1565 to 2015: St. Augustine, Florida, America’s Oldest City, celebrates its’ 450th Birthday this September.
The city of St. Augustine was founded by the Spanish in 1565 (I know this date because my son saw it written on a manhole cover near St. George Street). No, seriously (though true story about the manhole cover), every Florida 4th grader has to study Florida history, and the lucky ones get field trips to St. Augustine at the end of their school year. So we’ve been through the St. Augustine history a few times in our household. St. Augustine IS history: from the original Timucuan Indians to Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon and city founder Pedro Menendez Aviles. Blood thirsty pirates like Robert Searle and Sir Francis Drake. The first free community of ex-slaves at Fort Mose. And innovators like railroad magnate Henry Flagler. St. Augustine is founded on diverse cultures: Indian, Spanish, African American and British Colonial. Then throw a pot full of ghosts into the mix: dead soldiers, yellow fever victims and other casualties of their time and you have a colorful, storied city, throbbing with life, past and present.
We found ourselves on a whirlwind trip through the nation’s oldest city. St. Augustine has always been one of our family favorite getaways, with the history, artsy shops and nearby beach, it’s a winner for everyone. This past week found us wandering through the galleries and shops on St. George Street. We were waiting for the afternoon storm to retreat so that we could return to the beach on Anastasia Island, and the Old City seemed like the good place to pass the time.
We went into a St. George Street shop specializing in Spanish Pottery. Beautiful hand decorated tiles and bowls that would have easily been at home in a museum, or a country manor house in Spain. My son happened to see a sign in the shop and said aloud to no one in particular: “450 years is pretty old.”
The shop keeper popped her head up from behind the counter. “Yes it is. St. Augustine is celebrating it’s 450th birthday in September.”
“That’s a lot of candles,” I added.
“There IS a cake!” She said.
Wow. That is going to be one BIG cake!
I was wondering why all of the buildings around St. George Street appeared to have undergone a facelift. I had been coming to this town for years, and it never looked prettier- newly painted buildings, clean shutters, bright banners hanging from the verandas and flowers smiling from their window boxes. St. Augustine’s Old City had gotten gussied up for its’ upcoming birthday party like a debutante for her coming out ball! And guess what, everyone is invited to her bash!
The 450th birthday celebrations begin September 4th with live music, kid activities, scheduled speakers and other events and on the 5th, there will be fireworks over Matanzas Bay. September the 7th is when the city officials roll out the birthday cake. They are handing out cake to the public afterwards. Okay folks, who is up for a Birthday Bash? Head on over to the Old City this September to celebrate 450 years of incredible history!
I just wonder who has to light all 450 of those candles!
A list of event venues and times can be found at the St. Augustine 450th Celebration website https://staugustine-450.com/celebrate450/
More Stories in this area that may interest you:
A Time Traveler’s Life (Please note this was written about the original Colonial Quarter which has since under gone extensive renovations.)