On Sept, 8 1565 a party of Spanish explorers led by Don Pedro Menedez de Aviles landed on an inlet and started a settlement. As Sept 8th is the saints day for St. Augustine, that is what they called their new town. Today St; Augustine Florida is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the Americas. During that time St. Augustine has been part of Spain, England, The United States and the Confederate States of America.
The center of the city today is The Plaza de la ConstituciÓn. Created in 1573, The plaza was the heart of the original settlement flanked on the west side by The Government House (built 1713)- home to Spanish colonial government and on the north side by the Cathedral Basilica de St. Augustine (built 1797).
Entrance of The Government House
Stretching from Plaza de la ConstituciÓn to the Old City Gates is St. George's Street. This pedestrian mall is the center of the old city. Along it are some of the oldest houses in St. Augustine. Now While the settlement dates to 1565, the houses do not. The English objected to Spain's presence in the America's and sent pirates to attack St. Augustine, and attack they did. Before the Spanish built Castille de San Marcos, British forces invaded St. Augustine several times, burning it to the ground.
Most of the houses along St George's Street date to the mid 1700's. Today they have been converted into stores and restaurants. The shops range from touristy to high end and the restaurants from pizza to fine dining.
What they have in common is that they are very fine examples of Spanish style architecture. They have main houses with courtyards. Kitchens were usually separate buildings to keep the heat and smoke away from the main building. Here are some of them:
There are also two historical recreations along St, George's Street. One is the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in the United States. Built in the early 1700's it became a school when it's owner married and converted it. It was also the first co-ed school, taking in girls in 1788.
Entry to the Schoolhouse is $4.95 for adults and $3.95 for children.
Nearby is the Colonial Quarter. This recreation presents a tour through history. It is divided in sections representing the significant chapters in St. Augustine History - 16th century, 17th, century, 18th century Spanish and 18th century British. Each section of the grounds has examples of buildings, businesses and social life. I strongly suggest taking the tour, my guide had a wonderful sense of humor and a trove of information.
Tickets for the Colonial Quarter are $12.99 for adults and $6.99 for children. However I bought a combination ticket for the Colonial Quarter and The Castille de San Marcos at the San Augustine Visitors Cents for $19.99.
There is a lot to do and see in the Old City of St. Augustine. You can spend several days just exploring this part of town.