Explore St. Augustine

40 Key Moments in St. Augustine's History

A timeline of America's first permanent European settlement
  1. Pre-15th century: The Tiumuca Indians live along the East Coast of Florida and Georgia.

  2. 1492: Christopher Columbus lands near Venezuela, believing he has landed near India.

  3. April 1513: Ponce de León comes ashore near St. Augustine and christens the land la Florida in honor of Spain’s Easter Feast of the Flowers.

  4. 1520s-1550s: Spain creates the world’s first global economy with vessels going to the New World and the Philippines, trading silver and gold from Panama and Mexico for porcelain and silk from China.

  5. 1532: Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto raids Peru’s Incan empire and returns to Spain with 18,000 ounces of gold. In 1539, he sets out for North America and lands in Tampa Bay.

  6. 1559: Spanish conquistador Don Tristan de Luna settles Pensacola, Fla., but a hurricane destroys his attempt.

  7. 1564: The French settle Fort Caroline near Jacksonville.

  8. Sept. 8, 1565: Pedro Menéndez de Avilés leaves Spain for Florida with the goal of creating a Spanish settlement and removing the French from Florida.

  9. 1570: Spain financially supports St. Augustine for the next 2 ½ centuries.

  10. 1572/73: St. Augustine moves from Anastasia Island to the mainland, and Mission Nombre de Dios is established.

  11. 1579: Oranges are first cultivated in Florida by the Spaniards in St. Augustine.

  12. 1570s-1580s: Conflicts ensue among the French, Spanish and English for their place in the New World. Many of Spain’s settlements on the Eastern Seaboard are destroyed.

  13. 1586: Sir Francis Drake nearly burns down the city of St. Augustine.

  14. Late 1500s: A Spanish watchtower is built at Matanzas Inlet, becoming the first navigation aid in the United States.

  15. 1607: England establishes Jamestown, Virginia.

  16. 1620: England establishes Plymouth, Massachusetts.

  17. 1668-1672:  English pirates loot and burn St. Augustine, and Castillo de San Marcos is built to protect the city.

  18. 1740-42: Fort Matanzas is built 14 miles south of town.

  19. 1763: The Spanish lose Florida to England.

  20. July 4, 1776: The Declaration of Independence is signed.

  21. 1783: The United States and Great Britain sign the Treaty of Paris, ending the Revolutionary War. Spain re-gains Florida.

  22. 1787: The U.S. Constitution is signed.

  23. 1813: The public square is renamed Plaza de la Constitución to commemorate Spain’s Constitution of 1812.

  24. 1821: Florida becomes a U.S. territory.

  25. 1837/1875: The Castillo de San Marcos is used as a prison for Native American Indians.

  26. 1845: Florida becomes the 27th state.

  27. 1861: Florida secedes from United States in the Civil War. One year later, the city surrenders and remains under Union control.

  28. 1872: A public library is established on Aviles Street.

  29. 1874: A new lighthouse is built on the site of the old watchtower.

  30. 1878-1888: Henry M. Flagler builds two luxury hotels, the Hotel Ponce de Leon and the Alcazar.

  31. 1905: President Theodore Roosevelt stays at the Hotel Ponce de Leon.

  32. 1940: A pier, boardwalk and hotel open at St. Augustine Beach to attract tourists.

  33. 1947: The Alcazar is now home to the Lightner Museum.

  34. 1964:  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assists St. Augustine leaders in marches, sit-ins and swim-ins.

  35. 1968: The Hotel Ponce de Leon becomes the home of Flagler College.

  36. 1980: The St. Augustine Lighthouse begins a 15-year renovation and re-opens to visitors.

  37. 1999: The Kessler group re-opens the Casa Monica Hotel.

  38. 2012-2014: St. Augustine is named among America’s favorite beach towns in Coastal Living and Travel + Leisure, among the top 10 historic cities by USA Today, and among the top towns to visit in National Geographic Traveler and Smithsonian.

  39. 2014: The city bustles with 6 million tourists annually, 13,000 locals and 7,000 students.

  40. 2015: St. Augustine celebrates its 450th anniversary and plans a visit from Pope Francis and the king and queen of Spain.