The Castillo de San Marcos is the city of St. Augustine’s oldest building. It’s a well-known historical destination in St. Augustine. This fortress intrigues people because it was never breached by any force. It was an unbeatable fortress.
Visitors may take a tour of the fort, stroll through the corridors, view the battle-tested walls, watch cannon firings and historical re-enactments, and discover the amazing history of this formidable fortress.
Visit a number of the former prisons and soldiers’ quarters before heading to the spacious inner courtyard and gun deck for a stunning view of the city. Depending on the weather & staffing, the Castillo offers ranger-led tours, cannon firings, regular daily programs, and armament demonstrations are available.
The Castillo is open every day of the year, with the exception of Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day.
The Castillo de San Marcos located in St Augustine, Florida is the oldest masonry fort. It means “St. Mark’s Castle” in Spanish.
While Florida was still part of the Spanish Empire, Ignacio Daza, a Spanish engineer, planned and began building on it in 1672, 107 years after Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established the city. Following the 1668 invasion by English privateer Robert Searles, who demolished the wooden fort and burned down much of St. Augustine, Governor Francisco de la Guerra y de la Vega ordered the construction of the fort. The first coquina stones were set in 1672 by Guerra’s successor, Manuel de Cendoya. The existing castle’s foundation was finished in 1695, although it would require multiple repairs throughout the years.
The fort was renamed Fort Marion in honor of American Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion when Spain consented to the Adams-Ons Treaty in 1819, giving up Florida to the United States in 1821.
After 251 years of military occupation, the fort was decommissioned in 1933. The US National Park Service received the 20.48-acre land. Congress reinstated Castillo de San Marcos in 1942.
Building blocks Coquina
Nearby barrier islands have unique coquina limestone. The stone is constructed of this Spanish term for a little shell. Workers hauled 150 million pounds of coquina blocks across the Bay and built the Castillo. Hand-cut, sculpted and set.
Only local resources could build the Castillo. Spanish explorers found everything they needed. The barrier islands produced coquina, a limestone consisting mostly of shells cemented together with calcium and sand. Sand, fresh water, and oyster and clam shells abounded. Lime from burning shells was combined with sand and water to make construction materials. Coquina blocks were mortared together. To waterproof the stone, numerous layers of plaster were applied and then whitewashed. Whitewash dyed different hues. The gun deck was laid over debris and sand. When dried, the substance in wooden molds looked layered or striped
The Castillo increased cannon firepower and reduced blind areas. Cannon fire from thick walls and stone bastions at each corner covered multiple angles. Castillo was defended by a glacis. The glacis has a covered fighting area and a dry moat for animals. Cannons, walls, moat, glacis, and bastions made this castle nearly impenetrable.
The Castillo aided Spanish colonies in the New World. It supplied military forces and outposts. Small ships patrolled the coast from the Keys southward, hunting for pirates and rescuing shipwreck survivors.
Never was the fort forcedly entered or captured due to its strategic artillery placement and star-shaped form. These fortifications defended Spanish, British, and American Saint Augustine residents from natural disasters and war for centuries.
The history of St. Augustine spans around 500 years. The Fountain of Youth, the City Gates, the Spanish Quarter, historic St. George Street, Old Jail, Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church, Ghost Tour and many more attractions are among the 100 various sites of interest that make up this thorough sightseeing trip.
St. Augustine’s historic district is its major draw for good reason. A prominent pedestrian-only road is surrounded by boutiques, cafés, tourist destinations, and antique stores. These lovely streets are perfect for spending a day.
Castillo de San Marcos. 1 South Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, FL 32084