowers. However, since they used fire to light the way, these wooden towers kept burning down. This lighthouse went into operation in 1874. It stands 165 feet above sea level and contains 219 steps inside to reach to top. The Fresnel lens consists of 370 hand-cut glass prisms arranged in a beehive shape standing 12 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter. During the 1980’s preservation groups were able to raise the funds needed to restore the lighthouse and the keeper’s house.
Since we were here on Veteran’s Day we were able to watch the parade held in St. Augustine.
Next stop: Brunswick, GA