Our final destination in our almost two-months in Florida was America’s oldest city - St. Augustine.
I have a mild interest in History. I’m not obsessive about it. If you want to read the particulars about who settled North America and when, you are on the Internet. Google and Wikipedia are your friends.
We visited mainly to see the Castillo De San Marcos National Monument - which claims to be the oldest masonry fort originally built by the Spanish in the 16th century to protect the area from the British.
It cost us $80 to get in. Only because we chose to renew our National Parks Pass. We will now challenge ourselves to see how much we can use that between here and whatever summer gig we come up with.
While the fort doesn’t shoot its cannons or have multi-soldier reenactments during the week, we were in time for a Ranger talk which provided an excellent oral history of the fort.
After that we explored the rooms and upper deck until our stomachs led us astray to some of the best BBQ we’ve had in recent history.
We were unable to secure a walk-in spot at the local state park, so after lunch we walked past a couple of the churches on the tourist map. I got some great photos - there seems to be certain times of day in certain lighting conditions where the iPhone really shines.
Ancient City Baptist Church, St. Augustine FL
We also learned a bit about Florida’s history in the person of one Henry Flagler. Flagler, along with Rockefeller, founded Standard Oil. Flagler is also responsible for the original train to Key West which left behind the old Seven Mile Bridge. Three marriages, illnesses, using his wealth and influence to change state law in order to divorce one wife - I’m surprised a major motion picture hasn’t been made about him.
He used his riches to build out St. Augustine. He built one of the churches you see below (Memorial Presbyterian Church) as a tribute to his daughter who died from complications of childbirth. I learned after the fact that he also had a hand in the other two churches I photographed - giving land to both of them. We toured the inside of Memorial Presbyterian Church and came away conflicted. The walls are adorned with photos of the Flaglers and the things they were responsible for in Florida. The altar has words in remembrance of the Flagler daughter. The Flaglers themselves are buried in a mausoleum just a few steps from the main sanctuary.
Is this a church, or a Flagler shrine that a congregation happens to meet at during the week? Tough to say, but it’s not a place we would probably be comfortable worshipping at.
Tired and sweaty from our walking, we found our home again and headed down the road. We’d been in Florida nearly two months, visiting county, state, and national parks. We swam with Manatees, kayaked with monkeys, and snorkeled with barracudas. We visited bird and sea turtle hospitals. We reconnected with friends. It’s been a great two months, but the weather is pushing and the north is pulling and we can’t resist any longer.