St. Augustine Written Timeline

  • 1889
    Flagler builds railroad and connects St. Augustine to New York.
    By January 20, 1890 Henry Flagler had the first steel bridge in Florida completed, crossing the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. Flagler’s bridge remained in use until 1925, when a double track was built in its place. The bridge allowed for continuous travel from northern cities to the Deep South. Before the bridge, passengers had to be ferried across the river, once in Jacksonville, and again at Tocoi just outside St. Augustine.
    Flagler’s Memorial Presbyterian Church was dedicated on March 16, 1890. The old Presbyterian Church on St. George Street was vacated as the congregation moved to the new sanctuary with room for 480 worshipers. Flagler built the church for his daughter Jennie Louise Flagler, who died in 1889. He chose the same architects who built the Ponce de Leon Hotel for him, Carrere & Hastings. Its design is based on the Basilica of St. Mark in Venice, Italy.
    Jose Marti came to St. Augustine in September 1892. A breakfast was held at an “unpretentious cottage on the king’s highway” where Marti was declared Provisional President of the Republic of Cuba. Marti came to St. Augustine to collect support, supplies, and weapons for the Cuban Revolution, which would begin in 1895. Marti also visited his “Cuban Saint” Felix Varela who is buried in Tolomato Cemetery.
    Florida was hit with a devastating freeze in December 1894, running through until February of the following year. The freeze had disastrous impacts for the flourishing orange and pineapple industries. Exports of oranges were cut from 5 million boxes in 1893-4 to a mere 150,000 in 1894-5. It took over 15 years for Florida’s agriculture to recover, stabilizing again by 1909.
    The Cuban Revolution began on February 24, 1895. The Cuban Revolutionary Party, led by Joe Marti joined with Maximo Gomez to fight again the Spanish Army in Cuba. Marti died in the battle of Dos Rios on May 19. In death, Marti became a national hero and a martyr for his cause. The Cuban Revolution led to the Spanish American War in 1898, as America sent the battleship Maine to Cuba and it exploded in Havana Harbor.
    On April 15, the Florida East Coast Railway opened its station in Miami, Florida extending the line 366 miles. Flagler established the Royal Palm Hotel, and literally planned Miami’s development including an electricity plant, sewage system, and water works. Flagler paid for many of the first buildings construction and the paving of streets. Miami was the end of the line until 1903 when Flagler again pushed southward.
    The Spanish-American War erupted in the Caribbean in late April 1898. The Cuban Revolutionary Party declared war on Spain in 1895, and fighting ensued for three years. The USS Maine was sent to Havana in 1898 and mysteriously exploded in harbor. American outrage led to a ten-week war, ending with the 1898 Treaty of Paris. The U.S. received colonial control of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico through this treaty.
    U.S. Army Post at fort deactivated.
    The Curtiss Exhibition Company came to St. Augustine in April 1911, invited by local businessman Chares F. Hopkins. Aviators James J. Ward and J.A.D. McCurdy, both renowned in their time, demonstrated their planes for the crowds gathered at South Beach and along the bay front. The St. Augustine Record covered the events, declaring Mr. Ward the hero of the day for beating the fastest speedboat in a race held on the Matanzas River in his “Shooting Star.”
    On January 22, 1912 Henry Flagler triumphantly boarded the first train to Key West. Flagler’s vision was completed, his hotels were successful and railroads in constant use across the state. The Extension, connecting the Florida Keys with Key West was a marvelous feat with no precedent at that time. Once complete, a three-day celebration was held in Flagler’s honor.
    Henry M. Flagler died on May 20 at the age of 83. Already a successful millionaire from his involvement in Standard Oil, Flagler established an Empire in Florida, vastly improving the state hospitality industry and transportation. He died at his home, Whitehall, in Palm Beach, which now serves as the Flagler Museum. Flagler remains a central figure in Florida History, and both Flagler College and Flagler County are named after this prolific man.
    On June 28, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austria-Hungary throne, and his wife were assassinated by Serbian Nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, in Sarejevo. Austria and Germany aligned against Serbia and Russia, and Germany formally declared war against Russia on August 1. All European Nations became involved in World War I and the map of Europe changed significantly at its end.
    On April 2, a fire swept through the city of St. Augustine. It started at the Florida House and spread from Treasury to Hypolita streets. The fire reduced four hotels, the Court House, and numerous public and private homes to ashes. The first collection of the Historical Society was lost in this fire. The courthouse lost all of their documents not stored in fireproof vaults. Firemen were brought from Jacksonville and the local militia guarded the area to prevent looting.
    On May 7, a German U-Boat torpedoed the British liner Lusitania, sinking it off the coast of Ireland. Of the 1,959 people aboard, 1,198 were killed, including 128 Americans. U. S. President Woodrow Wilson denounced the German attack as piracy, and it led to U. S. involvement in World War I by 1917.
    In 1918 The St. Augustine Historical Society purchased the Gonzales-Alvarez House, operated as the Oldest House Museum today. The First Spanish Period home dates to around 1704 and is made of coquina. During the British Period a second floor was added to the original structure, both of which remain to this day. The home was added to the list of National Historical Landmarks in 1970.
    Florida Memorial College moved to St. Augustine from Jacksonville. The Institution started as two separate schools that merged in 1941, forming the Florida Normal and Industrial Memorial Institute. After a series of name changes, the college moved to Miami in 1969. Florida Memorial University, its current name, is the only Historical Black College and University in Southern Florida. It offers 41 undergraduate degrees and 4 graduate programs.
    President Calvin Coolidge declared Fort Marion (Castillo de San Marcos) a National Monument on October 15. Fort Matanzas was declared a national monument in the same year, along with Fort Wood (Statue of Liberty), Fort Pulaski, and Castle Pinckney. Fort Marion was renamed in 1941, reclaiming its Spanish name, which it retains to this day. The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest European fortification remaining in the Americas today.
    David P. Davis came to St. Augustine to plan the development of Davis Shores. Davis already had success in Tampa, and was a major promoter of the Florida Real Estate Boom. Over 13,000,000 cubic feet of sand was dredged to form the Davis Shores subdivision. On November 14 the first properties in Davis Shores were placed on the market, selling out in only a few hours.
    The Bridge of Lions was dedicated in February, connecting Anastasia Island with St. Augustine’s downtown historic district. Built by the J. E. Greiner Company, the bridge took two years to complete and has recently been preserved, re-opening in March 2010. The bridge is named for the two large marble Lions carved by Italian sculpture F. Romanelli, a gift from Dr. Andrew Anderson.
    The City Commission formed a citizen committee in 1936 to study the historic sections of St. Augustine and determine if funding could be obtained for restoration of historic buildings. The committee served as the predecessor to the Historic Preservation Board, and its organization marked the beginnings of St. Augustine’s interest in preserving its historic neighborhoods and structures, the Llambais House was one of the first rehabilitated by the Carnegie Institute in 1937.
    Marine Studios, or Marineland, opened its doors to guests for the first time on June 23. Over 20,000 people were in attendance on opening day, despite the fact that it was raining! Marineland featured the worlds first Oceanarium tanks, filled with species from the Atlantic Ocean. Numerous films and scientific studies were conducted at Marineland during its operation. In 1998 the park closed it doors. It was reopened as an educational facility in 2006.
    Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.
    The United States Congress officially changed the name of St. Augustine’s fort from Fort Marion to the Castillo de San Marcos, in honor of its Spanish origins. The fort retains its Spanish name to this day, but is still identified as Fort St. Marks and Fort Marion in historical texts.
    Chicago publisher Otto C. Lightner came to St. Augustine and purchased the building on King Street, formerly the Alcazar Hotel built by Henry Flagler in 1887. Lightner needed a space to house his collection of Victoriana, and the Alcazar offered the perfect space. The Lightner Museum opened in 1948, and was donated to the city of St. Augustine. Its collection includes a wide variety of collectables, from Victorian wares and geological artifacts to Egyptian mummies.
    The St. Augustine Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission was formed by the Florida legislature. The committee’s purpose was to revive the preservation movement within the Nations Oldest City, which had its beginnings in 1936. It was the first committee of its kind within the State of Florida, and maintained not only architectural structures, but archaeological features important to the State and nations history.
    On April 6, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed a suit against St. Johns County School Board to implement desegregation in St. Augustine schools. This case marked the beginnings of complicated and severe racial tensions in the nations oldest city throughout 1963 and 1964. Demonstrations increased and violence erupted on the streets of the city.
    A Living History Museum was opened in St. Augustine called San Augustin Antiguo, now named The Colonial Spanish Quarter. This museum demonstrates Spanish life in Florida during the 1740s.
    Dr. Martin Luther King and Reverend Ralph Abernathy were arrested at the Monson Motor Lodge along with several others on June 12. The two activists were given 10-day sentences, but were moved to Jacksonville to serve their time. King’s arrest in St. Augustine was his 12th arrest, but his only arrest in the State of Florida.
    The city of St. Augustine commemorated its 400th anniversary. Founded in 1565 by Pedro Menendez de Aviles for Spain, St. Augustine serves as the nation’s oldest permanent European settlement. The St. Augustine Amphitheatre was built in 1965 to celebrate the anniversary and is still used today as a concert venue and farmers market.
    Flagler College is founded in September as a private women’s college. Occupying Henry Flagler’s magnificent Ponce de Leon Hotel, the College refitted the Spanish Revival Building into a working college campus. Today, Flagler College is coeducational four-year private college, and boasts one of the most beautiful college campuses in the entire country.
    A Desegregation Law was passed down to the St. Johns County School Board, making it mandatory for all public schools to have both white and African American students. The decision came after a series of violent protests and demonstrations, making the city a hot bed of civil rights activity during the 1960s.
    St. Augustine’s City Hall is established in the north portion of the Lightner Museum, formally the Alcazar Hotel. Renovations for the cities move began in 1968, when the dining hall and connecting above street walkway were demolished between the Lightner and Casa Monica Hotel. The Lightner Museum opened on the second floor when City Hall opened its doors to the public.
    The city of St. Augustine drafted the Archaeology Preservation Ordinance. The ordinance extends to both public and private properties, requiring excavation before ground- penetrating foundations are laid. The city’s Archaeology program conducts an average of 30 investigations per year and works diligently t o collect the history of St. Augustine before it is erased by development.
    The St. Augustine Historical Society opened a Research Library in the Segui-Kirby Smith House. The building was home to Confederate General Kirby- Smith, the last to surrender in the Civil War. This property served as the cities Free Public Library since 1872. The Research Library is open to the Public and has an extensive collection on St. Augustine History.