The Historic St Augustine Seawall

The Historic St Augustine Seawall sign.

The Historic St Augustine Seawall – One of  Weasel and Grasshopper’s favorite spots.

Transcribed from a sign by the seawall in St Augustine, Florida.

The Seawall in St. Augustine History

St. Augustine’s history has been shaped by the sea since its founding in 1565. Over the centuries, colonial explorers, pirates, and seafaring merchants have found their way into Matansas Bay, know today as America’s Oldest Seaport. The historic Seawall has long been an integral part of the city’s fabric–a coquina sentinel guarding against rough waters, and a promenade for romantic strolls and waterside socials.

The Spanish built the first seawall between the Castillo de San Marcos and the Plaza from 1695 to 1705, a structure that lasted over a century. When Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821, the seawall had deteriorated considerably. In the 1830’s and 1840’s, graduates from the US Military Academy at West Point built a new seawall south from the Castillo to what is today the Florida National Guard Headquarters.

The historic seawall is testament to sound 19th century engineering, but it has been battered by time, tide, and numerous storms. In 2001, during Tropical Stream Gabrielle, a portion of the wall collapsed, and in 2008 Tropical Storm Fay caused considerable flooding.

Fortifying America’s Oldest Seaport

The Territorial Period seawall, some seven feet in height, was made out of coquina, a soft limestone of sand and broken shells. It was laid in ashlar stonework, topped with granite stones, and supported by a massive coquina foundation. The new wall is being constructed 12 feet into the water from the old wall to protect all aspects of the original historic seawall. It will use concrete and reinforced steel, and the gap between the two walls will be filled in and paved so it can once again serve as a waterfront promenade with a paved walking path, new streetlights and  landscaping. 

The City of St. Augustine began the construction of a new seawall in 2012. The 6.7 million project, funded with assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was designed to protect the historic seawall and the surrounding waterfront neighborhood. It is the culmination of more than a decade of research, advocacy, public input and the tireless efforts by many dedicated people. Following its July 2013 completion, the area around the seawall will be better protected from storms and Category 1 hurricanes.

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