Monday, Aug 15, 2011
The St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission held its inaugural meeting in St. Augustine on July 18th. The commission met in the Flagler College Auditorium. Secretary Salazar, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, and Congressman John Mica, among other dignitaries, delivered remarks to 400 local residents and the commission members.
Congress established the commission as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 and charged it with ensuring a suitable national observance of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary by complementing the programs and activities of the State of Florida and the City of St. Augustine.
Secretary Salazar announced the members of the Commission in April. They are:
Joseph L. Boles, Mayor of St. Augustine
Katharine H. Dickenson, Historic Preservationist
Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade State Attorney
Dr. Michael Francis, Professor of History, University of North Florida
Dr. Michael Gannon, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History, University of Florida
Senator Bob Graham
Jay Kislak, President Kislak Mortgage Corporation, and National Park Foundation Board
Eduardo Padron, President of Miami Dade College
Bruce Smathers, former Florida Secretary of State
Robert Stanton, Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Department of the Interior
Father Thomas S. Willis, Pastor Cathedral Parish, St. Augustine, Florida
Gordon Wilson, Superintendent of Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monuments
Ambassador Andrew Young, former Congressman, Mayor of Atlanta, and UN Ambassador
Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded St. Augustine in 1565 under a grant from King Phillip II of Spain. St. Augustine was often a site of conflict as European nations competed with each other for control of the New World, and, at various times, the flags of Spain, England, and the United States have flown over the city. Union forces occupied the city in 1862. In the 1960’s, St. Augustine was on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led efforts to end segregation and secure equal rights for African Americans.
The City of St. Augustine is preparing for four years of commemorations:
2012 – The 200th anniversary of the 1812 Constitution of Spain
2013 – The 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of new lands he thought were the rumored Island of Bimini, named La Florida for the abundance of foliage and for the Easter season and claimed by Spain
2014 – The 50th anniversary of St. Augustine’s most recent event to “change America and inspire the world,” the civil rights movement of 1963-64 which led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and
2015 – The 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied European city in America.
St. Augustine is home to two National Park Service sites, the Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monuments. The Castillo is the oldest masonry fortification in the continental United States and is a remarkably well-preserved specimen of Spanish military architecture and engineering.