Saint Augustine is the county seat of St. John’s County, Florida. The city covers an area of eleven square miles and has a population of over twelve thousand people. Saint Augustine was founded in 1565 by the Spanish under Pedro Menéndez de Aviles. He first landed on the feast day of Augustine of Hippo and therfore named the city San Augustin. Twenty-one years later, the city was attacked by Sir Francis Drake, an English privateer. In 1668, it was attacked once again by another English privateer, Robert Searle and most of the residents of the city were slaughtered. The city would be attacked by British forces again in 1702 and then in 1740. After the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Florida would become a possession of the British Empire. Saint Augustine would become a loyalist colony to the British Crown all throughout the American Revolution. In 1783, Saint Augustine and the state of Florida would once again become a possession of the Spanish Crown.
Between 1784 and 1821, Florida remained under Spanish rule. During this period time, Spain was invaded by Napoleon and struggled to maintain control of its many colonies. As a result, Florida was no longer important to the Spanish Crown and the state was turned over to the United States in 1821. For the next twenty-four years, Florida remained a territory of the United States. Finally in 1845, Florida was granted statehood. In 1861, the American Civil War started and Florida seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy. Union soldiers were able to seize the city the next year, and Florida remained in control of the Union for the duration of the war.
Several notable residents have resided in or was born in the city of Saint Augustine. These include poker player Jim Albrecht, historian David Nolan, football player Willie Galimore, Union General John M. Schofield, author Mary MacLane, soldier Richard Henry Pratt, scientist John C. Lilly, pianist Ray Charles, United States Congressman William H. Gray, musician Tom Petty, Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, hockey coach Murray Armstrong, pro wrestler Travis Tomko, baseball player Johnny Mize, U. S. senator & presidential candidate George McGovern, singer Tom Gabel, baseball player Cris Carpenter, artist Earl Cunningham, race car driver Scott Lagasse Jr., United States district judge Howell W. Melton and America’s first black general Jorge Biassou.
A popular attraction in the city is the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. This alligator park was opened in the spring of 1893 and is the oldest continuously running attraction in the state of Florida. The museum was started on Saint Augustine Beach as a way to get tourists to buy souvenirs and to visit the museum which was located there. Before long, the reptiles became the main attraction of the area and the park was moved to its current location during the 1920s. In September of 1992, the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park was listed as a United States Historic District. This park covers an area of twelve thousand square feet and has one building. Besides the twenty or so species of crocodiles that are contained here, the park also has a large variety of other animals. These include Long Tentacle Anemone, Black Percula Clownfish, Blue Leg Hermit Crab, Domino Damselfish, North American Wood Duck, Plush-Crested Jay, Moluccan Yellow Monitor, Amethystine Python, Centralian Carpet Python, Reticulated Python, New Guinea Blue-Tongued Skink, South American Red-Footed Tortoise, South American Yellow-Footed Tortoise, Yellow Spotted Amazon River Turtle and Bornean Crested Fireback Pheasants.
Another attraction in Saint Augustine that is quickly gaining popularity in the past few years is Lightner Museum. This museum is housed within historic Hotel Alcazar and contains a large collection of Victorian antiquities. This museum is spread out over three floors of the Hotel Alcazar and was built in the Spanish Renaissance style during 1887. Originally the hotel had sulfur baths, a steam room, the world’s largest indoor pool (at the time), a massage parlor and a gym. It was closed, however in 1932. Fourteen years later it was purchased by Otto C. Lightner as a way to display his extensive collection of artifacts. A couple of years later, he donated it to the city. The first floor of the museum contains a Victorian village and has shop fronts, rocks, minerals and shells. The museum also contains a small Egyptian mummy, paintings, sculptures, Neo-classical rocking chairs, stained glass windows, glass piston machine, Victorian glass blown objects, Art Nouveau Curio cabinet, shrunken heads and nineteenth century musical instruments.
The Spanish Military Hospital Museum is another prominent museum in the city of Saint Augustine. This museum is located at number three Aviles Street and contains a reconstructed military hospital that stands on the site of the Second Colonial Spanish Period. This museum gives an excellent representation of what a military hospital was like in the late eighteenth century and its many areas include Brain Surgery, Amputation, Dentistry and Bullet Removal.
Anastasia State Park is another famous attraction in the city. This park is located off of State Road A1A and is situated about a mile and a half from the downtown of the city. The park has many activities to offer visitors including swimming, picnicking, bird watching, surfing, kayaking, sun worship, sail boarding, fishing and camping. The park also has a number of campgrounds and splendid nature trails. It also has a ton of wildlife which includes birds, flora, fauna and wildlife spread out over different settings such as tidal marshes and beaches. Anastasia State Park was once a stone quarry and the stone that was removed from the area was used to build Castillo de San Marcos.