the castillo de san marcos is probably the most visited and most interesting of st. augustine's attractions. located on 20 acres on st. augustine's harbor the castillo was built in 1672. it is the oldest masonary and the only extant 17 th century fort in north america. the castillio was built to protect spain's interests in the new world. the castillo de san marco was attacked on numerious occasions but was never conquered. later in the 1800's the castillo was used as a prison. the seminole chief osceola was imprisoned here.
The first European to set eyes on Florida was the Spanish governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon, who sailed north from there in 1513. Thus was born 'la terra florida' or 'the flowery land' as far as Europeans were concerned. The Spaniards tried unsuccessfully to establish settlements there over the following years but it was not until 1565 that St. Augustine was established, in response to French incursions into this territory claimed by Spain. The name of the city derives from the fact that the Spanish admiral who sailed into its harbour did so on Aug. 28, the feast day of Saint Augustine of Hippo.
After being burned by the British sea-farer Francis Drake in 1586 and plundered by pirates in 1668, the Spanish finally decided that this outpost needed more protection than a wooden fort could provide. Construction on this still remaining masterpiece, Fort San Marco, began in 1672 and was completed 23 years later in 1695. The fort was built of concrete-tough material from nearby Anastasia Island, consisting of a mixture of limestone, broken sea shells and coral, called 'coquina'. These very sturdy walls have successfully resisted all attacks on the city, with all subsequent changes in ownership between Britain, Spain and the United States taking place as a result of treaties rather than military conquest.
Today, the fort and its surrounding 25 acres are conveniently located in the downtown area of St. Augustine and was designated as a US National Monument in 1933. It makes for a very pleasant day exploring both within its walls and enjoying the spacious grounds and views outside - there was even a White Ibis walking calmly around when we were there.
The Spanish began construction of a fort overlooking the St. John's River in 1672. The fort was in a strategic position to protect interests all along the river and the small town of Saint Augustine. The monument has over 20 acres and includes the Cubo Line a reconstructed section of the walled defense line surrounding the city of Saint Augustine incorporating the original city gates. The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry and only 17th century fort in North America still in existence. it is an excellent example of the "bastion system" of fortification. The Castillo is a very interesting place to visit. I grew up in nearby Jacksonville so I came here often as a kid.
For full details see my Castillo de San Marcos Page coming soon.
Like many things & places in American History, there are both noble accomplishments and events that sully otherwise proud moments. So it is also (in my opinion) for Castillo de San Marcos. What began proudly as construction commenced in 1672 and completed in 1695 remained a bastion of Spanish dominance in the early history of what later became the United States of America.
This stately fort is located in St. Augustine, Florida which is recognized as the oldest continuously existing city in the U.S. Especially notable for Castillo is the fact that though besieged and attacked many times, it was never captured or overtaken. This is the noble accomplishment mentioned above. It's possession changed from Spanish to British rule due only to a treaty concluded in 1763.
It's "less than" noble moments (in my opinion) came during the periods Castillo was used as a prison for Native Americans. First, the Seminoles in 1837 and later as the U.S. government's persecution and domination of the Western Indian Tribes continued. Apache Indians were also imprisoned here in 1886 as well as prisoners of the Spanish-American War.
We are fortunate that this monument of historical proportions still exists for us to visit and see today. While in St. Augustine, a trip to the Castillo de San Marcos is a must!
"Please don't sit on the fort wall, sir!", a man in a red historical-period soldier uniform balks at me as his regiment marches by. "Sorry...," I reply sheepishly and feel the need to straighten and salute. OK, I so missed the humongous yellow sign at the entrance telling me not to do stupid things like that, but I was just so excited to be here that I couldn't be bothered reading posted notices.
I first visited St. Augustine when I was 12 years-old. I find it amazing how my memories of it compare to it now, revisited. Back then my imagination exploded with images of vicious pirate attacks, cannons firing mercilessly from the fort walls at galleons in the bay, Spanish and British troops performing drills in the open courtyard's intense heat, the Town of St. Augustine being set ablaze and burnt to the ground.
Completed in 1675, the "Castillo San Marcos" is a fort built to protect Spain's interests in the New World. It was built with a type of stone called "coquina", comprised of bonded prehistoric shells. This stone, from nearby Anastasia Island, can absorb the impact of a cannonball without causing cracks to form in the walls. This fort was never defeated or taken in a battle and has changed very little since its original completion.
Over the next 300 years this fort was occupied by Spanish, British, Union, Confederate, and finally American forces.
The views of St. Augustine and the bay from atop the fort are spectacular!
It doesn't take long to tour the fort--under two hours if you stopp to read everything but less than 45 minutes if you just want to take a quick look.
Make sure to check out the prison, the chapel, the barracks, the historical artifacts on display, the medical room, and go inside some of the upper guard room turrets.
I remember as a teenager that the moat surrounding the fort was full--stairs outside the walls went right down to the water. The moat has since been drained, but my imagination still explodes with the history of this place as much as it did when I was a kid.
Admission was inexpensive, only $6. And the pass is good for 7 days. Children 15 and under are admitted free.
What was amazing about the structure that sits right on the main highway along the beach front of St. Augustine is its endurance.
It is natural to think that a fort can endure the ravages of war. Strength and good construction and a design that provides adequate protection from many angles.
But it also has withstood the ravages of attack by wind, weather and salt spray for over 300 years. It needed to be constructed of a fabulous material that mother nature provided (coquina) that was quarried nearby. Ingenious.
And even more important, it has withstood the ravages of modernism and city growth. Other cities might have removed the monument (and kept a few pieces in a museum) and turned the land into motels and beachfront property. Only through the good fortune of being placed on the National Parks list saved that from happening.
The day we were there was very breezy and one got cold standing on the parapets. We walked around the whole perimeter (on two levels: the grassy knoll on which it stands and the parapet walls that surround the fort). There was no way that we could penetrate the defenses without canons. Inside, on the parapets, we could see three directions and support the flanks of the other points along the fort walls.
Inside was cool and damp. There were the usual things that forts have in their museums: guns, swords, shells, maps, clothing, personal trinkets, etc. The outside of the fort was more interesting.
There are scheduled events (sadly none while we were there) for raising the flags and firing the guns and marching the troops in full old-time uniforms of the Spanish. See the official website listed below for more info.
an interesting, non-official look at the fort can been seen on website:
he Castillo de San Marcos fort is a definate must see activity. The guides in the fort explain the significance behind the strategic location of the fort. It was facinating the hear the history of the earliest military fort in the US. Entrance fees are $5 for adults, $2 for children 6-12 and under 6 are free. More information can be found on the weblink below
Yes, My Friends, those seashells that you collected as a child and made it hard to walk on at the beach without looking like "Uncle George" doing the hot step, were also incorporated into a unique form called "Coquina". Though it's offically called sedimentary rock, it looks like seashells poured together to me! It must be good stuff however to have survived the attacks and hurricanes for several hundreds of years.
You'll also see here the Coquina Towers that at each corner of the bastions. The tallest of the towers is the one closest to the inlet for obvious reasons. Though it was January, it was still very warm on the morning that we visited and standing inside the tower brought a cool and refreshing breeze to bear upon you. How do you spell relief?
The upper level of the Castillo de San Marcos is dominated by the four wide, flat gun decks, that connects the corner bastions. The bastions are the Bastion San Pedro to the southwest, Bastion San Agustín to the southeast, Bastion San Pedro to the northeast, and the Bastion San Pablo to the northwest. Each bastion is topped by a cylindrical stone watchtower, the tallest being the San Marcos tower overlooking Matanzas Bay. The bastions and gundecks housed the fort's cannons and mortars. When the fort was first constructed the cannons could only be placed on the bastions, but when it was rebuilt in 1738, the walls were raised, and the gundecks reinforced to actually support guns.
From the upper level of the castillo, you have great views of the bay, the city, the old mission site, and the Saint Augustine lighthouse in the distance.
As you will see in the accompanying pictures, Castillo was well fortified. As a matter of fact, it appears that the cannon in the first picture has you in its sights! You might want to be pulling and waving that White Flag about now... I'm just sayin'...
Various sizes of cannon and mortars are strategically placed around the perimeter. If you look closely, you'll see the founding date of 1724 on the mortar shown. A working cannon (less the cannonball) is fired several times each day during a re-enactment. I can only say that I hope during battle the artillerymen moved with a bit more enthusiasm and sense of urgency... I'm just sayin'...
In these pictures are a few of the historical depictions and artifacts used in past centuries in the name of God and Queen or King, I suppose. These are housed in the lower level of Castillo and in looking at some of the weapons, I'm sure glad we've found more humane ways of killing each other these days! This reminds me of the old saying, "The more things change, the more they remain the same."
The Castillo de San Marcos was built by the Spanish from 1672 to 1695, replacing the nine wooden forts that had been used to defend the city since its founding in 1565. The reason for the upgrade to the massive coquina stone fort? Local pirates attacks and the threat form Britain's recently established port nearby at Charlestown, SC, just two days away by ship.
The coquina stone is a sedimentary rock made from ancient layers of shells or coral pressed into a limestone-like material. When it is wet, it is easy to cut and somewhat pliable, but when dried, it is the perfect stone for a fort: when struck with cannon balls, it absorbs the impact rather than cracking or crumbling like traditional stone or masonry forts. It is the oldest masonry fort and only existing 17th century fort in North America.
The Castillo is a square fort with triangular bastions at each corner. The entrance to the fort is on the southern side, and it is well protected by a triangular ravelin and draw bridge. A moat surrounded three sides of the castillo, and other fourth side is on the water. The east side of the fort also protected the town's main gate, which still exists today.
This was a transitional fort that was built first in 1672 by Spaniards to protect the area. It got completed for the first phase in 1695. The British continued to try and take over the territory and the fort with strong coquina shell base held fast. It was attacked in 1586 and the town burned, and again by pirates in 1668. By 1821 the US took control of Florida and this area. During the Civil War it was part of the South until the Union got an foothold in the area and took over the area. It was then called Fort Marion but later changed to Castillo de San Marcos to commemorate the Spanish who built it. The fort eventually had two moats, a draw bridge, and more bastions to protect the town, which had a wall surrounding the main part for protection.
The tour of the fort can be self guided, or wait for a ranger to take you around and describe the culture/history. The tour involves going into the powder magazine room, soldier quarters, gun deck that had 74 cannon, and much more. The tour can take about 1-2 hours.
The park is open 8:45-4:45 daily and admission is $6 adults unless you have a NPS pass.
The lower level of the Castillo de San Marcos contained the majority of the fort's living areas and storage. The entrance to the fort was from a drawbridge over a moat on the south side of the fort. After crossing the bridge, there is a large sally port; the guards stayed next to the entrance while on duty or when the fort was under siege. In the courtyard of the Castillo are three wells with drinking water. Various other rooms within the lower level of the Castillo contain the chapel, storerooms for food, and a powder magazine.
Throughout its history, the Castillo was occasionally used as a prison. During the American Revolution, the British held colonists as prisoner. In the early 1830s, the US government held a variety of Seminole and other Native American here including the famous leader Osceola. During the Civil War, the Union quickly captured the fort and used it to house Confederate prisoners. Later, during the Indian Wars, the Castillo was again used to house Indian prisoners, and its most famous prisoner was David Pendleton Oakerhater, later named an Episcopal saint. In 1898 the fort was again used as a prison, this time to house military deserters who were trying to avoid combat of the Spanish-American War.
Once inside with a good self-guided map, you can visit the different features of the fort: the courtyard, the chapel, the blacksmith and wood shops, and the four Bastions - the arrowhead-shaped projections from the four corners of the fort which jutted out serving to provide crossfire with other bastions.