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Built Around a Plaza

Dim view of St. George street cemetery

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The old Spanish cemetery on St. George street.

Like all towns of Spanish origin, St. Augustine is built around a plaza, a public park of tropical shrubbery and palm trees in the center of the town. Here is the governor's palace, now used as the postoffice; an open structure that is alleged to have been once a slave market but probably serving for the sale of fish, meats and vegetables and not human beings; and a white coquina monument, surmounted by a cannon ball, that was raised in honor of the adoption of the Spanish constitution in 1812. Two years later, King Ferdinand VII, repudiated the Castilian magna charta and ordered all the commemorative shafts torn down but because of the distance of St. Augustine from Madrid, this monument in Florida alone escaped destruction and remains a unique and curious relic of an almost forgotten incident.

The Old Mill in St. Augustine, Florida

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Old mill at St. Augustine, run by six-inch stream rising from flowing well.

Among other places of interest for the tourist are the old Spanish cemetery on St. George street, where the moss-festooned trees solemnly bow their branches over cracked vaults, tombs and pyramids and broken grave stones; the old cathedral, built in 1701 of coquina that defied the flames which partly destroyed the church in 1885, opposite the plaza; and the Memorial Presbyterian church, built by Henry M. Flagler, the pioneer in Florida's modern development.


View of the Prebyterian Church

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The Memorial Presbyterian church, erected by Henry M. Flagler, probably the most ornate structure of its kind in the country.

The Memorial Presbyterian church has little history, but as far as I know, it is the most ornate structure of its kind in the country. Although I am no authority on architecture, it seemed to me to be a harmonious blending of the Egyptian, Grecian, Roman, Moorish, Italian and English types-a sort of international potpourri of design, a great dome surrounded by minarets and towers, a wonderful conglomerate of fantastic gargoyles that almost defy description. If it were built in the shape of a cross, Aladdin's palace must have been something like it. The architects, Messrs. Carrére and Hastings, would be doing me an especial favor if they would tell me where they found the magic lamp of the Arabian Nights' tale. I am thinking of building a modest bungalow.

I have only two faults to find with St. Augustine. In the first place, it is fearfully wet when it rains. After wading through water over the tops of my shoes and walking picket fences to escape an untimely death from drowning, the conviction struck me that Noah must have made the city his watering place after the floods had receded. After spending 40 days and 40 nights in the ark, that venerable mariner could not have been homesick for the sight of water had he visited St. Augustine the day the fates directed me there.

My second criticism is that St. Augustine has not been properly staged. It needs the finishing touches of a Belasco to be ideal. It lacks a bull ring and senoritas, with mantillas over their heads, walking in the plaza. The policemen should brandish machettes, not night sticks, and smoke cigarets while on duty.

These recommendations are made gratis to the Civic Improvement League of St. Augustine.

Aside from these faults, all fancied perhaps, St. Augustine is a wonderful city, wonderful because of its age and its historic association with four dead centuries.


 
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