The last few years at Halloween we’ve done posts about St. Augustine’s most terrifiying (the parking lot at my church as the seniors rush headlong out of it to make the early bird at Finnegan’s Wake, for example), and even Florida’s most notoriously haunted building, Tihsllub Hall.
This year we’re going to focus on the not haunted. These places aren’t terrifying, they’re just lonely.
St. Augustine’s Loneliest Places
St. Augustine National Cemetery
Most residents aren’t aware, or have forgotten, that we have a National Cemetery. This beautiful and very small cemetery (just under 1.5 acres in size) is nestled between Marine Street and Charlotte Street just south of the National Guard headquarters.
Burials started here in 1828 before there were such things as national cemeteries. What makes this cemetery especially lonely are the three pyramids along the far wall marking the mass grave of 1468 unknown soldiers who died in battle fighting the Seminoles.
Over 100 of the soldiers died in an ambush on their way from Tampa to present-day Ocala. Called the “Dade Massacre,” Seminoles under Cheif Micanopy ambushed the soldiers under the command of Major Francis Dade…only three soldiers survived the attack. This started the Second Seminole War, the war that accounts for the other 1300-plus unknown soldiers buried in the mass grave at St. Augustine.
Next time you’re downtown stroll south of King Street instead of north and explore this wonderful, quiet place.
The Bike Path to Nowhere
Opened with great acclaim a few years back this bike path was highly touted as, well, a bike path. All the county commissioners and maybe the state rep came out and had their photos taken and then vanished like the wind.
The reason this bike path hasn’t caught on with the local cycling community is well…it’s so darn short. Basically it starts by the abandoned section of SR 207 east of Elkton and deadends at the railroad track west of I-95.
The plan was that the path go all the way to Putnam County. The State Department of Transportation recently announced that they’re going to start the extension as far as the fairgrounds this year with an eye for completion in mid-2012. If it goes as planned it might actually mean serious cyclists will start using it.
In the meantime it’s a great place for recreational cyclists and for kids learning to ride. Access is best off Vermont Road, just take SR 207 west and follow the signs for the county landfill. The bike path cuts Vermont Road before the landfill…you can’t miss it.
In the not so distant past, even the cemeteries were segregated. Pinehurst was one of these.
Lonely and forelorn, Pinehurst conjurs up all the images of the spooky old cemetery. Crooked headstones overgrown with weeds, big old oaks covered with Spanish moss, a place you wouldn’t want to find yourself at night.
Lately the West Augustine Improvement Association has been making an effort to clean up and manicure this cemetery as well as two others, Woodlawn and Sebastian.
Pinehurst sits behind a chain link fence in the 700 block of Pearl Street in St. Augustine, directly adjacent to Evergreen Cemetery but worlds away in care.
Site of the Theatre Troop Massacre
Back in the 1840s much of the goods and people that came through St. Augustine came via boats on the St. Johns River. The river was easier to navigate than the shoal-ridden coast and transportation was more reliable. Ever notice how King Street/CR 214 and CR 208 run in nearly a straight line towards the river? That’s why.
The downside to using the river was that you had to finish the trip up overland. A troop of actors who were coming into town with some other travelers in May of 1840 were attacked by Seminoles. Five were killed in the ambush on what is now CR 208 near Whisper Ridge subdivision. In true showbusiness tradition the “show must go on” and the remaining actors completed a 2-week stint in St. Augustine.
Though the ambush site sits next to a new subdivision, with a sidewalk even, looking down 208 there’s still not much beyond it until you hit the river, and it still has the feel of a lonely place. Imagine how much more so it was back in the days of early American Florida.
During the Second Seminole War several forts were built near St. Augustine for it’s protection. Fort Peyton was one of these, and a more unlikely place for a fort I can’t imagine: stuck in the woods near but not too near Moultrie Creek. It’s as if the place was chosen at random.
Fort Peyton did play it’s role in history, however: it was garrisoned by the troops that captured the Seminole leader Osceola under a flag of truce near there.
Today Fort Peyton is accessed down a dirt road sheltered by oak trees that cover the path with their leaves. It is overgrown in some places: my Jeep received a grape vine laurel heading down to the site. The site itself has a marker, some benches, and a sign giving a brief history of the fort.
To find this lonely place you need to head west on Winterhawk Drive (not Winterhawk South, mind you): the path is on the right just past the house at the corner of Arrowhead and Winterhawk. Though this a lonely place the homes on Winterhawk and Arrowhead back to the right of way, so mind your manners while you’re there.
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If you’re looking for a group of realtors who will put you into a bright, cheery home instead of a lonely one, contact St. Augustine Team or just call us at (904) 386-8327!