2018 Florida Road Trip Part 11(Continued – 2)

13 Mar

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites


Day 11 Monday 10/29/2018


I hopped on another Trolley and made the short trip down the road to visit the Fountain of Youth and Archaeological Park.   This is one of at least three known locations in Florida that claim to be the site that Juan Ponce de Leon named  during his 1513 search for what the local Timucua natives referred to as the Fountain of Youth (I don’t think he ever found it).



Excavations of this area (1909-1977) have produced much evidence of the existence of Timucua native communities dating from as early as 2400 BC, but no actual proof of Ponce de Leon or his party.  The site has been a tourist attraction since 1927, when Walter B. Fraser purchased the property.  The attraction consists of several exhibits, including The Spring House, where I was able to sample water from “The Fountain of Youth” (I don’t feel any younger), a Timucua native village, a 1585 Spanish Menendez settlement, a chalupa boathouse, and a blacksmith shop, just to name  a few.



Next stop turned out to be a major Trolley stop where the Old St. Johns County Jail (Oldest Jail) was the centerpiece for the Oldest Store Museum, Gator Bob’s Cracker Trading Post, and the Florida Historical Museum.  The jail was built in 1891 by Henry Flagler in this location to keep it away from the downtown St. Augustine area.  It was designed to look like a hotel, so Flagler’s prospective investors would not be put off by its presence.  With room for 72 inmates and warden’s quarters, the jail was used until 1953, when it was closed and became a museum.  The museum displays prison articles, exhibits, and memorabilia explained to visitors, during their tour, by costumed actors relating tales of the jail and its occupants.



The Oldest Store Museum is a re-creation of the original 1908 general store that was operated by Mr. C. F. Hamblen.  The store is filled with turn-of-the-century “modern living” items that are demonstrated to visitors, by period dressed “clerks” and “salesmen” as part of their tour of the store.



Gator Bob’s “Cracker” Trading Post is your typical Florida tourist trap, with everything imaginable the visitor could be looking for as a souvenir.  I have to admit, this store has the most complete size range of alligator heads I believe I have ever seen.  Since I didn’t need an alligator head for my man-cave at home, I just took the next trolley back to downtown.



The next hour was a whirlwind of sights, sounds, and information about the many interesting places there in St. Augustine by our Trolley driver.  It would have been smart of me to have a tape recorder, so I could have recorded that wealth of information.   But, of course, who thinks that far ahead when on a road trip?  I got off the Trolley at the Plaza de la Constitucion park (1573), and began taking a closer look at some of the points of interest we had just driven past.



The Governor’s House is on the west side of the Plaza de la Constitucion, and served both the Spanish and British Governors, who ruled St. Augustine, during the First Spanish Period (1565-1763), the British Period (1763-1784), and until 1812 in the Second Spanish Period (1784-1821).  The building now houses the Cultural Center and Museum (click on Wikipedia for Governor’s House & Government House for more interesting information about early St. Augustine).



The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine (1565, 1586, 1605, 1707, 1793-1797) is located on the north side of the Plaza de la Constitucion, and represents the oldest Roman Catholic parish in the United States.  The placement of the church facing the Plaza de la Constitucion follows the tradition of siting religious, government, and commercial functions around the central plaza, as dictated by the 1573 Laws of the Indies for Spanish Colonial town planning.

The original commercial stores, and more modern tourist shops, are situated on the south side of the Plaza de la Constitucion, satisfying the 1573 Spanish decree.  I looked up and down the west side of King Street for the Lyons Maritime Museum, but to no avail.   I continued a short distant west on King Street to visit the Lightner Museum.  This museum was originally built in 1887, as the Hotel Alcazar, by Henry Flagler (1830-1913) for wealthy northern tourist traveling south for the winter on Flagler’s railroad (1885).  Flagler spared no expenses on this magnificent hotel, which was far ahead of its time in amenities, including being one of the first hotels in the U.S. to incorporate electric lights designed by Flagler’s friend Thomas Edison. However, many of the rich and famous people in America were not exempt from the dreadful effects the depression years had on this country, and the hotel ended up closing in 1932.


—–More of this day’s activities will be continued next week—–





One Response to “2018 Florida Road Trip Part 11(Continued – 2)”

  1. divoran09 March 13, 2019 at 6:22 pm #

    I especially liked the description of the hotel at the end…lovely picture


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