Arguably the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine, Florida is home to some of the oldest buildings in the country. Among these is one incredibly cool and interesting Spanish fort. Construction started on the Castillo de San Marcos in 1672 on the instruction of the Queen of Spain after several wooden forts that originally stood there had been continually sacked. This new fort was made of a unique local stone called coquina. Similar to limestone, it insured that this fortification would endure any future barrage. After 23 years, this magnificent masonry star fort was completed and ready to defend the Spanish territory in the New World.
The first attack seen by Castillo de San Marcos was during Queen Anne’s War in 1702. It withstood the British armaments, protecting the entire population of the city for weeks on end. Eventually the Spanish armada sailed in and officially put the kibosh on the battle. Unfortunately for the residents, the sore losers set fire to the town to show their displeasure. Not content to sit on their laurels and wait for another attack, the Spanish initiated a secondary construction in 1738. By 1756 they had increased the wall height and remodeled the interior and ceilings. The British were never able to win a battle here; however they did eventually acquire the fort in 1763 as part of the Treaty of Paris. It was a concession from Spain in exchange for Cuba and the Philippines.
Apparently having an extraordinarily strong fortification didn’t impress the British that much because they never fought any battles there and they eventually handed it back to the Spanish some 20 years later. From the Spanish, the fort passed with the rest of the state of Florida to the United States in 1819. Castillo de San Marcos never saw another battle and instead served as a minor base of operations for the Confederacy in the Civil War and later as a prison. Today it is a National Monument where you will find fascinating exhibits, live reenactments, and incredible tours that will delve into every gory historical detail you could want to know. Speaking of gory, St. Augustine has several ghost tours that operate in the area which stop off at Castillo de San Marcos. Make sure to get a good look at the bullet pocked walls where many have claimed to see sprightly orbs of light. Truly a beautiful and captivating part of America’s past, Castillo de San Marcos is an essential stop for any history buff and everyone who is interested in taking a unique look at this wonderful old city.
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