Thanks to the persistence of Spanish explorers, St. Augustine – a relatively small city on the northeastern coast of Florida – can claim the title of “the oldest city in the United States.”
Technically, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in the country. For the sake of comparison, the 1565 founding of the city predates Jamestown by 42 years and predates the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock by 55 years. Likewise, Santa Fe, New Mexico, can trace its origins back to 1610.
Juan Ponce de Leon is perhaps the most recognizable name in early Florida history, having discovered Florida in 1513 and exploring the coast between St. Augustine and Melbourne Beach. Five decades and a half dozen attempts to establish colonies in Florida passed before Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés permanently established a stronghold in St. Augustine.
These days, St. Augustine attracts about 2 million visitors a year with the city’s continued reverence for historical sites and monuments, including the mighty Castillo de San Marco.
St. Augustine claims a host of other notable distinctions, including:
- The first Catholic congregation in North America – the Cathedral Basilica.
- The “Oldest Wooden School House” in the country.
- The narrowest street in the country – Treasury Street at 7 feet wide.
- It has the oldest Ripley’s Believe It Or Not location and the oldest wax museum in the U.S.
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