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What is America’s oldest city? The story behind where it is, and the Spanish explorer who founded it

A view of Saint George Street in Saint Augustine, Florida. Photo by Sam Greenwood
A view of Saint George Street in Saint Augustine, Florida. Photo by Sam Greenwood (Getty Images)

If social media existed 455 years ago, a historic feat produced by a Spanish man probably would’ve made feeds all around the world.

On Sept. 8, 1565, a Spanish explorer named Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed at an inlet off the eastern coast of what today is known as Florida, and he planted a Spanish flag.

That day gave birth to what today is known as the oldest city in the United States: St. Augustine, Florida.

After being sent to the new world by King Philip II of Spain with the intent of establishing Spanish settlements, Menendez named the city St. Augustine after St. Augustine of Hippo, the patron saint of brewers.

The arrival of Menendez came 20 years before the Roanoke colony was established in 1585, 42 years before Jamestown was settled and 55 years before the pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620.

Located an hour south of Jacksonville, St. Augustine wouldn’t be the last city in what eventually became the United States, to be founded by Hispanic settlers.

But being known as the first and America’s oldest city is quite a distinction, thanks to Menendez.


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