Friday, August 10, 2012

History Lesson: St. Augustine

I often say how great it is that we live in an area where there are so many historical sites to visit.  I guess there are historical sites everywhere, but in our case we live within an hour or two of lots of sites of significance to the history of the United States as a nation.  It's great for me because I love history anyway, and it's exciting when we study something that happened during the American Revolution or Civil War or whatever, and can go see the place where it happened on a day trip.  

We also take the opportunity to visit historical sites when we are on vacation.  This past week we called up memories of one of those vacations when we found a lesson in America the Beautiful that focused on St. Augustine in Florida.

Our lesson gave us lots of information on the history of St. Augustine.  This area of Florida was originally the home of the Timucua tribe, but in the 1560s the French and Spanish were also jockeying for position.  The French arrived looking to establish a permanent settlement for Huguenots wanting to escape religious persecution, and of course to make a profit.  Spain had been shipping gold and silver from Central and South America and were not cool with the French presence at all.  When the Spanish arrived to establish their settlement there were hostilities between the two groups with the Spanish gaining a victory and an important colony that became the center of Spanish power in North America.    St. Augustine endured attacks, fires, and hurricanes, and control over the area changed several times - England received it in treaty in 1763, then Spain regained it in 1784.  It became part of the USA in 1821.  In the late 1800s and early 1900s, it became a fashionable place for wealthy tourists to visit, especially after developer Henry Flagler promoted it as a stop on his Florida East Coast railway system.

Do you remember Henry Flagler?  We did, because we'd learned about him when we visited the Florida Keys. I even posted a little something about him several weeks ago for Think Back Thursday: Bridges.

By the way, this was the lesson that told us about the popularity of stereoscopes.

Did you know?
-The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest stone fort still standing in the United States.
-The city gates and a portion of the stone wall from 1702 are still standing.
-The Alcazar Hotel was built by Henry Flagler to look like the royal palace in Spain.  It opened in 1889, and now serves as St. Augustine's City Hall.
-St. Augustine is the oldest permanent city in America settled by Europeans.

We spent a day in St Augustine in 2008, visiting Castillo de San Marcos (which is a National Monument) and the nearby living history village.  Here are a few of the pictures that we looked at to remind us of our field trip!

The walls of the Castillo de San Marcos are made of coquina - a limestone formed by the shells of the coquina clam just off the coast.  It's a solid but soft stone.  The mortar is made from ground up shells as well.  The walls are 12-19 feet thick, because the builders didn't know how coquina would stand up to cannonball fire.  They DID know that the fort would not burn or be eaten by termites like wooden forts!  It turns out the coquina not only stood up to cannon fire, but actually absorbed the shock and the cannonballs either bounced off a couple inches or stuck partway into the wall.  The fact that the Spanish experimented with coquina as a building material probably changed history.  Read more in the teacher's materials at the National Park Service website for Castillo de San Marcos: HERE

We also visited the nearby Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum, which is a living history museum where you can get a closer look at how the Spanish colonists lived during the 1600s.

If you would like to read my original posts about these field trips, here are the links:  Castillo de San Marcos, More St Augustine, and Colonial Spanish Quarter.


Mrs. Laura Lane said...

What a wonderful opportunity. I hope you enjoy the zucchini bread.

Mary said...

How cool that a part of the wall is still standing! I love "seeing" history up close.

Stefanie said...

Historical trips are always fun!

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