Anastasia Island

Anastasia Island is an island off the northeast Atlantic coast of Florida in the United States. The island is located east and southeast of St. Augustine. Part of the island (the Davis Shores and Lighthouse Park neighborhoods) are within St. Augustine city limits, while other communities on the island include St. Augustine Beach, Coquina Gables, Butler Beach, Crescent Beach, and Anastasia. It is separated from the mainland by the Matanzas River. Anastasia Island has more than 150 restaurants, as well as many beaches.

History of Anastasia Island

Juan Ponce de León landed on the barrier island in 1513. Pedro Menendez, who founded St. Augustine, moved his initial settlement to Anastasia Island after a revolt by the Timucuan Indians in 1566. This settlement was short-lived, and eventually moved back to the mainland at the site of present-day downtown St. Augustine. The Spanish built a wooden watch-tower on Anastasia Island, which was sighted by Frances Drake in 1586, whereupon he came ashore and attacked the city. The watch tower was described as a "beacon," and thus probably represents the first lighthouse built in the United States. Commercial orange plantations were operated by Spanish and British planters on Anastasia Island in the 18th century. A later version of the watch tower, made from coquina stone, was definitely used as a lighthouse by this time, and it was replaced by the present day St. Augustine Light in 1874. Shortly after its construction, the original lighthouse collapsed due to beach erosion and the encroachment of the sea. The earliest residence on Anastasia Island that is still standing is the Keeper's and Assistant Keeper's house built for the new Lighthouse. Other houses in the Lighthouse Park neighborhood also date to the 1880s. The Bridge of Lions was constructed in 1926-7, and shortly thereafter the Davis Shores neighborhood was developed by filling in extensive wetlands. During World War II the Coast Guard occupied the Lighthouse, and other residences in Davis Shores were used as barracks for soldiers.

Below the ground of the majority of the island, there is a mass of coarse shell material, called coquina. This is the only local source of stone, and was used by the Spanish and later the British to construct many of the buildings in St. Augustine (including the Castillo de San Marcos). See Castillo de San Marcos (Fort St. Mark) for a reference to this building technique.

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