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Posts Tagged ‘Colonization’

James City, Va.
Visited: October 12, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 258 of 353
and is also an:
NPS Affiliate Site Visited: 13 of 26
NPS Website; Local Website; NPS Colonial NHP Website; Local Colonial NHP Website

Jamestown MonumentWHAT IS IT?
Location of the first successful English colony in the New World, led in 1607 by Capt. John Smith.

BEAUTY (3/10)
Historic Jamestown is a visual mess. Haphazardly placed monuments and statues take their place among town ruins in various stages of excavation.

Hurricane Isabel destroyed the Park’s old VC and other permanent structures in 2003. A new Visitor Center is under construction and should open in time for the Site’s 400-year anniversary in 2007. As a result, orange plastic fences and yellow police tape cordon off Historic Jamestown sites, port-o-potties stand next to the Pocahontas statue and no photograph can avoid a 21st-century mechanized construction intrusion.

Cranes, workers, dump trucks and assorted decibel-soaring equipment successfully stake their claim as your visit’s most indelible memory. The only respite from the mechanistic madness is the five-mile Island Drive Loop that travels through the quiet, shimmery mosquito-laden marshlands of Jamestown Island.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (9/10)
During a visit to the Independence NHP in Philadelphia, a docent at the American Philosophical Society averred to Michael that everything wrong in this country is traceable to our English roots. She clearly has not studied Colonial Spanish history. The two grandest historic revelations to sprout at Jamestown, tobacco farming and its conjoined twin slavery, were nourished by the English but learned from the Spanish.

In 1617, John Rolfe experimented with new strains of tobacco, imported from the Spanish West Indies. The resulting leaf proved tastier than the native species and much more profitable. The peninsula soon moved towards mass tobacco production, a society flourished and, as the Park brochures state, “America began”.

Indeed, without tobacco farming and slavery, America would have ceased to exist. The democratic ideals of the founding fathers, our economic power, the notion of religious freedom and tolerance, and the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment put into practice; poof, gone with the wind. We are tobacco; it has always spurred our nation’s blood.

The first 10 years of British life at Jamestown are notable because of the colonists’ sheer incompetence and absolute failure to survive. These settlers starved to death instead of growing crops and turned to cannibalism rather than kill the innumerable rabbits, deer, squirrel and other small game that teemed around them. It was not until 1617 that the colony became a moneymaking success.

In 1619, African slaves were brought to Jamestown to work the tobacco crop, the first instance of slavery in the English New World. Slavery was not new to the Americas, the Spanish were using it to fuel an empire, but was new to English outposts. Virginia did not become inundated with African slave labor until after the 1676 Bacon’s Rebellion but the seeds were sown at Jamestown.

New Visitor CenterCROWDS (2/10)
The Jamestown site was stuffed to the gills, even on a mid-week, late-October morning. The Park’s space-to-tourist ratio is exacerbated by the ongoing construction.

Visitors, most of them in the septuagenarian set, walk around like guillotined chickens. No one knows where to go because the makeshift VC and signage are inadequate. The Park shows the 40+ year-old intro video in an educational mobile facility with no air conditioning and no ventilation.

Confusion reigns at the current incarnation of Jamestown NHS because just around the corner, less than a mile away, is the Jamestown Settlement, a living history Virginia State Park attraction. The State Park has reënactors and replicas of the 1607 ships. The Settlement also has a separate entrance fee. We heard dozens of guests wonder aloud, “where are the ships?” and “why did we have to pay twice”.

EASE OF USE/ACCESS (4/5)
Jamestown NHS is located a few miles southwest of the tourist beehive of Colonial Williamsburg. Numerous signs from I-64, Exit 234 point you towards the Jamestown Settlement. You can follow these signs to the NPS site because the two Museums are right next to each other. Handily, we saw a sign at nearly every intersection. You should too.

The 25-mile long Colonial Parkway connects Colonial NHP’s two major sections, Jamestown NHS and Yorktown Battlefield. The Parkway meanders amiably, allowing a stoplight and Interstate-free drive.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (4/5)
Jamestown NHS’s top attraction is the Glasshouse and its adjoining store. Here you can purchase stunning and affordably priced glass blown on-site, replicating the output of early 17th-century Polish and German artisans.

The Park’s book selection was good but hardly definitive. Do your shopping for read-ables at Colonial Williamsburg’s jumbo-sized bookstore.

In Stemware HeavenCOSTS (2/5)
Collectively, Jamestown NHS and Yorktown Battlefield are known as Colonial National Historical Park. The National Parks Pass (NPP) provides free entry into both Colonial NHP sites.

If you do not have the NPP, Jamestown NHS charges $8 per adult. Yorktown Battlefield charges $5 per adult. A combo pass is $10 per adult.

The Virginia State Park, Jamestown Settlement, costs $11.75 per adult. The Commonwealth of Virginia also runs its own Park at Yorktown, called the Yorktown Victory Center, which runs $8.25 per adult. Their combo pass is $17. Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center are not affiliated with the National Park Service; your NPP does not work there.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (1/5)
If there were Rangers at Jamestown NHS, they eluded our probing eyes.

TOURS/CLASSES (4/10)
The current educational situation at Jamestown NHS is revoltingly bad. The mentions of Bacon’s Rebellion, tobacco, slavery, English common law, cannibalism, etc… are fleeting at best. The Site does not even tell the Pocahontas story. We trust that this will change once the new Visitor Center opens. Do not expect to learn anything until that date.

Our generous score comes from our pleasant experience at the Jamestown Glasshouse. Costumed artisans blow glass while a staff member explains the mesmerizing art. The finished products (assorted stemware, ewers and lamps) are sold both under the Glasshouse canopy and at NPS Visitor Centers throughout the United States.

Colin Farrell?FUN (4/10)
Gab had tons of fun at the Glasshouse. Michael was thoroughly bored. Neither of us enjoyed our time at the Historic Jamestowne site. It is difficult to transport your imagination back to 1607 while bulldozers drown out your every thought. Even though we are not intrigued by the Pocahontas story, we did want to hear it. Instead, we were met with signs beckoning us to return in 2007. All of our learning came through self-induced historical speculation based on our own readings. If you come to learn about Jamestown you will leave with the same desire.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (4/10)
Yes, just not until 2007 when the new VC and Museum open. Maybe then we can come back and adjust our score upward.

TOTAL 37/80

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near Gould, Ark.
Visited: August 29, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 240 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

They’re EverywhereWHAT IS IT?
Site of one of France’s earliest permanent New World settlements. For almost 200 years, from 1686 to 1863, the Arkansas Post was an important city but now nothing remains.

BEAUTY (5/10)
The Park is a murky peninsula, surrounded on its wide sides by the bayou, its tip pointing towards the Arkansas River. The sky shines a hazy grayish blue, reflecting the waters’ dark dingy tint. Trees grow in the water. Fields of lily pads float everywhere amidst lime green algae and yellow lotus flowers add an unseen color and a delicate beauty. Snowy Egrets fly above skulking alligators, multiple dragonfly species hover incessantly, mosquitoes swarm and yearling deer race through the ruins of an early Arkansas town.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (5/10)
It is hard to believe this abandoned bayou backwater could ever have been an important place, but for nearly two centuries, it was the center of European life in the Arkansas region. In 1686, the French built a fort, establishing a trading post and solidifying control of the Arkansas River. The River’s flooding, Chickasaw war parties and British raiders continually forced the fort to be moved.

In 1763, France cedes the region to the Spanish, who soon after establish a presence at Arkansas Post. British soldiers attack the Fort in 1783, during the American Revolution, because Spain has sided with the colonists. France regains the territory in 1800 and sells it to Thomas Jefferson as a part of the Louisiana Purchase. Arkansas Post becomes capital of the Arkansas Territory in 1819 and the Arkansas Gazette (still the State’s major newspaper) begins publication.

Six Flags Over ArkansasIn 1821, Little Rock becomes the capital, the paper moves and the population shrinks from 1830 to only 114. The town is all but dead. The penultimate nail comes in January 1863, during the Civil War, when Union gunboats destroy the Site’s newly built Fort and mercilessly shell the town. Nothing remains. Nature deals the final blow through erosion and the changing course of the Arkansas River. All that remains are alligators, deer, dragonflies, wild turkeys and lotus flowers.

CROWDS (6/10)
Just us. We wish we could have spotted some alligators. Maybe if the sky had not been overcast.

EASE OF USE/ACCESS (1/5)
The N MEM is located in the bayou country of southeastern Arkansas, about 60 miles from Pine Bluff and 100 miles from Little Rock.

From Pine Bluff, take U.S. Route 65 southeast until the town of Gould. Wind your way through the back streets of this tiny town along Arkansas Route 212. Once you hit U.S. Rte. 165, turn north (left). In about 5 miles, turn east (right) onto Arkansas Rte. 169. Rte. 169 will lead you through the bayou and to the Park.

If you would prefer to stay on larger roads, continue on 65, past Gould, and to Dumas. From Dumas, take U.S. Rte. 165 for 15 miles until Ark. Rte. 169. Turn right and you will soon be there.

Bayou Country

CONCESSIONS/ BOOKSTORE (4/5)
The bookstore has a sparse, but well thought out and interesting selection of merchandise for sale. Jaw Harps, reprints of the two Harper’s Weekly’s that mention the Arkansas Post Civil War battle, reprints of the first issue of the Arkansas Gazette, a cute canned Alligator (stuffed animal in a can, not a meal) and ceramic mugs stamped with the fleur de lis. Cool books include an Arkansas traveler’s 1819 journal, a book on the Indian gun trade, Alan Taylor’s American Colonies and a history of the Arkansas Post written by a Park Service employee.

COSTS (4/5)
The Site is free.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (4/5)
One kind Ranger looked happy to see us; it was a dreary, rainy midweek day and few people were venturing to this bayou ghost town.

TOURS/CLASSES (5/10)
There are a few neat displays in the Museum and the film, while superficial and hokey, is watch-able. The Park holds no interesting secrets and no spellbinding historical revelations. The Site does an able job with its limited material. The Site provides a terrific bird checklist that even lists the specific areas of the Park to look for each bird.

FUN (3/10)
We would have had more fun of there were alligators. We cut our pleasant, but humid, walk around the Post Bayou Nature Trail short because the rain started to come down in droves. The thick trees were not going to provide a sturdy canopy for long. The old townsite was anticlimactic, consisting of only one or two ruins. The climate, ruins, scenery and colonial history reminded us of Georgia’s Fort Frederica NM. We did not have much fun there, either.

Photogenic ThreeWOULD WE RECOMMEND? (3/10)
Only if you have a thing for French colonial history. We have heard good things about the newly opened White River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center located about 30 miles to the north in St. Charles. The White River NWR is close to the Cache River, the place where some ornithologists believe they found the ivory-billed woodpecker, an elusive bird species thought to have gone extinct. We had our binoculars on and ears open at Arkansas Post but saw and heard nothing.

TOTAL 40/80

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St. Simons Island, Ga.
Visited: February 2, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 142 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

Old City RuinsWHAT IS IT?
James Oglethorpe, leader and founder of the Georgia colony, began construction of Frederica Town in 1736. It was the southernmost outpost under British rule. Today, only the ruins remain.

BEAUTY (4/10)
Fort Frederica must have once been a beautiful little town with its wide streets, live oaks, orange trees, a tabby (oyster shell) fort and Georgia-style architecture red brick structures. Little remains of the town today except portions of the fort and the base of the old houses. Oglethorpe built Fort Frederica on a planned square grid of roads that the Park Service still marks with street signs. You need to use your imagination to transform the house shell ruins and overrun old streets into a vital English city.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (4/10)
James Oglethorpe settled Georgia, and Fort Frederica, with the “worthy poor”, or English citizens who had found themselves homeless or in debtor’s prison. Frederica was both a bustling town and the southernmost British defense line in the American colonies. Its primary purpose was military.

As we learned at the Castillo de San Marcos NM in St. Augustine, Oglethorpe launched many attacks from 1740 to 1743 on the Spanish colony from Fort Frederica, none of them successful. One of his sneak attacks was stymied at Fort Matanzas, an NPS site just south of St. Augustine. In turn, the Spanish invaded Georgia in 1742 but were repelled at Bloody Marsh, an adjunct section of the Park near the southern tip of St. Simons Island.

CROWDS (4/10)
We were the only visitors to Fort Frederica NM. The Visitor Center was stuffy; the watchful eye of the volunteer unwavering. Perhaps more visitors would have lightened the mood and made us less claustrophobic.

Costumed MichaelEASE OF USE/ACCESS (2/5)
The Site is 12 miles from Interstate 95 and Brunswick, Georgia. Fort Frederica is located on St. Simons Island. The Island can only be reached via the E.J. Torras Causeway.

U.S. Route 17 leads to the bridge’s entrance. Route 17 is known by many names its short loop around Brunswick. They include Georgia Route 25, Glynn Avenue, the Ocean Highway, the Jekyll Island Road and the Darien Highway. Just follow signs to St. Simons Island.

St. Simons Island’s roads are narrow, crowded and have a low speed limit. They are also very well marked. Many signs point you on you way to Fort Frederica NM.

The 12 miles from the Interstate to the Fort could take as long as forty-five minutes to traverse.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (4/5)
Georgia is the one thing books at Fort Frederica have in common. This small store maintained by a local non-profit association offers journals and replicas of official documents from the colony’s early days. If those seem a little dry, pick up books describing Fort Mose, a Spanish fortification armed solely by escaped slaves or read social histories or Scottish Highlanders in Colonial Georgia. St. Simons Island and the nearby town of Brunswick are settings for several titles, including Eugenia Price’s historical novels.

COSTS (3/5)
Entrance is $5 per vehicle.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (1/5)
No Rangers on duty. We are fortunate that, earlier that week, we had asked a Ranger at the Castillo de San Marcos NM about Fort Frederica’s place in the American story.

Invitation from John IrelandTOURS/CLASSES (4/10)
We have the distinction of being two of the last people to view This is Frederica, an intriguing NPS video starring John Ireland. Remember the soap Santa Barbara? This Is Frederica is essentially a soap opera set among the ruins of the town of Frederica. Actors dressed in colonial garb sporting an array of accents go about their daily chores, interact and recount the history of the 18th-century town in buildings without walls or doors. This makes scenes with bickering neighbors and constables “knocking” on doors even funnier.

Yes, the 1965 film was horribly dated and difficult to follow. Yes, the narrative technique bordered on ridiculous, with Mr. Ireland switching from omniscient observer to active participant with no regard for chronology or linear narrative. We did not learn much, but my goodness the film was fun to watch.

We arrived just days before Fort Frederica NM would unveil their brand new video as part of a celebratory anniversary weekend. Will future visitors ever know This Is Frederica?

There is a small exhibit area in the Visitor Center. It pales in comparison to watching the ”uppity wives of the worthy poor” preen and gossip amid the ruins of Frederica. No Ranger-led activities are offered in the winter months.

Frederica GangFUN (5/10)
It is really impossible to explain how wonderful/horrible This Is Frederica was. Our guffaws echoed in the empty theatre. This film will probably reach mythical proportions in our minds before our trip is over.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (3/10)
The absence of regular Ranger-led activities makes it difficult to recommend this Site. Its historical significance is minimal; access is not as easy as it should be. With the lovely towns of Savannah, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida so close in either direction, you might stop here en route between them. No need to go out of your way.

TOTAL 34/80

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Part of Timucuan Ecological and Historical PreserveJacksonville, Fla.
Visited: February 2, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 139 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

Welcome to JacksonvilleWHAT IS IT?
Reconstructed 16th-century fort that marks the brief Protestant French (Huguenot) presence along the southern Atlantic coast.

BEAUTY (2/10)
We asked the Ranger at Castillo de San Marcos NM why did the French sail to St. Augustine instead of waiting for the Spanish from their reinforced fortress. His response, “Have you been to Fort Caroline yet? Then you’ll know” And we did. Even though Fort Caroline N MEM is a 1/3-sized reconstruction, its historical smallness and flimsy walls were apparent. It is not much of a fort, more like a triangular shaped enclosure with thin walls overlooking the wide, deep St. Johns River.

We arrived in Jacksonville on a dreary, cold, rainy day. Massive barges floated down the river while steam and smoke bellowed from the many factories. Had it not been for the million dollar houses on the River’s far side, the vista might have been mistaken for Industrial Revolution-era London. Who would build a house overlooking this disgusting river span? Maybe Charles Dickens.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (4/10)
In 1562, French explorer Jean Ribault sailed to the mouth of the St. Johns River hoping to find a suitable area to be a refuge for the persecuted Protestant French. Two years later the fort was built and a 200-person colony was established. The colony would double its size in under a year but saw its end by 1565 at the hands of the Spanish. See our Fort Matanzas review for more background.

In September of 1565 after receiving military reinforcements, the Huguenots launched a preemptive attack on the new Spanish colony of St. Augustine located 20 miles to the south. They picked the wrong month. Once out on the water, the weather changed rapidly and the French found themselves sailing into a hurricane. The violent winds tossed and wrecked their ships far to the south of St. Augustine.

The Spanish learned of the Huguenots terrible luck and sent soldiers to take the sparsely protected Fort Caroline. After swiftly reappropriating the fort and massacring some 250 settlers, the Spanish went looking for the accursed French. They found the exhausted Huguenots south of St. Augustine and slaughtered all but 16 of the 350. The French presence in the region was officially over.

Coastal ViewCROWDS (4/10)
This Site cannot handle crowds well. Not really a problem in our case because there was only one other couple there. Unbelievable since it was Super Bowl week, the biggest thing that has happened to Jacksonville since the Huguenots. Still, the museums ceilings are low and loudly echoed the couple’s conversation with the only person on duty, a talkative and opinionated volunteer. We could not concentrate enough to read the exhibits’ small print text.

EASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5)
Fort Caroline is 13 miles east of downtown Jacksonville. The road that hugs the St. Johns River from Florida 9A (Jacksonville’s beltway) to the Site is fittingly named Fort Caroline Road.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (3/5)
At least it’s unique. We haven’t seen a pine needle basket craft kit or a fluffy hand puppet in the shape of a clam at other Sites. If only you didn’t have to face the very chatty volunteer to get to the books, several of which are specific to Fort Caroline. Did we mention the clam puppet makes noises?

COSTS (4/5)
The Site is free.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (1/5)
No Rangers, just one volunteer. She shocked us when she explained that the Park’s Ranger generally does not do a good job.

New FranceTOURS/CLASSES (4/10)
There are no Ranger programs. We heard rumors that there are monthly living history reenactments. Hopefully they are not battle reenactments because they would not take long to finish. The newly refurbished Visitor Center museum is nice and provides a good introduction to the Timucuan Indians who inhabited the area for thousands of years before the Frenchmen’s fleeting inhabitation.

FUN (3/10)
The most fun the Site offered was a close-up view of a Carnival Cruise Line ship making its way into Jacksonville to provide much needed Super Bowl hotel rooms.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (2/10)
We cannot see much reason to travel to Fort Caroline N MEM. The fort’s story is told in depth elsewhere – by Rangers at Fort Matanzas NM – and the industrial scenery is dismal at best. The reconstructed fort offers no exploration possibilities. It is just an enclosed yard.

TOTAL 30/80

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south of St. Augustine, Fla.
Visited: February 1, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 137 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

Nearing the FortWHAT IS IT?
A Spanish stone masonry fortification finished in 1742 whose purpose was to guard the mouth of the Matanzas River, a back door channel into the important colonial city, Saint Augustine.

BEAUTY (6/10)
Fort Matanzas stands on Rattlesnake Island, a small piece of land that bisects the mouth of the Matanzas River. The surrounding waters are much calmer than the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

The fort sits around estuarine marshlands and enjoys a typical Florida coastal feel. The building, itself, is very small. Only seven soldiers lived here at its most crowded. Five cannons point upstream from the deck-like perch. These soldiers lived in a narrow one-room deck level enclosure, while the officers lived directly above.

The Fort has a functional charm. There are no wasted bricks and no superfluous space.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (5/10)
The Spanish built Fort Matanzas because of its strategic defensive position. The Fort faced its first test in 1742, while it neared completion. James Oglethorpe, Governor of the British colony of Georgia, led 12 ships into the Inlet, in an effort to attack St. Augustine from the rear. Fort Matanzas’ cannons repelled the attack and never saw battle again.

As a fort, this Site has limited historical significance. However, nearly 200 years before Fort Matanzas’ construction, another more important historical event occurred on these lands; an event that solidified Spain’s 200-year colonial rule over Florida and ensured the safety of their trade routes.

In 1565, the Spanish looting of South America was in full swing. Boat after treasure-filled boat sailed from Cartagena, Columbia or Vera Cruz, Mexico on to the Spanish capital city, Havana, Cuba up the Gulf Stream and over to Spain. These treasure ships passed close to the shores of present-day Florida.

In 1564, Protestant French (Huguenots) built Fort Caroline near present-day Jacksonville and began to raid the Spanish galleons for their treasure. The devoutly Catholic Spanish resented the French infidels’ religious choice and their brazen theft. In August 1565, the Spanish founded the town of St. Augustine to subdue the French and protect their ships.

In September, after receiving reinforcements, the French decided to attack St. Augustine en masse leaving Fort Caroline virtual defenseless. Instead of a swift victory, their ships were caught in a hurricane that wrecked the boats and swept the men far south of the new Spanish city. The Spanish caught up with the Huguenots at the mouth of the soon-to-be named Matanzas River.

After the unarmed and exhausted French surrendered, the Spanish bound and then killed all but 16 of the 350 Huguenots. Matanzas is the Spanish word for slaughter. St. Augustine flourished and the French never again gained a foothold in this area of North America.

Soldiers’ QuartersCROWDS (5/10)
We shivered alongside more tourists than we had expected. Our layered clothing, wool hats and gloves spoke the same question: Didn’t we all leave the northern winter to avoid this?

EASE OF USE/ACCESS (4/5)
The Site is located just a few miles east of Interstate 95 on the Florida A1A, 14 miles south of St. Augustine. A ferry to the Fort site departs from the Visitor Center hourly on the half hour. The ferry is free and reliable. We arrived on an unseasonably cold and windy day but unlike the violent Atlantic Ocean, the Matanzas River Inlet was calm. Wind whipped against our faces but the ride was short and sweet.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (2/5)
We would have appreciated a larger bookstore to browse as we waited for the next ferry. Space is tight, especially if more than one person is perusing the shelves. Titles like A Taste of St. Augustine and Famous Florida Recipes, although not directly related to the site, add flavor to the small selection. Books on famous Florida ship wrecks and the Spanish treasure fleets were more appropriate reading companions to a visit to Fort Matanzas. Samples of coquina, one of the materials used to build the Fort, are scattered around the little shop.

COSTS (5/5)
The Site, ferry ride and the tour of the Fort are all free.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (5/5)
We encountered a plethora of Rangers. Three Rangers and two volunteers accompanied our group on the ferry to the Fort site. No one could have any excuse for leaving the Site with an unanswered question.

TOURS/CLASSES (6/10)
All boat trips to Rattlesnake Island include a 25-minute long talk about the Fort. Because of the cold, the volunteer gave his entire talk in the long, narrow soldiers’ quarters. We were allowed to explore the other room, the deck and the roof when the talk ended. The lesson was informational and nice background to a tour of St. Augustine and its fort, the Castillo de San Marcos.

A tour of Fort Matanzas is an essential companion piece to a Fort Caroline NM visit. Fort Caroline NM has no Ranger talks and no interpretive panels. If you want an understanding of its historical role, you almost need to visit Fort Matanzas.

There are no Museum facilities at Fort Matanzas NM. If you arrive at 10:35 a.m., for example, you will have to deal with idle time. The short introductory video is dated and confusing and the mile long Nature Walk loop is under construction.

FUN (5/10)
We weren’t expecting a boat ride to be involved in our visit, which is what happens when you read a guidebook too quickly. The fact that it was free and left every 30 minutes warmed us to the idea. The Fort was charming; the ferry was fast.

A Ranger might have given a more extensive explanation of the events around the building and use of Fort Matanzas. But the volunteer who led our tour won us over with his Pittsburgh accent and the fact that he is the second person on our trip that recognized the B on Gab’s hat. Brownie points for that.

Overlooking the MarshWOULD WE RECOMMEND? (5/10)
On a nice sunny day, we are sure the ferryboat trip to Fort Matanzas makes for a lovely day. However, it is not a big-ticket historical destination like nearby St. Augustine and the Fort is awful small. Our freezing bones are still screaming at us for leaving Miami. This Site is for history buffs and those eager to learn everything about Spanish colonial history. We are glad we traveled to Fort Matanzas NM prior to St. Augustine because it provided a good base of understanding for the intensive lesson the old city provides.

TOTAL 48/80

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St. Augustine, Fla.
Visited: February 1, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 138 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

Protecting New SpainWHAT IS IT?
A massive stone masonry 17th-century Spanish fort built to protect the city of St. Augustine from British colonial invasion. The Castillo de San Marcos (St. Mark’s Castle) marked the northern-most settlement in Spain’s vast New World Empire.

BEAUTY (7/10)
We were immediately struck by the Castillo de San Marcos’ tremendous size. Four diamond-shaped bastions jut out from the corners of a square interior. A dry moat surrounds the light grey walls that were built with the fragile rock, coquina. In small quantities, coquina crumbles when handled, but when packed together, the rock withstands cannonballs by sucking them in upon impact.

From atop the Fort you can see the beautiful blue waters of Matanzas Bay, the subtle curves of the Three Lions Bridge and the Old City Gates of St. Augustine, the oldest continually inhabited city in the United States.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (8/10)
Few American cities have as rich a history as St. Augustine, Florida. The Spanish founded the city in 1565 and it served as the capital of the Province of Florida for over 200 years. St. Augustine protected the Spanish trade routes and the flow of goods along the Gulf Stream and back to Spain. The city was Spain’s northernmost outpost in the New World.

Its frontier location necessitated the building of a great fort. Castillo de San Marcos began construction in 1672. In its lifetime, the Fort faced numerous attacks and sieges from the English. St. Augustine was burned a dozen times but the Spanish never lost the city due to the strength of the Castillo de San Marcos.

The Fort plays the starring role in stories told at other nearby National Park Sites: Fort Matanzas NM, Fort Caroline N MEM and to some extent Fort Frederica NM. St. Augustine was the center of life in the part of the world for nearly two centuries, Castillo de San Marcos was its protector.

CROWDS (7/10)
There were gobs and gobs of people at the Site even though, later that day, the narrow streets of St. Augustine did not seem crowded. Our guided tour included over 40 people who gravitated pre-tour to the Ranger while he answered one of our many questions. The large crowds did not hinder our visit; there are so many things to see.

On the RoofEASE OF USE/ACCESS (4/5)
The Site is located along the coast in the middle of old St. Augustine. It is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks. You can’t miss it. There are approximately 30 free parking spaces on Site but they fill up quickly. You can also park across the street in the St. Augustine Visitor Center lot. We stayed downtown at a nearby hotel and walked everywhere.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (4/5)
Miniature metal soldiers guard the door. Reproductions of colonial and old world maps line the walls. If you are looking for tiny replicas of cannons or ammunition, you can find them here too. The bookstore and Castillo de San Marcos had plenty of books arranged by topic and souvenirs with a Spanish colonial bent. There was no need to supplement the offerings with Jamestown glassware and pottery. Pretty, but why not let the beauty of St. Augustine shine? In general, a great store.

COSTS (3/5)
Entry is $6 per person or free with a National Parks Pass. Your ticket is good for an entire week, which is helpful given the Fort’s many nooks and crevices that beg for exploration.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (4/5)
Jacksonville could learn from its southern neighbor. St. Augustine was well prepared and doubly staffed for any Super Bowl crowd that might find its way here. Castillo de San Marcos NM had volunteers around every corner, as well as regular Ranger talks. We accidentally began the 3 p.m. talk early when a crowd gathered to hear one Ranger answer our barrage of questions we had been collecting since Fort Matanzas. The Ranger happily obliged.

TOURS/CLASSES (8/10)
The Park Service provides a 26-station self-guided walking trail through the fort’s extensive rooms and roofs. Many of these rooms also include exhibits that further detail their role. The amount of information is overwhelming.

Ranger-led talks are given hourly in the fort’s inner courtyard. The Ranger was near obsessive in his knowledge of Napoleonic warfare, the U.S. coastal defense system and colonial firearms. He was a welcome help in our attempt to understand and interrelate the five National Park Service forts along the Atlantic coast from Savannah, Georgia to St. Augustine. He helped cut through much of the confusion in ways that exhibit panels and timelines just do not.

On the weekends, the Rangers dress up in period costume and shoot cannons into the water four times a day. The Park Service offers many other interactive tours on site including a monthly torchlight tour, bird walks and reenactments.

FUN (8/10)
We arrived in St. Augustine late afternoon and were immediately drawn to the Castillo. Its size and elevation gave us a perfect vantage point to scope out the city and decide where we wanted to go next. Positioned on the waterfront at the end of a river walk, the Castillo caught the final rays of the sun that had finally decided to come out. We warmed ourselves on the bastions before ducking into the chilly hallways to check out the numerous displays.

The Ranger that led our talk kindly kept us in the sunny corner or the courtyard. Our knowledgeable guide spent equal time explaining the whys and whens of the French and Spanish incursions and dismissing the Hollywood versions of coastal battles. He conceded that Master and Commander was historically accurate with regards to warfare and it was one of the few movies to get it right.

He went on to explain that in the past, the Park Service caved in to the historical inaccuracies of Hollywood. An Errol Flynn movie featured a fort that looked just like Castillo de San Marcos except that its moat was filled with water. 600 pounds (yes pounds!) of mail found its way to the Park Service, demanding that the San Marcos moat be hydrated.

Historians knew that the St. Augustine fort had a dry moat, but did not have the final say. Their word was heeded in the early 90’s when the moat was finally drained. The requested water had led to serious structural damage. The fort had weathered 500 years, twelve British sieges and millions of tourists but was most damaged by an Errol Flynn movie.

We’re suckers for trivia.

Beautiful St. AugustineWOULD WE RECOMMEND? (8/10)
The town of St. Augustine still seems more like a Spanish colonial outpost than an American town. Both the Park Service Rangers and the period costumed employees of the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum do a terrific job at perpetuating this feel. We loved the town’s Avenida de San Marcos, a pedestrian-only promenade, and its eclectic array of good restaurants. Comparable only to Williamsburg, Virginia, St. Augustine is a wonderful historical vacation spot. The stellar Castillo de San Marcos NM is large part of the town’s attractiveness.

TOTAL 61/80

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