The New International Encyclopædia/Saint Augustine

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

SAINT AUGUSTINE, a̤′gŭs-tēn. A city and the county-seat of Saint John County, Fla., 32 miles south by east of Jacksonville; on Matanzas Bay, and on the Florida East Coast Railroad (Map: Florida, G 2). The oldest city in the United States. Saint Augustine is especially attractive with its narrow streets, picturesque old houses, and interesting remains. The vicinity is one of remarkable beauty owing to its semi-tropical vegetation. In the northern part of the city are ruins of the old wall erected by the early settlers as a protection against Indian incursions. Here, too, is the ancient fort of San Marco (now Fort Marion), begun about 1656 and finished a century later. It covers four acres. From this point southward extends the sea wall, constructed by the Federal Government—a popular promenade. An old Spanish convent occupied the present site of Saint Francis barracks at the southern extremity of the wall, its ruins having been utilized in the building of the modern structure. Near the barracks is the Alicia Hospital. The old Governor's palace, on the Plaza de la Constitución, in the central part of the city, has been rebuilt and now serves as a United States custom house and post-office. The cathedral dates from 1793. Other features are the municipal buildings, the Public Library, State Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, the Museum of the Institute of Natural Science, and Saint Joseph's Academy. Saint Augustine is of some importance as the centre of large fruit-growing interests, but is best known as a winter and health resort, being noted for its mild uniform climate. The mean annual temperature is 70° and the winter average 53°. There are several large hotels, among which is the Ponce de Leon, erected at a cost of $3,000,000. Across the bay from Saint Augustine is Anastasia Island, with a lighthouse and quarries of coquina, a shelly formation which has been used since the Spanish régime for building and paving purposes throughout the city. The government is vested in a mayor, chosen biennially, and a council. The water-works are owned and operated by the municipality. Population, in 1890, 4742; in 1900, 4272.

In 1513 Ponce de Leon, in search of the ‘Fountain of Youth,’ seems to have visited the site of Saint Augustine. Half a century later, in 1564, a company of French Huguenots passed here and settled a few miles to the north, on the Saint John's River. Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, sent by Philip II. of Spain to expel the intruders, stopped here, August 28, 1565, Saint Augustine's Day, and erected a fort. After butchering the French (September 20th) at the Saint Johns he returned and established a settlement—the earliest within the present limits of the United States. Saint Augustine was burned by Sir Francis Drake in 1586 and sacked by the piratical Captain Davis in 1665. Throughout its early history ill feeling between the Spaniards and the English colonists to the north was chronic. In 1681 a force from Saint Augustine attacked the English settlements at Port Royal. Governor Moore of South Carolina made unsuccessful attacks on Saint Augustine in 1702 and 1704, burning the greater part of the town on the former occasion; and in 1743 General Oglethorpe, having been ordered away from Georgia by the Spanish, marched to Saint Augustine and besieged it unsuccessfully for thirty-eight days. In 1763 it passed with the rest of Florida into English hands and was used as a military station during the Revolution; but it became Spanish again in 1783. In 1821 it was transferred to the United States, in pursuance of the treaty of 1819. During the Civil War it was twice captured by Union armies. Consult: Fairbanks, The History and Antiquities of Saint Augustine (New York, 1858); id., The Spaniards in Florida (Jacksonville, 1868); Reynolds, Old Saint Augustine (Saint Augustine, 1885); and a sketch in Powell, Historic Towns of the Southern States (New York, 1900).