Posts Tagged ‘St. Augustine’

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After you’ve crammed in as much sightseeing in St. Augustine proper that you can, cross the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island. If you’re up for it and it’s sunny, climb the lighthouse to get a spectacular view of the area. See the Alligator Farm, one of the oldest tourist attractions in the state. Anastasia State Park has some great beaches, and inland are a few of the abandoned quarries where the Spanish and others mined coquina, the most prominent building material in St. Augustine.

If you get there on Saturday morning, visit the St. Augustine Amphitheatre parking lot for the weekly farmers’ market. See the Amphitheatre itself, if you can. It was built in one of the old quarries. The way you see the Amphitheatre now is not how it’s always been. It was constructed in 1965 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine. Open air with a wooden stage, it was the home of Cross and Sword, the official state play. Sadly by the 1990s, the play was no longer performed there and the Amphitheatre soon fell into disuse. Without regular maintenance, it really suffered from the elements. In 2002, the county bought the property and closed it. Several years and two million dollars or so later, this is the result. It is pretty, but I kind of miss the old stage. Oh well, the ups and downs of progress. (see Google map)

There are three main roads out of St. Augustine, each with their own attractions. They are SR 207, US 1 and A1A. Let’s look at State Road 207 first.

This is the road I usually take, since it’s the most direct from the middle of Florida, where I’ve mostly lived the last 20 odd years. Whilst researching this post, I totally stumbled across something I knew about but didn’t know happened here.

When I first got the NRHP bug, I learned more about certain chunks of Florida history. Like the 1920s land boom and subsequent bust due to the stock market crash. Which is why you’ll find lots of Mediterranean Revival architecture around the state, as it was a popular style at that time. Another period was the Second Seminole War, which predated the Civil War. I’d see mentions of the Treaty of Moultrie Creek, but never looked into it further. When I was looking at Google Maps recently, though, I noticed a green spot southwest of St. Augustine off SR 207. It was called Treaty Park. That piqued my interest, and I rooted around some more. Lo and behold, it was where the Treaty of Moultrie Creek was signed! Next time I’m in the area, I must visit and take photos of the area and the historical markers in and near the park.

I can remember when SR 207 was mostly two-lane and 55 mph. But it got widened a few years back, with the lanes doubled and speed limit in the rural areas at 65 mph. The only real slow spot is Hastings, and it’s 45 mph. Just north of there is the old Sanchez Homestead. When I first visited, they must have been doing renovations on the entire property. There was no fence at all, so I could get some halfway decent zoom shots from the road. I’ve checked it out more recently, and there’s foliage and no trespassing signs all around, so you can’t see the buildings at all.

Hastings itself has two NRHPs, the old school and the community center. The school is in use and well maintained. The community center, on the other hand, is in ruins. Honestly, there’s not enough of it left worth saving. Further east you can find another surviving bit of the old brick Dixie Highway. It’s several miles long, but not very drivable unless you have a jeep, since there’s deep potholes all along the way. But you can still get a sense of what it was from the initial tenth of a mile or so.

Next road to look at is US 1. There’s Faver-Dykes, a wildernessy state park. Pay attention, though, since the turnoff is easy to miss. You can see the Florida Agricultural Museum, which among other things has some buildings from the Strawn Historic Agricultural District in De Leon Springs. And there’s Cherokee Grove/Princess Place Preserve, an Adirondack style house in a county-run preserve. Further down US 1 you’ll wind up in Bunnell, the Flagler County seat. I’ll get to that in a bit. (see Google map)

Last but far from least is A1A. I mentioned it at the beginning of this series of posts as being very scenical. Which you’ll see once you traverse it. The first few miles south of St. Augustine are built up, but that diminishes as you continue into the more residential stretch. The speed limit is 45 mph for a while, which lets you see some of the semi-palatial homes along the beach. On the west side, though, is mostly grass-covered sand dunes.

Soon you’ll come to the entrance to Florida’s other national monument, Fort Matanzas. You have to take a ferry from the park to get there, but it’s free. Space is limited, though, so I recommend getting there early. The visitor center is a NRHP, very WPA.

Only a few miles south you’ll enter Flagler County and pass Marineland. It’s an old tourist attraction that sank into the doldrums for a while, but has been revitalized. Then there’s a state park I’m really fond of, Washington Oaks Gardens. The gardens are on the west side of A1A, and you can see coquina outcroppings along the beach on the east side.

After that, most of the rest of the way is tree-shaded, with sporadic buildings along the way. In Palm Coast is Bings Landing, a county park that contains the remains of the old Mala Compra Plantation, which has been excavated and is on display.

Further on the trees over the road go away and the hotels and condos replace them. Welcome to Flagler Beach. It’s strange, though, because I kind of like it here. What helps is that all the development is on the west side of A1A, leaving the beach open and the ocean visible until you get to Ormond. There’s a casual feel that you don’t find in, say, Miami Beach.

Fair warning: Beware of biker festivals. There are two biggies, Bike Week in March, and Biketoberfest in October. Which you should be able to figure out when that is. It’s not the bikers, per se, as they’re usually good drivers. But when you get bike caravans, it can make traffic more complicated. Groups of twenty or more choppers are common from here down past Daytona Beach and west to the central counties. Actually, Bike Week is worse, since it partly coincides with the crazy of Spring Break.

If you take SR 100 west, you’ll get to Bunnell. But before that, there’s a bridge over a waterway where you can get a rather splendid view of Flagler Beach. Better seen if you’re coming from the west.

So, Bunnell. It has two NRHPs. One is an easy-to-find old bank building. The other is the Vocational Agriculture Building. It’s on a school campus, so unless you come when school’s in session, you can only see it through a fence. There are several AGFHA listings, though a couple are gone. Another place that could have a historic district. Drive around to look at the AGFHA buildings, do the walking tour, and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Vocational Agriculture Building (1001 East Howe Street) (NRHP)
  • George Moody House (1000 Moody Boulevard) (AGFHA)
  • Hendricks House (802 Moody Boulevard) (AGFHA)
  • Dr. W.H. Deen House (805 Moody Boulevard) (AGFHA)
  • Holden House (across from courthouse) (204 East Moody Street) (AGFHA)
  • Flagler County Courthouse (205 East Moody Street)
  • George Moody House (105 East Lambert Street) (AGFHA)
  • Cochran House (202 North Railroad) (AGFHA)
  • Lambert House (200 North Railroad) (AGFHA)
  • Moody Residence (102 North Railroad) (AGFHA)
  • Old Bunnell State Bank Building (101-107 North Bay Street) (NRHP)
  • Tribune building (106 South Bay Street) (AGFHA)

Back on A1A, and before you leave Flagler County, you’ll go through Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area. It’s another state park that straddles A1A. Not as pretty as Washington Oak Gardens, but it looks to be more popular. I think in part because it’s easier to get to it. (see Google map)

Next up, Volusia County. See you on the road!

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The deeper into the heart of St. Augustine you get, the harder it is to find parking. Which is why the trolley tours (Ripley’s and Old Town) are so great. If you’re there only for a day, as I often am, just park as close to downtown as you can and be prepared for lots of walking. Which you should be anyway, but then St. Augustine is a very walkable city. The newer parking garage behind the visitor’s center is another option, especially in the summer since your car will be out of the sun. If you wind up visiting semi-regularly, you might want to get their ParkNow card. More info about parking possibilities here.

The last time I was in town (April, for the Taste of St. Augustine), I parked at the Nombre de Dios Church lot and spent the next two hours walking. No charge, but I’d recommend making a donation in the box at the bridge that leads to the Nombre de Dios site. You can’t miss it, just look for the 200 foot tall metal cross. It’s the estimated site of the first Spanish landing/settlement.

You’re betwixt two historic districts also, North City Historic District and Abbott Tract Historic District. Now you’ll be zigging and zagging the rest of the way. I’m just going to link to the sights below, because writing any detail about them would make this post go on forever. Plus there’ve been a gajillion books written about St. Augustine, many available in your local library. You can get much more information when you’re in town at the visitor center, which is a NRHP itself. Must-sees are the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, St. George Street, King Street, and the Gonzalez-Alvarez House. Spend a weekend getting acquainted with St. Augustine on your first visit, and I think you’ll find yourself coming back again and again. (see Google map) (see Google map) (see Google map)

Next we’re heading for Anastasia Island. See you on the road!

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I’ve been putting it off too long. Time to go on and on about the bestest and most historical place in the state, St. Augustine. I’m only half-joking when I tell people I’m going to retire there and become a tour guide in my spare time. I’ve been there so many times, and yet there are still lots that I feel I’ve not seen or done there. Also the section of A1A between it and Ormond Beach is nearly as scenical as what’s on Amelia Island.

Some history. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited (by Europeans) city in the continental United States. I have to add that qualifier, since there are settlements in Puerto Rico that are older. The city was founded in 1565, after Pensacola. But as I mentioned previously, Pensacola was struck by a hurricane just after the Spanish landed there, and it didn’t survive long after that. St. Augustine has been hit by various calamities, but somehow managed to continue on. They’ll be celebrating the 450th anniversary of the founding in 2015, and I’m sure the city will feature prominently next year in the celebration of Ponce de León’s landing in 1513. Take that, Jamestown!

St. Augustine, not surprisingly, has the highest concentration of NHLs in the state. There are six of them, including the original town limits as a historic district. Also, Florida’s only two National Monuments are here. Both are forts; one in St. Augustine itself, the other about 15 miles south.

We’ll start some ways north, in Ponte Vedra. There are a couple of the Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places in the area, but they’re both private residences. You mayn’t be able to see much from the road. Going down A1A, you’ll be going through one of the rare undeveloped Atlantic coast stretches, thanks to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. Very popular with beachgoers, but not quite as much as Daytona Beach and such. Before you get to St. Augustine, you’ll cross the Vilano Beach Bridge. It’s a high one, so you’ll get a great view of the area. The only better one is from the top of the lighthouse on Anastasia Island. We’ll get there in a while. (see Google map)

If you want to see all the NHLs in the area, though, you’ll have to get to US 1 north of the city. Deep Creek State Forest is up there, as is the current county courthouse. Which, unless you’re a courthouse completist, I’d not recommend visiting. It’s a fairly bog-standard modern building.

The NHL is in a state park east of US 1, Fort Mose. If the fort was still standing, it might be a National Monument too. But alas, no such luck, since it was an earthen and wooden fort. It was the first free black settlement in the New World, where escaped slaves from the English colonies lived. The Spanish allowed them to live there in exchange for defending the area against the English. So in a way the place was the ancestor of the Underground Railroad. The area was abandoned and forgotten, then rediscovered about 30 years ago. You can’t get close to the original fort site, but observe it from a distance on a platform. The boardwalk that gets you there is a bit of a walk, but I found going through the woods and over the grasses rather serene. They are endeavoring to build a replica of the fort, but don’t know how far along they are. (see Google map)

St. Augustine has seven historic districts, mostly clustered around downtown. To find the boundaries, check here.

Leaving Fort Mose and heading south, you’ll come to a split in the road. Keep right if you want to circumvent St. Augustine and get to, say, Palatka or Bunnell. But you’re here for the history, eh? So take the left-hand path down San Marco Avenue.

You’ll pass by a couple of the historic districts (Fullerwood Park Residential Historic District and Nelmar Terrace Historic District), then arrive between the city’s two trolley services, Ripley’s Red Train Tours and Old Town Trolleys. If you’re in St. Augustine for more than a day, they’re the best way to see the sights. Each service offers a multi-day pass, which is usually good for about three days. Unfortunately, they don’t have a less expensive one-day price. I’ve only used one, Old Town Trolleys. Partly because they have an NRHP on site, the Old St. Johns County Jail Museum. They also have some other historic buildings that they moved there and preserve, and a history museum. So it’s a good package deal. Old Town Trolleys also does tours in other historic cities, like Key West and Boston and Savannah. If you visit those places, you’ll have some idea of the kind of the tour experience you’ll have. (see Google map)

Further down is where A1A joins San Marco Avenue. Davenport Park is on the corner, and features a carousel built in 1927 that’s still running. See, everywhere you turn, history.

I’m going to stop here. Next time, we’ll venture into downtown St. Augustine. Prepare yourself for more concentrated history than almost anywhere else in the US. See you on the road!

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Well, I started later than I was planning, not getting out of town until about 9:30. But I wanted as good a night’s sleep as possible, so’s to have enough energy to enjoy the day. Thank goodness I did.

The first nice bit was seeing that the new Sharpe’s Ferry Bridge is completed. No more driving at 10 mph over the rickety old one. The history buff in me is happy too, since they’ve preserved the old bridge next to the new one, making it part of a walking path. It was built in the 1920s, and I’m surprised it’s not on the NRHP yet. Perhaps someday.

Tooling through the Forest, I noticed several motorcycle caravans heading the other direction. With the weather warming up, the bikers are out and about, which is good for all sorts of businesses.

Going this way, I always have to contend with the extended slowdown going through Palatka. But maybe since I’ve visited a few times to get historic photos, I don’t resent that so much. It’s nice to drive by the old Larimer Library, and I can just see St. Mark’s from the highway. Then over the bridge and north on 207.

How nice it is that the speed limit for most of 207 is 65 mph. Yet it’s still maintained its rural character. Reminds me of US 441 between Ocala and Gainesville in that way.

After getting through Hastings, I headed east on 206 . It was after 11, and I was afeared I’d miss the 11:30 ferry to Fort Matanzas. I got to the visitor center at 11:35, but they have two ferries, and I was able to catch the second one.

Fort Matanzas is one of the better national park deals. In that it’s totally free. There’s no admission fee, and tickets for the ferry to get you to the fort are free too. But there are a limited number per ferry (there’s only room for so many people on each one), and they’re first come first serve. Last time I was there was late, and the last (4:30) ferry had already filled up. I thought there’d be more folks there since the weather was so great, but the ferries were only half-full. Made me a happy camper.

Once you cross the Matanzas and are dropped off, the ferry returns in about 40 minutes. The time went by amazingly fast. I wouldn’t have minded staying another half hour. Since it’s all free, revisiting is definitely an option. Maybe next time I’ll catch the ferry after next. I’ll have to check if that’s an option though.

Done with the fort, this trip, I headed north on A1A for the main excuse for the trip, The Taste of St. Augustine. It runs from noon to 8, and I got there after 12:30. I was happy to find a decent (and semi-shaded!) spot in the Amphitheatre parking lot. That doesn’t mean there was nobody there. Quite the opposite. But that’s why it’s good to get to Taste early. I’d say that after 2 or 3 pm, you’ll probably have to park a mile down the road.

The admission for Taste has risen from 3 to 5 dollars, but that doesn’t seem to have diminished attendance. I also noticed that more of the booths had 4 and 5 ticket prices.

Oh, to explain, for those who’ve never been. The “Taste of” events tend to fall into two pricing structures. One is having a large admission price, but once in, you can eat as much as you want. Usually it ranges from 25 to 30 bucks. Taste of Ocala was that way, until it changed this year to a 100-dollar black tie optional event. Which is why I didn’t feel so guilty doling out so much for St. Augustine’s, since I wasn’t going to be attending both.

The other way is to have a smaller admission price, then pay at each booth for the food. The Marion County Chili Cookoff is run that way, and so is St. Augustine. They also usually have you buy tickets (a dollar a piece), which you redeem at the booths. I think this is so each vendor needn’t worry about cash, reducing the risk of theft.

So, once in, I bought 20 dollars worth of tickets. I did the once around, checking out what all the booths had. I’ve learned this is the best strategy, from years of All-You-Can-Eat buffeting. That’s when I noticed the “price” for the food was higher at a number of booths. Wanting to get the largest number of samples (it’s all about the variety), I decided to skip anything costing more than 3 tickets. What I tried was:

I deviated on the lasagna (it was 4 tickets), but the tenderloin sandwich and the chowder were only 2 tickets, so it worked out. I didn’t get anything for dessert. I was tempted to buy more tickets, but chose not to. Glad I did that, with what I ran across later.

I voted the chowder as the best, though it was a toss-up, since almost all the food was great.

Something that puzzles me is why Woody’s BBQ and Papa John’s were there, though. They’ve been there since I started attending in 2008. Nothing against them, per se. I’m rather fond of Papa John’s in particular. I just don’t think a chain restaurant fits into a food festival that should be about local cuisine. I dunno how they decide who’ll be at Taste, but it seems to be the same folks year after year.

I hung out for about an hour, than headed west for St. Augustine proper. As I get about a mile from the Bridge of Lions, I noticed the traffic backing up. I pulled over and parked on the street, then walked the three blocks to the bridge. It wasn’t up, so it was just busy. Ironically, just after I got there, the bridge was raised.

I got shots of the bridge and the Bounty (which I’d quite forgotten was the other reason I was looking forward to this trip). Then I walked back to the car. Along the way, I noticed there was a Whetstone Chocolates outlet! I hadn’t had anything from them in ages, so I couldn’t resist. The cashier said they’d been at this location since 2008, which shows how much I’d been paying attention. I got some bon-bon type chocolates, which were all yummy. I didn’t notice any fudge there, which is what I miss most of their stuff. I’ll have to keep it in mind for the future.

I loitered and nibbled until the traffic cleared. Unfortunately, by the time I got back to the car (only a block away), it backed up again. Fortunately, I was able to go through a parking lot and take the long way around, over SR 312 and up US 1.

House in the Nelmar Terrace Historic District

House in the Fullerwood Park Historic District

I got to where I’d planned on parking, near the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. From there, I was able to amble and revisit two adjacent historic districts, Nelmar Terrace and Fullerwood Park.

Last time the weather was dingy, this time anything but. After knocking those out, I drove to the Nombre de Dios site. Another reason for this visit was preemptive photography. For those who mayn’t know, one of my hobbies has been to visit and photograph everything on the National Register of Historic Places in the state of Florida. I’m over 90 percent done with that, so now I keep tabs on upcoming listings. I like keeping the fully illustrated lists on Wikipedia fully illustrated. Well, the most recent Florida submissions for the NRHP (in March) include two in St. Augustine.

Since I was going there, it was easy enough to add them to my itinerary.

So where was I? That’s right, Nombre de Dios. One of the submissions was for the Father Lopez statue near the giant cross. I didn’t think it was especially historic, but I got photos of it. A dedication at the bottom indicates it may have been put up in 1936, which would qualify it as far as age.

House in the North City Historic District

I thought about driving to a new spot, but traffic was still heavy, so I chose to leave the car where it was. It was just after 4 at this point, and sunset was in another 4 hours. Didn’t know how far I’d get, but St. Augustine is such a walkable city, and I love strolling and soaking up the history. So I went across from Nombre to the North City Historic District, another that I’d visited on a dingy day. Got some nice photos, then looped over to the Visitor/Civic Center. From there I walked down St. George Street, which if you’re in St. Augustine you have to walk down, it’s like a law or something. I reached the Constitution Plaza, where my other pending NRHP target was. It was the Constitution monument.

Apparently, when Spain went briefly democratic in 1812, monuments to the new constitution were built all over Spanish controlled areas. Spain became monarchic again in 1814, and the king rescinded the constitution and ordered all the monuments destroyed. For whatever reason, St. Augustine didn’t destroy theirs. So it’s the only one of it’s kind in the world. The things you learn being an NRHP nut. I have a feeling these St. Augustine submissions are partly connected to the whole Viva Florida 500th anniversary thing.

I was close to the Bounty, so I headed that way. I didn’t get on, since I wasn’t that into being on board. It’s only a reconstruction, built for the 1962 movie. Still, I was quite happy with the pictures I got of it, and the Bridge.

At this point I could’ve returned to the car, but traffic still was busy, and I’d much rather walk than be stuck in a car, so I continued south. I reached my next intended target (after going by other stuff and getting pictures), the National Cemetery. Last time, I didn’t know what the pyramids were for, so took no pictures of them. Now I know they’re markers for where the soldiers from the Dade Massacre were buried. Fortunately the Cemetery was still open, so I got some good shots.

Next I headed over to Lincolnville, a former black settlement and historic district. The main thing I wanted to photograph was the St. Benedict the Moor School. It was only after I got home that I realized I’d not gotten exactly what I wanted. There’s a sort of St. Benedict complex, with the church, rectory and school. I thought the rectory was the school, since I didn’t know about the rectory at all. The church and rectory are brick buildings next to each other, on ML King Avenue, and the School is supposedly on the same street.

Well, it is but it isn’t. There’s a fenced in area next to the brick buildings, and set back from the street is the old school. I took a picture of it because it looked interesting, not knowing what it was. But it was from behind, and I wanted some from the front. So next time. Plus I do want to get more photos around Lincolnville anyway, not the small slices I got.

House in the Model Land Company Historic District

I’d gotten photos of the main things I wanted this trip (or so I thought), so I headed back to the car. On the way I passed through the Model Land Company Historic District and got some more photos there. Yeah, St. Augustine is a whole cluster of historic districts. You’ll get that if you’re around for over 400 years. I reached the car with much relief and caught up on my journal I keep during all my trips. That’s when I found out it was about 6:30.

Remember when I left? About 4:00 PM. I didn’t sit, and hardly stopped since I left the car. So I walked nearly non-stop for 2 and a half hours. My feet hurt, but not nearly as much as I would’ve expected. Or the legs in general. I think I had it in the back of my mind that driving back to Ocala would be over 2 hours, so I’d have plenty of time to sit and relax.

After journal catch-up, I decided not to go over the Bridge of Lions again and caught US 1 south. I got to SR 206 and retraced the way I came. Partly.

I don’t like going the same way twice if I can avoid it, so rather than heading south from Palatka through the forest, I headed west on SR 20. Another road that brings back memories, as I can recall when it was only two lanes from Gainesville to Palatka. Now, most of it is four lanes except the middle bit. That being Interlachen. I wanted to catch 20A, but where it connects near Interlachen isn’t marked. However, thanks to my maps, I knew the name of the road. I saw it too late, but a block or two later I was able to U-turn and catch it.

A rather twisty road, it is, with some long stretches of 25 mph speed limit. So won’t be doing that again. Eventually got to CR 21, my intended target, and headed south. The main reason I went this way was to go by Camp Kateri.

Any old Floridian/Trimarian SCA folk will remember Camp Kateri. I loved that camp. Best kitchen of any campsite in the state, and the hall is gorgeous. I’m not sure why the Girl Scouts stopped letting us use it, which happened before I dropped out of the SCA. I think it was because they decided to only let the Girl Scouts use it. In any case, when I can, I like driving by. It was late, so I didn’t go down the dirt road, but I may try that some day.

Shortly thereafter is Orange Springs, which isn’t much. Oddly, I forgot that after that I’d have to go through Fort McCoy before getting to SR 40. By this time it was after sunset (8:30), but I know this road very well, so I could almost autopilot it. I chose to head west when I got to SR 40, ’cause I wanted to knosh on something. Yes, I’d eaten a lot, but I’d probably done about 4 hours of walking, so I’d been burning calories. My appetite led me to Arby’s, where I got a small shake and large curly fries. Then I headed back east and south. I arrived back home at about 9:30, so I was out and about for 12 hours. A good day, all told.

I noticed during this trip the occasional bug splat on the windshield. It’s early, but it could be the prelude to love bug season. Between that and things getting warmer and more humid, I’ll likely not be roadtripping for the next couple of months at least, or longer. Or maybe some shorter roadtrips. However it works out, I’ll let y’all know.

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Tomorrow’s the day for my annual pilgrimage to the Taste of St. Augustine. A bonus is that a reconstruction of the HMS Bounty is in port. Weather looks to be a bit toasty, but low humidity and few to no clouds. Pretty close to perfect. I shall recount the day and post photos after I sort through it all. I love living in Central Florida. Cheers!

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