We moved today to Cape Canaveral, and are located now in a park which comes up to the shores of the Banana River. It has been cloudy and rainy, we hope that improves over the next couple of days but they Florida does need rain. I have one more item to cover on St. Augustine, the Dow Museum. It covers an entire city block of St.Augustine, and within this area are nine historical homes. Arguably, it is the largest collection of older homes in all of the United States. Also, under and around this historical area are the foundations and structures of the 16th century colonial town. The homes were bought up by Kenneth Dow in the early 20th century. The oldest one is the Murat Home, built in 1790. The owner of the home, Charles Louis Napoleon Achille Murat was the crown prince of France (nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte). Murat came to the United States at the age of 22 years seeking political asylum. He happened to strike up a friendship with the philosopher Emerson, who visited him at this house. Emerson came to St.Augustine frequently to restore his health. Another interesting fact regarding Murat is that he married a relative of George Washington. This home is well furnished with antiques of that era.
Monday, November 29, 2010
John, who very diligently reads all the travel books before touring a city, found some small reference to a "love tree" located in St.Augustine. While walking around the town Friday we came upon the"Love Tree Cafe". The small juice bar has a beautiful garden, but we saw no marker noting a love tree in the area. We were just about ready to give up and walk away when John found The Tree.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
One of these day I just may run out of places to talk about in historic St.Augustine. But I just could not pass up mentioning this home as it has 400 years of documented history and is the oldest home in the city.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I would be very remiss if I failed to mention two other buildings of the Gilded Age built in St.Augustine. The Villa Zorayda was built in 1883 by a Boston millionaire, Franklin Smith. He had fallen in love with the Alhambra while visiting Spain and was determined to build his home in that style. The end result was an exact replica of one wing of that palace, but one-tenth its size.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
John and I have walked the streets of St. Augustine, toured four museums, and still feel as though we have not made much headway in seeing all of this town.That is not a complaint, for it has all been most interesting. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Florida became a winter retreat for northern visitors. Henry Flagler, a self-made millionaire, who with John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company, was the man who turned St. Augustine into a winter vacation spot. He started building a great Gilded Age empire of hotels and railroads that extended from the city south to Key West. There are three of his hotels still in St. Augustine today, one of them, the Cordova, still functions as a hotel today. Another one, the the Alcazar, is a museum today as well as the city hall for St.Augustine. Otto Lightner bought the hotel in 1947 to house his 40 to 50 thousand antiques and collectibles. The hotel rooms surrounding the courtyard are now the city hall offices, the museum part is located where there once were steam rooms, the bowling alley,casino and ballroom. The hotel once had the largest swimming pool in the world, now it is a cafe for the museum. The picture below was taken from the ballroom looking down at the cafe.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
It is amazing how such a small town can hold so many layers of history. Also, many nationalities are represented in the city still today. St. Augustine did not become a part of America until it was over 200 years old. After touring the fort we did a walking tour of St Augustine's oldest section of town, and there found the beautiful Greek Orthodox National Shrine. It is quite a unique chapel with exquisite Byzantine style frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Christ.
Monday, November 22, 2010
This fort is over 300 years old and has been under the flag of Spain twice, England once, and America also once. St. Augustine originally had a wooden fort, which was burned by Sir Francis Drake in 1586, and in 1668 pirates sacked St.Augustine hoping to attain the riches of Spain which were borne on the Spanish galleons sailing into the tiny colonial outpost. This caused Queen Mariana of Spain to order that a stone fort be built for the town. A locally quarried rock, coquina, was used. It proved impregnable, and the fort survived 15 battles and two sieges. Rather than crumbling under the battering of artillery shells the coquina walls "swallowed" the cannon balls and little damage occurred to the structure over the years.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Jacksonville is about 45 miles north of where we are parked. In contrast to the towns in Georgia, which we have toured, Jacksonville does not have the old town charm. It was burned and abandoned several times during the Civil War. Yellow Fever killed many of its citizens in the late 1880s and forced many more to flee. In 1901 the town sustained a major fire which destroyed nearly the entire downtown area. We drove into the city yesterday to visit a cousin of mine and her husband, Sandra and Peter Ryan. We were not meeting them until later in the day so we took some time to visit the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. Arthur Cummer was a wealthy lumber baron at the turn of the twentieth century. At that time he and his wife owned most of Florida. Below is a picture of the sculpture which sits at the entrance of the museum.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
We are now parked in Florida, between Jacksonville and St. Augustine. Today we drove into historic old St. Augustine and spent the greater part of our afternoon at an archeological park which claims to be North America's first historical site. The park is on the location of an ancient Timucua Indian village. The park also has on display a cross of coquina (a natural form of tabby) excavated in 1909, which Ponce De Leon laid out to establish the Spanish claim for all of North America.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
As we drove over the Altamaha River bridge into Darien yesterday John kept urging me to look for Altie. Altie, sometimes known as Altamaha-ha is reported to be an aquatic cryptid whose home is in the tributaries, marshes, and former rice fields of the Altamaha River. The first reports of Altie date back to the 17th century, and the latest sighting of him was in 2002 when a fisherman saw something that fit the creature's description. Another report said that Altie swam under a boat and "whacked" it with his tail. Altie has a snake-like head that sits on a long neck, and its coloring has described as being gray, dark brown or even green on the top with a white, cream or yellow underside. Because of his particular movements in the water there is also a theory that he has two humps. I looked hard over the water with camera in hand, but did not see him. While walking on the waterfront of Darien we found a painting of Altie on a mural.