Wednesday, July 8, 2009
St. Augustine, Florida #5 - Plaza de la Constitucion
I was watching the History Channel the other day and noticed that a New England state claims to be the home of the oldest public park in the United States. I have never really understood why much of the rest of the country seems to forget that St. Augustine, Florida, was settled 55 years before the first Pilgrim waded ashore at Plymouth Rock.
In fact, the oldest public park in the United States is not in the Northeast. It is the Plaza de la Constitucion in downtown St. Augustine.
This beautiful tree shaded park was established by Spanish Royal Ordinances in 1573, just eight years after St. Augustine was founded and 47 years before settlers arrived in New England. The ordinances required that the plaza be established for public uses in the center of the city, oriented to the principal compass points with a length equal to one and one-half times its width. It maintains these coordiantes to these days.
The Spanish officials and citizens of St. Augustine built many of the public structures of the city so that they would face the plaza. Among those still standing are the restored Goverment House, built in 1706-1713, and the magnificent Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine, a National Historic Landmark built in 1793-1797.
The cannon seen today on the Plaza de le Constiticion were once part of the armament of the nearby Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine's massive Spanish fort. The plaza also includes the only public memorial in the United States to a foreign constitution. It honors, in part, a Spanish constitution enacted when Florida was still a Spanish colony.
To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/staugustineplaza.