By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 11/17/2019
Posted: 3/19/2010
Topics/Keywords: #CastillodeSanMarcus #St.Augustine #Florida #Photography Page Views: 3187
Let's take a time trip back to 1975 and open the phto album to look at my kids cavorting in St. Augustine's 'Old Fort'.

By 1975 my then-wife Mary and I had moved back to our hometown of St. Augustine. With two little girls and another on the way, I felt it was important to get pictures of them. I knew from experience that it's easy to intend to take "lots of photographs" but to never get around to actually doing it. And kids never get younger. So I made an effort to create "photo ops" in which we would dress the kids up, take them to some visually interesting place, and then take pictures of them as we let them wander around exploring.

The first of these photo ops was a trip to St. Augustine's historic "old fort", more formally known as the Castillo de San Marcus, or Fort of St. Mark.

Please note that the negatives from which these scans were made are over 30 years old. I've digitally restored them as best I could, but there still a few color-shifting artifacts which leaves them less than perfect.

The Old Fort, which is now a National Monument, was in 1975 just a local attraction and, like most attractions in St. Augustine at the time, was free to city residents. It was, and is, surrounded by generous, park-like grounds; and the first pictures I took were on those grounds, with the fort in the background. In the first photo below, you can see the British flag. St. Augustine has flown under six different flags, and all are flown at the fort. (The native Americans who lived here first, the Timucuans, didn't use flags and so are not represented.)

Dottie and Karen outside the Old Fort.

St. Augustine was founded by Spaniard Don Pedro Menendez in 1565. He wasn't a very statesmanlike sort, and managed to alienate the friendly natives almost right away. In addition, the seaside town was subject to pirate attacks. The Queen Regent of Spain, Mariana, decreed that a stone fort be built to replace the series of nine wooden forts that had preceded it; construction began in 1672 and was completed in 1695.

Dottie and Karen at the Old Fort.

Once across the drawbridge and inside the structure, one finds a huge, enclosed area surrounded by stone rooms. The entire population of St. Augustine could, and did, take shelter here during more than one attack.

Karen in the courtyard of the Castillo de San Marcus.

Karen and Dottie in the passages of the Castillo de San Marcus.In 1975, the interior rooms were open to the public. There had originally been wooden doors which had not survived the centuries as well as the stone and had not been replaced. The resulting light pouring into the stone rooms and reflecting into various passages created a very artistic ambience, which in the following photo I could not resist enhancing with a painterly digital filter. (The original version, in reduced size, is at right.)

Karen and Dottie in the passages of the Castillo de San Marcus (painting).

One of the most charming things about toddlers is that they're always adorable, from every angle.

Dottie, and Karen's back.


The Castillo is a masonry star fort made of a stone called coquina, literally "little shells", made of ancient shells that have bonded together to form a type of stone similar to limestone. This stone is unique to the area. Workers were brought in from Havana, Cuba, which had been settled before St. Augustine and was a thriving colony in its own right, to construct the fort. The coquina was quarried from Anastasia Island across the bay from the Castillo, and ferried across to the construction site.


Here and there, electronic playback devices would, at the push of a button, recite a portion of the fort's history. The kids, of course, loved to press the button.

Karen listens to the Old Fort's history.

The fort is surrounded by a good, old-fashioned moat. It is likely that, in the old days, it was stocked with alligators.

Karen overlooks the Old Fort's moat.

Before leaving, we did sneak in one photo each of Mom and Dad as well.

Mary at the Old Fort. Your blogger, Paul, at the Old Fort.