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About:  St. Augustine represents the site of the oldest continuously occupied European and African American settlements in the United States. As part of Ponce de León's 1513 claim to La Florida, St. Augustine was established in 1565 by Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés on the site of a Timucuan Indian village. By the late 17th century, with the building of the Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine had become the seat of Spanish military, political, and ecclesiastical power in Florida. During the time St. Augustine was held by the Spanish, black slaves from the English Carolina Colony found Florida a haven-- the Spanish Crown granted refuge to blacks if they embraced Catholicism.

Today, the heart of St. Augustine retains the distinctive plan of a 16th century Spanish Colonial walled town, much of which has been preserved or restored. The numerous remaining colonial buildings in the historic district present an impressive array of architecture from 1703 to 1898.

Some of the most noted buildings in the district are located on the Plaza de la Constitución, the colonial community's focal point. Here are found the Government House (governor's residence, built 1713), Trinity Episcopal Church (1825), and the Basilica Cathedral of St. Augustine which incorporates the 1797 parish church and is one of the oldest Catholic religious buildings in the U.S.

Bisecting the Plaza south and north is St. George Street, the main street of the colonial city. Here one can find many other historic buildings such as De Mesa-Sanchez House (43 St. George Street), the Arrivas House (44 St. George), and the Avero House, now the St. Photios Greek Shrine (37 St. George).

The Oldest House, located three blocks south of the Plaza at 14 St. Francis Street, is another traditional Spanish Colonial residence built circa 1706 and is the oldest surviving residence in the city. This area south of the Plaza is the oldest part of St. Augustine, and there are several other original structures along narrow St. Francis, St. George, Aviles, and Marine Streets. Many are private residences, but some are open to the public. Walking tour maps are available in our bookstore.

During the late 19th century, St. Augustine was also the destination of America's rich and famous. In 1885, railroad tycoon and former Standard Oil partner Henry Morrison Flagler moved Florida's resorts to a new level with his 540-room grand Ponce de León Hotel in St. Augustine. The first of three Flagler hotels in the city, the Ponce de León (now the main building of Flagler College) combined exotic Spanish Renaissance and Moorish architectural features with innovative poured concrete construction.

Whisked south in their private cars on Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad, notables such as the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Morgans made St. Augustine their winter home, expanding the old colonial city westward on King Street and north on San Marco. The Villa Zorayda, an exotic Moorish Revival style residence with courtyards and towers built in 1883 on King Street is from this glittering era as is the Memorial Presbyterian Church (1880), and Castle Warden (1879), now Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum.

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