In St. Augustine, we learned all about coquina. Coquina is a porous limestone available in North Florida. It was used by the Spanish as a building material during their control of Florida. The original homes in the area are built with coquina blocks and are covered with concrete or stucco or their era. The outer layer keeps the water out of the porous rock and prevents mildew inside the house. The material is compressible and has millions of tiny air pockets (think of Styrofoam). Because of the light weight, it made the stone very workable for the masonries of the era. However, it also had another quality. The material proved to be resistant to cannon balls. The porous qualities let the stone absorb and deflect the impact of the cannon ball fire without cracking the stone. It was explained to me as comparing a bb hitting a Styrofoam cup. Beginning construction in 1672 , the 17th century Castillo de San Marcos is unique in North American architecture. It is the oldest masonry fortress in the United States and it is a prime example of the “bastion system” (star shaped) of fortification.
As the area changed from Spanish rule to British rule, the Brits added wooden upper floors to the Spanish built single story coquina homes. Our guide would point to the older homes and constantly say, “Spanish lower, British upper”. Pretty soon we were able to recognize for ourselves the original order homes and the added floors.
This is an area we began to question. Above is a picture of the oldest home in St Augustine. Next door, to the west of this house is a home with a cannon ball stuck in the coquina. The story goes; a cannon ball was fired from a ship located to the east on the Matanzas River as the town was under attack. Our question is, if the oldest house in St Augustine is located next door to the house with the cannonball and stands between the target and the ship; shouldn’t the oldest house have a hole all the way through it? If it is truly the oldest house, it would have been there before the house with the cannonball blocking it from the ship. Just saying.
Today was very hot. Touring the fort was like walking into ovens. The roof of the fort in the hot sun and breeze was cooler than the rooms. I do not know how the Spaniards survived the heat. I would have died. Especially when you think they were wearing uniforms.
We decided to take a tour of the local distillery. It is free and air conditioned. And, they give you a free sample at the end of the tour. Say no more.