I'm still working on photo requests from the Where You Live, All Request weekend of 2 weeks ago. Yesterday, I was able to take care of the scenic St. Augustine request started by Sara Sue and repeated by many others.
The collage below shows some of the architecture of the plaza area in the center of town.
While it's sadly true that the stores of downtown are the same trendy upscale tourist shops that you could find in any resort area, the historic buildings that house them are still beautiful and full of character.
Keep in mind the incredible history of this town, my home town. It's old. A baby born to a Spanish colonist in the first year of St. Augustine's existence would have been 55 years old when the first English pilgrim got off the boat.
The collage below shows some of St. Augustine's diversity. Original buildings are preserved by strict building codes and any remodel or new construction is tightly controlled.
I had thought this would be a mildly depressing assignment, because I remember downtown when it really was our downtown. In those premall days, the stores catered to the needs of the residents. Where trinket stores exist now, there were hardware stores, clothing stores, shoe stores, drug stores, and department stores like McCrory's' and Woolworths. The Woolworth's that was the site of counter "sit ins" during the civil rights era is now cut up into a set of souvenier shops.
So, it was a pleasant surprise to be in the plaza early in the morning on a beautiful fall day and realize that you can go home again. The fact is, St. Augustine's historical heart is still a place unique in all of Florida. It's been changing since 1565 and you only set yourself up for disappointment if you expect a city to remain the same as some childhood memory.
Even though I grew up there, I was quickly under it's spell just as much as the foreign and yankee tourists strolling around gawking at this and that. I may have been more spellbound with my sense of the buildings original purposes and the personal connections to this place.
The old post office where Dad worked is now a museum, the Matanzas theater where we went on those first dates is a mini-antique mall, and there are no drugstores, dentists, or "real" stores downtown. All of the day to day, nontourist businesses have moved to the modern sprawl that surrounds this little gem of a town.
The photo above is a view of Flagler College. It was once a grand hotel, but is a thriving private college now. It must be a fun spot to spend 4 years getting a college degree.
The beautiful courtyard above surrounds a 17th century well that was excavated a few years ago. It's pretty typical of beautiful little courtyards that lie along the tiny bricklined streets that radiate out from the plaza. You need to park and walk them to appreciate these tiny "made for horse carriages" streets.
That green house was my first apartment after college. I had the attic apartment at the very top. Can you say, "fire trap".
Thank you Sara Sue and the rest of the St. Augustine requesters, I needed to get downtown again.