Old Down-town Part II: South

Old Down-town Part II: South, St. Augustine, Florida (A)

St. Augustine is considered to be the oldest, permanent European settlement in the USA. It is not a huge city area-wise, but it is filled to the brim with amazingly beautiful and historic sites and attractions! This tour begins at the Grace United Methodist Church, where the Old Downtown North tour ended, and explores the southern half of The Ancient City.
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Sights Featured in This Article

Guide Name: Old Down-town Part II: South
Guide Location: USA » St. Augustine
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: Stefan Siewert
Author Bio: Dana Newman has a bachelor’s degree from the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. After receiving her degree she followed her dreams to Europe to live an adventure and collect experiences, which she now writes candidly about from her present home in Munich, Germany. She considers it an honor to be able to live the life she’s imagined.
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Memorial Presbyterian Church
  • Villa Zorayda/Zorayda Castle
  • Flagler College/ Ponce de Leon Hotel
  • City Hall and Lightner Museum/Alcazar Hotel
  • Casa Monica Hotel/Cordova Hotel
  • Potter’s Wax Museum
  • Ximenez-Fatio House
  • Dow Museum of Historic Houses/Old St. Augustine Village
Memorial Presbyterian Church

1) Memorial Presbyterian Church

Throughout your time here in St. Augustine you will hear about Henry Flagler and the buildings he commissioned over and over again. Well, this Memorial Presbyterian Church is no exception. It was established by him in 1889 as a remembrance to his daughter who died during childbirth; it is here that he, his first wife Mary Harkness, their daughter Jennie, and her infant, Marjorie, are buried. The impressive church was built in the Second Renaissance Revival style, and modeled after St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. And, as you can see from the intricate façade and gorgeous dome top, Henry Flagler spared no expense on its construction.
Image Courtesy of Ebyabe.
Villa Zorayda/Zorayda Castle

2) Villa Zorayda/Zorayda Castle

Designed by Franklin Smith in 1883 to be his private home, this structure is the first modern building in St. Augustine to have been created by poured concrete, which makes it among the first modern buildings in all of the USA to have been made this way. The building’s unique design pays tribute to and is modeled after the 12-century Moorish Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. When Flagler later began his surge of building projects throughout St. Augustine he and his architects greatly imitated this building style, which reflects the city’s Spanish roots.
Image Courtesy of Ebyabe.
Flagler College/ Ponce de Leon Hotel

3) Flagler College/ Ponce de Leon Hotel

The grand Ponce de Leon Hotel was Henry Flagler’s first project in St. Augustine with construction beginning in 1885. With an amazing Spanish Renaissance façade, gorgeous ceiling murals, and intricate Tiffany windows, the resort was designed to be a luxurious retreat for wealthy visitors during the temperate winter months. The hotel hosted guests every winter until World War II when it was used as a Coast Guard Training Center! And then, the post-war life of the Ponce de Leon Hotel was rocky to say the least. In 1963 Vice President Lyndon Johnson accepted an invitation to attend a banquet lunch which celebrated St. Augustine’s 400th birthday. It was set to be an all-white affair but Dr. Robert Hayling and other civil rights activists protested. Their protests were considered successful for the time in that they led to peaceful negotiations, which then maintained that two tables must be set aside for local black residents. In 1964 the Ponce de Leon Hotel was in the spotlight again when over a hundred students from the all-black Richard J. Murray High School marched into the hotel’s elite dining room and protested in the form of a sit-in. Today, the old hotel is the campus of the aptly named Flagler College, an accredited four-year liberal arts college. The Flagler Legacy program, founded by the students in 1998, does give guided tours of the hotel if you’re interested in learning and seeing more than just the grounds and foyer.
Image Courtesy of Daniel Schwen.
City Hall and Lightner Museum/Alcazar Hotel

4) City Hall and Lightner Museum/Alcazar Hotel

In 1887 Henry Flagler commissioned the building of the Spanish Renaissance Alcazar Hotel. The architects who designed this building and most of Flagler’s buildings, Carrère and Hastings, went on to design the New York Public Library and the U.S. Senate office building as well. At the time the Alcazar Hotel was meant to be the less formal and less expensive hotel, when compared to the decadent Ponce de Leon Hotel next door. But it was by no means shabby; at the time, it still had the largest indoor swimming pool in the world! In 1932 the hotel closed, but it was not yet the building’s end. In 1946 Otto Lightner, the Chicago founder and publisher of Hobbies Magazine, purchased the property and two years later, in 1948, he opened it up as a museum full of his American Victorian era collection. When he died he donated the property and the building to the City of St. Augustine with the stipulation that the city keep the museum open. So now, the old Alcazar Hotel is now split into two functions; the north half of the building is St. Augustine’s City Hall while the south section is, as promised, the Lightner Museum.
Image Courtesy of Infrogmation of New Orleans.
Casa Monica Hotel/Cordova Hotel

5) Casa Monica Hotel/Cordova Hotel

This beautiful Moorish Revival style hotel was designed by Franklin Smith; when it opened in January of 1888 with just a few guests checked into the lavish rooms, its name was the Casa Monica Hotel. A few months after opening Henry Flagler purchased the property and changed the name to the Cordova Hotel. Mr. Flagler did a great job with the hotel and in his care it absolutely thrived. From 1932 to 1962 the Hotel Cordova closed its doors. When it finally reopened 30 years after closing, it was no longer a hotel but rather the St. Johns County Courthouse. In 1995 the county abandoned the building, but in 1997 The Kessler Collection purchased it, renovated it, and reopened it in 1999 under its original name, the Casa Monica Hotel.
Potter’s Wax Museum

6) Potter’s Wax Museum

Had enough history for the moment? Step into Potter’s Wax Museum to see a wide array of intricately and very impressively designed wax figurines. Established in 1948 by George L. Potter, Potter’s Wax Museum is said to be the first wax museum in the United States. From famous politicians and entertainers to horror characters and historical personalities, Potter’s Wax Musuem seems to have it all. It also has a theater and a wax studio. Open 7 days a week, Potter’s Wax Museum costs about $9 for an adult and offers discounts for children and seniors.
Ximenez-Fatio House

7) Ximenez-Fatio House

Like many St. Augustine buildings, this house has worn a number of different hats throughout the years. When it was first constructed circa 1797 it served as a small store, warehouse and private home. About 58 years later, in 1855, Louisa Fatio, a women whose family had lived in Florida for several generations, purchased the property and turned it into a boarding house for “distinguished guests.” Like the visitors to Flagler’s hotels, guests at her boarding house came down from the north during the winter to enjoy St. Augustine’s milder climate. In 1939 the house was taken on by the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Florida. They have turned it into a museum that is open to the public.
Dow Museum of Historic Houses/Old St. Augustine Village

8) Dow Museum of Historic Houses/Old St. Augustine Village

The Old St. Augustine Village complex has many historically significant components. For one, it is an outdoor museum housing 9 historic buildings that date back to the 1700s. One of these buildings is the Prince Murat House which is named after Prince Achille Murat, who was the nephew of Napolean Bonaparte. Prince Murat lived in the house in 1824 and was not the first resident, but certainly the most famous. In addition, the museum also has archaeological records showing that a hospital and cemetery from the 1500s and a Spanish Colonial defense line and early St. Augustine bridge from the 1700s were located on these grounds. Lastly, but certainly not least, in 1863 this land was also where the Emancipation Proclamation, the decree which freed all slaves in Florida, was read. I’ve only touched on a few of the interesting things at the Old St. Augustine Village, so be sure to go in and see for yourself!

Walking Tours in St. Augustine, Florida

Create Your Own Walk in St. Augustine

Create Your Own Walk in St. Augustine

Creating your own self-guided walk in St. Augustine is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
St. Augustine Early Settlements Tour

St. Augustine Early Settlements Tour

The city of St. Augustine on the northeastern coast of Florida is considered the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States. It was founded by Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles on September 8, 1565, and served as the capital of Spanish Florida for more than 200 years.

One of the most significant early European sites in the city is the Castillo de San...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
St. Augustine's Historical Houses Tour

St. Augustine's Historical Houses Tour

A great deal of St. Augustine's storied past is set in stone in the form of houses that have been inhabited for over 400 years. The number of historic homes found in the city offer a glimpse into its colorful culture with European roots.

Among the most notable of them is the Ximenez-Fatio House. Built in 1798, originally as a boarding place for wealthy travelers, today this property serves...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
St. Augustine Introduction Walking Tour

St. Augustine Introduction Walking Tour

The charming city of St. Augustine is situated on the Atlantic coast of northeastern Florida, where two rivers and a lagoon meet at St. Augustine Inlet. Famous as the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine is a historical town that boasts plenty of intriguing places to explore.

Pedro Menendez de Aviles, a Spanish explorer, founded the city in 1565. After first sighting land in Florida...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles