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Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine (sānt ôˈgəstēn) [key], city (1990 pop. 11,692), seat of St. Johns co., NE Fla.; inc. 1824. Located on a peninsula between the Matanzas and San Sebastian rivers, it is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by Anastasia Island; the Intracoastal Waterway passes through the city. St. Augustine is a port of entry, a shrimping and commercial fishing center, and a popular year-round resort. The economic mainstay is tourism, supplemented with revenues from small industries. The oldest city in the United States, it was founded in 1565 by the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés on the site of an ancient Native American village and near the place where Ponce de Léon, the discoverer of Florida, had landed in 1513. The town was burned and sacked by the English buccaneers Sir Francis Drake (1586) and Capt. John Davis (1665). St. Augustine repelled attacks by South Carolinians in 1702–3 and in 1740 by James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, but it passed to the English in 1763 at the end of the French and Indian Wars. In the American Revolution, Tories flocked to the city from the North but left when it reverted to Spain in 1783. In 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the United States, and St. Augustine grew rapidly until the Seminole War in the 1830s. Union troops occupied the city in Mar., 1862, and held it throughout the Civil War. Among the old landmarks is Castillo de San Marcos kăstēˈyō də săn märˈkəs, now a national monument (see National Parks and Monuments, table). The oldest masonry fort in the country (built 1672–96), it was Spain's northernmost outpost on the Atlantic in the Americas. Fort Matanzas mətănˈzəs, also a national monument, was built by Spain in 1742. Other places of interest in the city are the old schoolhouse, the house reputed to be the oldest in the United States (said to date from the late 16th cent.), and the cathedral (built 1793–97; partly restored). Flagler College is in the city.

See G. E. Baker, The Oldest City (1983); J. P. M. Waterbury, Augustine History (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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