Sunday, October 08, 2006

Scenic St. Augustine

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. Posted by Picasa


debbie said...

Thanks for the St. Augustine pictures. I recognize all of the buildings and streets in the historic area, but where is that blue house located. I seem to recall a small body of water over by the winery. Has Emma ever considered going to Flagler College? Or is that still in her comfort zone? My 17 year old son wants to go Flagler, but then again he LOVES St. Augustine.

Floridacracker said...

That house is on the west shore of Maria Sanchez lake ... which is not a lake, but a tidal impoundment.

Emma has not focused on Flagler College as a choice, but she's definitely still in decision mode.
Glad you liked the photos :)

threecollie said...

Very beautiful..nothing like any city i have ever imagined. thanks

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

Thank YOU for the wonderful pictures of St. Augustine.
Your first after college apartment was in a neat looking place overlooking the water...even though it was a fire trap, it still looks pretty nice.

I really like the old architecture of the buildings of St.Augustine.

Thank you again...You get an A+ on your blogging assignment...Or would you rather have a smiley face or a gold star? All kidding aside...You did a great job and now we know just a little bit more about Florida.

Laura said...

I haven't been there in sooooo long. You're right about St. Augustine being unique. This is one Florida town that will need to stand its ground against development to retain its charm.
I remember visiting when I was a little kid, and the horsedrawn carriages and cobblestone streets amazed me at the time. That hadn't changed when we started going back there a few times in the 80's.

I really need to take the girls there!
Beautiful shots, FC, Thanks. :)

The MacBean Gene said...

My first visit to St. Augustine was in 1946 and I still remember the charm of that small town. Florida before it was "discovered" was a truly magical place.

rick said...

i love my home town your pics remind me how lucky we were to grow up here.Glad you returned home to a happy mrs FC "GO GATORS"

Betsy said...

FC, my good man, you have repeated a Yankee fallacy. The Pilgrims at Massachusetts were NOT the first English colony in the New World.

The first English colony was in 1585, here in North Carolina.

The second (and first permanent) English colony was in Virginia in 1607.

The yankee Pilgrims at Massachusetts Bay Colony are a far also-ran in third place at 1620.

Floridacracker said...

So glad you liked it. Still a nice place to visit.

I'll take a smile over gold any day.

Thanks. Before you go, let me know and I can share some insider info ... or you can discover on your own, that's fun too.

I hadn't arrived on the planet yet, (my dad would have been in high school), but it must have been neat back then.

We had it made buddy.

Actually I didn't. I used the word pilgrim on purpose, because in my park service career at the Castillo de San Marcos, I observed that most Americans only knew about the Pilgrims of Thanksgiving fame, and had no clue of the other earlier English colonies.
I don't think of Jamestown or the NC colonizing attempts as "pilgrims".
THAT was my mistake, I should have capitalized Pilgrim to identify it more with the later Plymouth Rock trespassers.

Spain claimed all of North America and viewed the English colonies as trespassing pirate colonies...she just wasn't strong enough to kick them out of Florida (aka North America).

Anglo Georgia and Carolina waged a vicious war against the Spanish in St. Augustine for years, even though they were the ones encroaching on Spanish territory.

I sure agree with one point you made and that is "yankee fallacy", even though I would probably call it "anglo historical bias".

I guess the late arriving Pilgrims of Mass. had a better public relations team.

Betsy said...

FC, points well taken. As a Tar Heel I have been hyper-sensitized to the popular misconception that Anglo-America started in Yankeeland.

Sentences that begin, "Ever since the arrival of English settlers at Plymouth Rock ... " have been known to provoke a disproportionate reaction from North Carolinians like myself, as well as Virginians!

Floridacracker said...

Ditto! It was strange as a kid to be living in the oldest city and get an annual earful of the pitiful Pilgrims who came along later and didn't really seem to do much more than survive for a long time.

And Virginia Dare gets way too much press time too, a Spanish child in St. Aug beat her, but it's not said in the history books.

We're on the same wavelength here.

Hurricane Teen said...

^^And don't forget that the first Thanksgiving actually took place in St. Augustine, too ;-). You're right, FC, I would call it an anglo-historical bias. Great makes me want to visit downtown again. I haven't been there since before the summer (I try to stay away from the in the summer months for obvious reasons.)

Floridacracker said...

Sometimes it takes leaving to see what you left behind.

Anonymous said...

Dear Cracker,

Sorry to be so late to the party! I wanted to be sure to thank you so very much for the wonderful post! I love your neck of the woods and find St. Augustine to be one of the more beautiful places I've ever been. You are so right about parking the car and walking the streets - your pictures capture the beauty, well done!

Sara Sue

104Mississippi said...

Some of those St. Aug alleyways certainly hold a lot of memories! I particularly like the pic of the old home built by Henry Flagler. You always were a great photographer!