Understanding the history behind the establishment of Florida’s “historic coast” should include a trip to the remaining forts. Both aspiring and experienced historians claim there’s nothing quite like touching the old masonry stones and walking the paths that soldiers trod to get a good picture of the past. The Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Mose National Park and Fort Matanzas National Monument are open to the public, and each offers points of interest that you shouldn’t miss.
Castillo de San Marcos
Known as the oldest masonry fort in the U.S., the Castillo de San Marcos was constructed between 1672 and 1695 by the Spanish. From 1738 to 1756, Spanish engineers modified and improved the fort. A succession of nations including the British and Americans all continued to alter the Castillo before it was formally retired in 1900. As a national monument, it continues to attract visitors from around the world. The Castillo de San Marcos is located at 1 S. Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, FL 32084. Call 904-829-6506 for more information.
Fort Mose National Park
Fort Mose is an important site on the Florida Black Heritage Trail. As the first free African-American settlement, Fort Mose has much to offer history seekers. It was the Spanish government in 1738 that established Fort Mose as a settlement specifically for freed Africans who escaped from the British Carolinas. In 1763, Spain ceded Florida to the British and the inhabitants of the fort left for Cuba. Although the original fort is gone, the site is on the National Register of Historic Places and does offer some interesting exhibitions. Fort Mose is at 15 Fort Mose Trail in St. Augustine, FL 32084. Contact the staff at 904-823-2232.
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Originally the area known as Fort Matanzas was merely a small watchtower, but the locale’s importance as a southern entrance into St. Augustine soon became apparent to the Spanish. In 1565, the Spanish overcame 245 French Huguenots and took control of Florida. In 1742, the fort was built to protect this crucial area. The fort is located at 8635 Road A1A South, St. Augustine, FL 32080. You can reach the fort at 904-471-7605.
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