The oldest European-founded and continuously inhabited city in the US is St. Augustine. This city is located on the northeastern shore of the state of Florida within St. Johns county. It covers a total area of 12.76 square miles, 3.33 square miles of which is water. It sits at sea level and has a humid, subtropical climate. The population size of St. Augustine is 14,280.
History Of The Oldest City In The US
St. Augustine was founded in 1565, making it over 450 years old. Juan Ponce de Leon is believed to be have been the first European here, arriving in 1513. Around 52 years later, Don Pedro Menendez de Avilez claimed the area for Spanish territory and began to establish a permanent European settlement. At this time, St. Augustine was the site of Seloy, a village established by the Timucua peoples.
St. Augustine was the capital of Spanish Florida until the mid-1700’s, when British forces took control of the area per the Treaty of Paris of 1763. Twenty years later, the second Treaty of Paris gave control of St. Augustine and Florida back to Spanish colonial powers. In 1819, this city and its surrounding territory were ceded to the US and nearly 30 years later, it became an official state of the union.
During the 1880’s, St. Augustine became a popular winter vacation spot with the wealthy class from the northern part of the country. It remained popular with the elite until the beginning of the 20th century. This city went on to play an important role in the civil rights movement of the US during the 1960’s. In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a peaceful protest here at the Monson Motor Lodge in order to fight segregation in the state.
Historic Sites In America's Oldest City
Because of its long and continuous history, St. Augustine is home to a number of interesting historic sites. Many of the sites and monuments point back to the Spanish colonial area, like the Castillo de San Marcos, for example. This fort, located in Matanzas Bay, is the oldest of its kind in the US. It was built in 1672 in order to protect the city against invaders. Over history, the Castillo de San Marcos has been under the control of several forces, including: the Spanish, the British, the Confederate US, and the US.
Evidence of British rule in the area can be seen at The King’s Bakery, located on Marine Street near Matanzas Bay. This bakery, a coquina stone structure, was built between 1763 and 1784 in order to supply bread to British troops housed at the St. Francis Barracks on the other side of the street. Throughout time, it has served as a bakery, hospital, and office building. According to some historians, the King’s Bakery is the only remaining structure that was built entirely under British colonial rule.
Another interesting historic site in St. Augustine is the lighthouse, known as the St. Augustine Light Station. This site was built in 1874 after beach erosion damaged the previous lighthouse. Today, it is part of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum.