Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller; librarian; and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.
St Augustine is an old city in the northeast of Florida with a fascinating and unique place in US history. It is also a popular destination for tourists and day trippers.
20 St Augustine Facts
- The City was Founded by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565
- It's the Oldest Continuously Occupied City and Port Established by Europeans in the Continental United States
- The City's Population was 15,065 in 2020
- It's the County Seat of St. Johns County
- It has the Narrowest Street in the United States
- Henry Flagler Made it into a Modern Tourist Destination
- It has Only Been Directly hit by a Hurricane Once in Modern Times
- It's Home to the World’s Oldest Ripley's Believe It or Not!
- The City is Home to the Oldest Masonry Fort in North America
- The City’s Fort has had Three Different Names
- The Fort has Changed Possession Six Times But Never Been Taken by Force
- St Augustine has the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse
- The St Augustine Light Tower is Rumored to be Haunted
- The City has been nicknamed: ‘Ancient City’ and ‘Old City’
- It has the Oldest Wax Museum in the USA
- The Cathedral Basilica Parish Dates Back to 1565
- The City's Historic Old Jail Served as the St. John’s County Jail until 1953
- The St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park Houses Every Species of Alligator, Crocodile, Caiman, and Gharial
- The Northeast Florida Regional Airport was Known as St Augustine Airport Until 2010
- It's Claimed That The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park Occupies the Vicinity Where Juan Ponce de Leon First Landed in Florida in 1513
I will go into detail with each of the twenty facts below.
1. The City was Founded by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was an explorer and admiral, born in the Asturias region of Spain. He became the first governor of Florida in 1565 and remained in office until his death in 1574 from typhus.
2. It's the Oldest Continuously-Inhabited Settlement Established by Europeans in the Continental United States
The first Spanish settlement successfully established in Florida, it was also the most important city in the region for almost three centuries. The location of the settlement was chosen by the Spanish because it was easy to defend and there was an easily accessible source of fresh water.
3. The City's Population was 15,065 in 2020
The population of St Augustine dropped after Hurricane Dora hit in 1964, but has been growing steadily since the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Beaches Close to Downtown St. Augustine
High Quality beaches near to the city include:
St. Augustine Beach
North (Usina) Beach
South Ponte Vedra Beach
4. It's the County Seat of St. Johns County
Historically, the city was the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years. It was also the capital of East Florida under the British. When it was eventually ceded to the US, it was briefly the capital of the Florida Territory before Tallahassee.
5. It has the Narrowest Street in the United States
The street is called Treasury Street and it is just 7 feet wide. The street connects the Royal Spanish Treasury to the area where the ships dock on the bay and it was deliberately made to be narrow, so that thieves would find it difficult to remove and escape with chests of gold from the treasury.
6. Henry Flagler Made St Augustine into a Modern Tourist Destination
Following a long period of neglect, the historic city’s modern renaissance began in the 1880’s when the railroad tycoon, Henry Flagler built a number of decadent hotels and promoted St Augustine as a winter resort for the northern elite. He also went on to build schools, churches, and a hospital in the city.
7. It has Only Been Directly Hit by a Hurricane Once in Modern Times
St Augustine has only suffered one direct hit by a hurricane in modern times, that was when Hurricane Dora struck in 1964. In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused widespread flooding in downtown St. Augustine when it passed by.
8. It's Home to the World’s Oldest Ripley's Believe It or Not!
The city’s odditorium opened in 1950, the year after Robert Ripley’s death, and can be found in the Castle Warden. The building was once a hotel and is rumored to be haunted. It houses numerous strange and interesting artifacts including the death mask of Abraham Lincoln.
Read More from WanderWisdom
9. The City is Home to the Oldest Masonry Fort in North America
9. St. Augustine is home to the Castillo de San Marcos, which is the oldest masonry fort in North America. The fort is also the only one from the 17th century in the continental US that is still standing. Visiting the fort is one of the most interesting things to do in St Augustine, Florida, if you ever visit the city.
10. The City’s Fort has had Three Different Names
The fort was originally named the Castillo de San Marcos, by the Spanish who built it. It was renamed Fort St. Mark, by the British when they took over. In 1821, when Florida became a U.S. territory, the fort was renamed once again, this time becoming Fort Marion. The fort’s original name was restored by Congress in 1942.
11. The Fort has Changed Possession Six Times But Never Been Taken by Force
Despite being attacked many times, and besieged twice, the Castillo de San Marcos has never been conquered. Control of the fort has switched peacefully between the Spanish, British, and the US. During the American Civil War, it was controlled by the Confederacy.
12. St Augustine has the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse
The historic building is claimed to be the oldest wooden school building in the USA. It is not known exactly when it was built, but the building appears on tax records in 1716.
13. The St Augustine Light Tower is Rumored to be Haunted
The St Augustine Light tower was built in 1874, after the previous lighthouse became threatened by beach erosion. The lighthouse now houses a not-for-profit maritime museum. According to legend, the location is haunted and there are numerous ghost stories connected with the lighthouse.
14. The City has been nicknamed ‘Ancient City’ and ‘Old City’
The original Spanish settlement was at a Native American village called Seloy. The confederation of tribes who lived in Central Florida and Southwest Georgia at the time are known today as the Timucu.
15. It has the Oldest Wax Museum in the USA
Potter's Wax Museum was opened in 1948 by George Potter, who was inspired to create his own wax museum by a trip to London as a child. It houses more than 150 wax sculptures of famous politicians and people from history, as well as modern movie stars, entertainers and other celebrities.
16. The Cathedral Basilica Parish Dates Back to 1565
The Cathedral Basilica Parish of St Augustine was constructed over a 5 year period between 1793 and 1797, but the Cathedral Parish dates back to the founding of the city, when Spanish settlers celebrated a Mass upon coming ashore. The cathedral was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1970.
17. The City's Historic Old Jail Served as the St. John’s County Jail until 1953
Built by Henry Flagler in 1891, the jail housed prisoners for over sixty years. Nowadays, the historic building can be toured by visitors.
18. The St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park Houses Every Species of Alligator, Crocodile, Caiman, and Gharial
The St Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park opened in 1893 and is one of Florida’s oldest tourist attractions. As well as housing every species of alligator, crocodile, caiman, and gharial, the zoo also has exotic birds and monkeys.
19. The Northeast Florida Regional Airport was Known as St Augustine Airport Until 2010
The airport, which began life in 1933 and was known as St Augustine Airport until fairly recently. It is owned by the St. Augustine – St. Johns County Airport Authority.
20. It's Claimed That The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park Occupies the Vicinity Where Juan Ponce de Leon First Landed in Florida in 1513
Unfortunately, there is no solid evidence to back up this claim. However, there is plenty of archaeological evidence that the first Spanish St. Augustine settlement was at the site of the modern-day park.
Notable Residents of St Augustine
Tom Petty, rock musician.
Frederick Delius, composer.
Ray Charles, pianist and singer.
Richard Boone, actor.
Cris Carpenter, major league baseball player.
Sinclair Lewis, novelist.
William W. Loring, Confederate general.
Louise Homer, opera singer.
Brandon James, professional football player.
Johnny Mize, Hall of Fame baseball player.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: How was St. Augustine, Florida protected from hostile forces?
Answer: Historically, the Castillo de San Marcos protected St. Augustine from attack by hostile forces. The Castillo is a masonry fort built in the 17th Century by the Spanish (although some further construction would happen later). The fort overlooks the Matanzas Bay and is the oldest structure in St. Augustine.
© 2012 Paul Goodman