A Spanish Expedition Established St. Augustine in Florida
September 8, 1565
you know that the oldest continually occupied city in the
United States is in the state of Florida? On September 8,
1565, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés landed on the shore of what is
now called Matanzas Bay and began the founding of the Presidio
of San Agustin. Later the settlement would be called St.
Augustine, Florida. Built on the site of an ancient American
Indian village, and near the place where Ponce de Leon, the
European discoverer of Florida, landed in 1513 in search of
the legendary Fountain of Youth, it has been continually
inhabited since its founding.
Menéndez de Avilés named San Agustin for St. Augustine, bishop
of Hippo, Algeria, upon whose feast day he had sighted the
coast. The city was to serve important functions for the
Spanish Empire, defending the primary trade route to Europe
along the Atlantic Ocean's main west to east current, called
the Gulf Stream. As the territorial capital, St. Augustine
would also defend the Spanish-claimed land against invasion.
In 1672, the Queen ordered a stronger fort be built to replace
a wooden fort, which had proved vulnerable to pirate attack.
This new one, made of shell stone, consisting of walls 30 feet
high and 12 feet thick, and surrounded by a moat, was made to
last. And last it did.
St. Augustine was ruled by the Spanish for 256 years and the
British for 20. The United States acquired the old Castillo in
1821, and renamed it Fort Marion in 1825. The fort has had a
colorful history. It was plundered by sea raider Sir Francis
Drake, provided a refuge for Loyalists to the British king
during the American Revolution, was used as a prison during
the Indian wars, and was a battle site in the American Civil
Recognizing the amazing history of the grim, massive fort,
once a symbol of Spanish power, and the oldest standing fort
in the continental United States, the U.S. government made it
a National Park in 1933. Its original name was restored in
1942. Today, the city of St. Augustine, Florida, and the
Castillo de San Marcos provide a glimpse at the panorama of
450 years of exploration, settlement, and war in North