St. Augustine, Florida celebrated like no other town in America due to a birthday dating back to September 8th, 1565. The day that Pedro Menendez de Aviles stepped from his wooden boat onto the shore and claimed the land for Spain marks the beginning of a 450 year history for the oldest continuously-occupied European settlement in the United States of America – Saint Augustine. The City actually has been celebrating throughout the year and won’t stop celebrating till long after the week-long party in September has ended. There is just way too much to celebrate about Saint Augustine surviving and thriving for 450 years!
It hasn’t always been easy for this historical town in Northeast Florida, as it has been fought over and traded several times throughout history. In 1586 Francis Drake burned the wooden fort to the ground, but St. Augustine survived and built a new fort, The Castillo de San Marcos, made of coquina which still stands today and hosts tours for many of the 2 million visitors that come to Saint Augustine annually. In 1763 St. Augustine became an English community as it was traded to England for Cuba. However, Spain regained control of Saint Augustine in 1784 and finally in 1821 our city officially became a United States Territory.
The Saint Augustine’s Golden Era came after a visit by Henry Flagler, a partner of John D. Rockefeller in the Standard Oil Company. Mr. Flagler created a winter resort for wealthy Americans within the city limits of St. Augustine building the grand Hotel Ponce de Leon, which later was transformed into the present home of Flagler College. Henry Flagler left more than just this one mark on St. Augustine, he also built the recently restored Casa Monica Hotel, along with several churches one of which includes a mausoleum holding his body as well as that of his wife, daughter and granddaughter.
St. Augustine continues to thrive in its 450th year! The city leaders and residents have been planning this birthday party for years and are overjoyed that the Celebrate 450th is finally here! Five fun-filled days of festivities are planned throughout the downtown area. The party includes live music with hundreds of acts scheduled at 5 different stages, cultural demonstrations, art shows, dancing, the El Galeon has returned to the city docks, re-enacting Pedro Menendez’s Founding of the city at the Fountain of Youth, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain will be visiting the city, the “running of the bulls (costumed bulls)” down Aviles street, the Fiesta de Aviles, and of course, the birthday proclamation and birthday cake!
This has been the best birthday St. Augustine has had thus far as we celebrate St. Augustine’s 450 years of history, culture and the people who made and continue to make this oldest city in the United States also one of the best cities in the United States! Take a guided segway tour of St. Augustine today!