The Reddington house, built in 1665 and now used as a museum for the exhibition of a wonderful collection of antiques.
St. Augustine - Patriarch of American Cities
Spanish soldier guards the Nation's Oldest City.
Florida is a realm of charming contradictions. Rival real estate agents indulge in them.
Swaying palm trees hum the siesta lullabies of the tropics, while sturdy pines stand erect and defiant to
meet the snow-lugging blasts of winter, which never come, with Belgium-brave resistance. Although the last
of the great national frontiers, yearning for settlement and development, it can boast of having within its
boundaries the first colony of the European on the mainland of North America-St. Augustine, cradle of the
Spanish empire in the new world and patriarch of all American cities.
Had Ponce de Leon lived in the modern day of “Collegiate clothes for Sires of Sophomores,”
which are alleged to make old men look young; of cafes dansant where still-kneed septuagenarians mimic the steps
of youth and the Castles; of Broadway revues, where the exposure of bare feminine knees brings a blush of
childish shame to wrinkled cheeks, St. Augustine might not be able to boast of such a distinction. For it was
this intrepid but declining native of Aragon, who shipped with Columbus on the latter's second voyage to
America, that gave to St. Augustine that characteristic which he could not tolerate in himself – age; a
characteristic that lends to the 402-year-old city the charm of the lovable great-grandmother and none of
the hideousness of the tottering, bent-backed miser.
Tiring of hearing his barber prate of hair tonics which were absolute failures as irrigation
projects on barren pates and of listening to the creak of his joints as he bowed to the ladies of the court,
Ponce de Leon sailed from Spain in 1512 in search of adventure and the fountain of youth. A poisoned arrow cut
short his quest for adventure. He never found the magic waters which, according to the redskin quacks of Porto
Rico, would turn his silver hair to brown, erase the wrinkles from his face, and free his body of rheumatism.
The old pillars and the sentry boxes of the city gate at St. Augustine, cherished landmarks of a brace
past and conspicuous relics of an elaborate system of fortifications that once defended the patriarch of American
Although his parlous "See America First" trip was a crushing disappointment to him, the wanderings
of the venerable gadabout were not in vain as far as King Ferdinand of Spain, his royal descendants and the future
generations of southern tourists and Florida realty dealers were concerned. Ponce de Leon discovered the peninsular
state of the Union on Easter Sunday, 1513, and put St. Augustine on the map. You will find it so written in the ancient
archives of the Castilians.
A Historical Brass Knocker
There are no visible proofs of Ponce de Leon's visit to the greybeard of American cities. The prints of
his mailed shoe in the sand have not been preserved for posterity and obliging guides. There are no holes in the beach where
he must have prospected for the magic aqua juventatis which, had he discovered it, would have been a Florida water much more
in demand than the present product bearing that label, an eagerly quaffed potion that would have made embalming fluid a drug
on the market, put undertakers and cemetery sextons out of business and received a testimonial from Lillian Russell.
The only tangible evidence of Ponce de Leon's association with St. Augustine is a brass knocker, taken from
the portals of his residence in Spain to ornament the door of the Reddington house, which shares the disputed claim of being
the oldest dwelling in the patriarchial city with two other antiquated structures. The knocker is genuine. A parchment, yellow
with age and carefully preserved behind glass, bears testimony to its authenticity. Your only wonder is that knockers should
have been used in a day when the hands of callers were encased in gloves of mail.
The achievements of Don Pedro Menen dez de Aviles, who raised the royal banner of Spain over St. Augustine
52 years after Ponce de Leon landed in Florida and 44 years before the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth rock, are far more
authentic and sanguinary than those of the disappointed seeker after youth. Eager to find the waters that would make him
young again and to flee approaching death, Ponce de Leon was a roving explorer. Menendez, appointed governor of the
Floridas on condition that he expel the French from the land and conquer the natives, was a colonizer. It was natural
that he should be. It would bea queer governor, indeed, that would not create something over which to govern. Such was
the impulse that changed St. Augustine from an uninhabited stretch of sand to a lasting settlement that was destined to
have a crimson and charred fight for existence.
Red, Fire-Lighted Legends
The old cathedral and the new on St. George street.
In the circle is shown the sun dial that is a conspicuous decoration of the old church, built in 1701 and partially
destroyed by fire in 1885.
St. Augustine's early history is written in blood, the merciless massacre of the Huguenots, who had founded a
settlement on the St. Johns river in 1564, by Menendez immediately upon his arrival and the retaliating butchery of the
Spaniards by Dominic de Gourgues 3 years later, supplying the historians with enough red writing fluid to balance the books
of the world since the day of the Creation. Thrice, before the town was a half-century old, the annalists penned chapters of
defeat and destruction as the pages of their records were illuminated by crackling flames started by the firebrands of the
English pirates, Sir Francis Drake and John Davis, and the invading governor of South Carolina, Moore.
Visit St. Augustine and you voice the regret, so commonly expressed, that the cinematograph was not the invention
of the ancients so that all history, from the fall of Adam to the fall of Przemysl, could be pictured on the screen as the epochal
episodes of the centuries actually were unfolded. The life of the old town has been a thrilling one. In its time it has seen siege
and slaughter, loot and conflagration. Through its narrow streets have marched the mailed conquistadors of Spain, the bearded crews
of pirate ships, the captured chiefs of the Seminoles, the blue-coated soldiers of the United States and the gray-clad troops of
the Confederacy. Shot, fired from the buccaneer ships, has furrowed its beach and found a target in its forts. Galleons, flying the
red and yellow flag of Spain; pirate craft, with the skull and crossbones at the masthead; yankee battleships and gunboats have
ridden at anchor in its harbor. It has served four national masters — Spain, Great Britain, the United States and the Confederate
States of America.
St. Augustine would make a splendid background for a historical movie. Griffith, producer of the historic film
masterpieces, "The Birth of a Nation" and "Martyrs of the Alamo," should protograph it with a battery of moving picture cameras.
With the ancient city as an inspiration, what a scenario Cyrus Townsend Brady could write? I can almost see the following subtitles
of the various episodes of the story flashed upon the screen: