Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Castillo de San Marcos at St. Augustine, Florida

A little over a week ago, Hubby and I trekked north up the coast to St. Augustine to cross something else off my list of things to do and see while we're in Florida.  I've always wanted to see Castillo de San Marcos.  It is the oldest masonry fort in the United States and was for many years the northernmost outpost of Spain's vast New World empire.

Begun in 1672 and completed by 1695, the Castillo replaced nine successive wooden fortifications that had protected St. Augustine.

This drawbridge is the only entrance into the fort.  The Spanish kept the moat dry and, during sieges, used it as a pen for domestic animals.  If they were under attack from land the moat could be filled with sea water by opening flood gates on the seawall.

A soldier's life wasn't very glamorous.  This was one of the dormitories.

Local volunteers gave talks about the life of a Spanish soldier.

They also dressed up in heavy woolen uniforms.  One of the men assured me that the uniform wasn't too bad.  Once he was soaked with sweat from the Florida heat and humidity he was actually comfortable - sort of.

We had to cover our ears while they set off a cannon.  The little building behind them was used for signaling ships and the light house across Matanzas Bay.

This little building, called a shot furnace, was added by the U.S. Army in 1842 - 1844 when they filled in the east side of the moat along the seawall.  They used it to heat cannonballs until they were red hot.  Then they fired them at the enemy's wooden ships to set them on fire.

Here's a view of the courtyard from the top of the walls.

Hubby was particularly intrigued by all the cannons on display.

I was more interested in the lives of the soldiers.  This was one of the guard towers where the lookout on duty could stay out of the weather.

A garrison of Spanish troops safeguarded St. Augustine during the turbulent colonial era.  Later, English, and then American troops, also saw service here.  These are the gates leading into old St. Augustine.  They closed the gates at dusk every night.  If you didn't want to spend the night with panthers, snakes and alligators you made sure you were inside.

There are still many many buildings from that time period.  The streets were curved so, under attack, a cannon ball could not go straight down a street killing so many people.

Today, they house a variety of shops and restaurants.  Naturally, I did a little shopping.

One of the restaurants we thoroughly enjoyed was called Harry's.  They serve Louisiana type seafood.  We weren't sure we'd like that style of food but it was one of the best meals we've had in Florida!  You couldn't beat the ambiance either.  It was in an old house that had been remodeled a mere 150 years ago. 

After our delicious lunch we waddled on to explore more of St. Augustine.  Next time I'll show Henry Flagler's Ponce de Leon Hotel and the mausoleum where he is buried.


  1. Hi Candy, I love seeing new places-what a wonderful, historical fort. We went to one in San Juan that we found interesting too. I've heard wonderful things about St. Augustine's and hope maybe someday to visit.
    Thanks for sharing my friend.

  2. ack! Time to dust off the Hornblower videos to watch again...
    I would not wish to smell a Spanish soldier's uniform drenched with Florida sweat, I'm pretty sure!
    I DO love that red building, though!

  3. Great pictures and history lesson. I know for sure neither Russ nor I could be a guard - we'd get stuck!! Considering the bulk of the uniforms and undoubtedly side arms or swords, the soldiers must have been smaller in those days:)