Tag Archives: Historic St. Augustine

2018 Florida Road Trip Part 12

20 Mar

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites


Day 12 Tuesday 10/30/2018


My plan this morning was to drive to outlying areas around St. Augustine to visit several additional points of interest.  As I was driving back into town, I passed a sign on a store-front, that advertised “Big Bill’s Die Cast” and I just had to stop to see what it was all about.  This is an amazing store!  This guy, Bill, really does have a die cast model of just about everything that has ever been made.  Cars, Trucks, Airplanes, Motorcycles, Boats, Tanks, and you name it, Bill has the item in several sizes.  His moto is, “If I don’t have it, they don’t make it”and I believe him.



After that interesting stop, I headed across the “Bridge of Lions” and Matanzas Bay onto Anastasia Island to visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse Museum.  Some historical records tell us that this area has been the location of a coastal warning light (watch towers) as early as 1565.  The current lighthouse was built in 1871 to replace the original 1824 lighthouse (the first official lighthouse in Florida built by the new, territorial, American Government) that collapsed in 1880, as a result of erosion and a changing coastline.



Now it was south on SR-A1A just a few miles to visit the Fort Matanzas National Monument (fort) located on the eastern side of the Matanzas Inlet.  This small fort was built by the Spanish in 1742 to guard the southern mouth of the Matanzas River, which opens up the southern access to St. Augustine. The fort itself is only accessible by ferry across the river from the Park Service Visitor Center.



This fort was built and manned by the Spanish to protect the rear entrance to the city of St. Augustine from attack.  The only way to get to the remains of this small fort is by a short ferry-boat ride.  I asked the Ranger how long it would take, from the time one left the landing, until the ferry-boat brought them back.  He said the ferry made the trip once each hour.  From the pictures I saw of this small fort, I didn’t want to take that much time to see it today.  Maybe another time.



South on A1A another few miles, and across the Matanzas Inlet, I checked out the Dolphin Adventure at Marineland.  This attraction was first opened by a group of dedicated sea mammal enthusiasts headed up by W. Douglas Burden and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney as the Marine Studios.  This original facility was situated on a 125 acre plot located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercostal Waterway (Matanzas River).  As the world’s first Oceanarium, the Marine Studios was designed to rescue, study, and film the underwater life and habits of sea creatures.

On my way south on A1A to visit Marineland, I had noticed several large homes, perched on stilts, located right on the beach.  Now as I headed back north towards St. Augustine, I stopped on the side of the road to get a closer look and take a photo or two.  It looked like the houses were located along the beach road known as Old A1A.  I had no idea people were allowed to build that close to the ocean.  I doubt they would have too many visitors during hurricane season, but of course, they would have an excellent view of any 20 or 30-foot tidal surge or tsunami coming in at them from the ocean.





I had to do a little back-tracking on A1A to get to SR-312, where I turned west to avoid having to go through down town St. Augustine again.  Then I turned north on N. Holmes Blvd. until I came across 4 Mile Road, and north again to where I turned west on SR-16.  All of this (with Greta’s help) got me to the St. Augustine Aquarium. This turned out to be a very interesting family-participation type  attraction, feathering all kinds of salt water  creatures including sharks and rays.  I was there long enough to witness the afternoon shark feeding, but wasn’t interested in the snorkeling or the zip line ride.


So, before heading back to the motel for the night, I started looking for a place to eat supper. And wouldn’t you know it, there was a Cracker Barrel Restaurant just down the road.  I stopped in for a delicious Meat Loaf dinner with garlic mash potatoes and green beans, and one of their fresh baked biscuits with butter and honey for desert.


—–To Be Continued—–



Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 61 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.




One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10



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—–





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