Less than four miles north of St. Augustine’s historic center, guests can visit Fort Mose Historic State Park, site of the first legally sanctioned free African community in the U.S., and the northern defense of the city. Although the fort’s wooden structures are gone now, today’s visitors can enjoy the 40-acre waterfront grounds throughout the year. In addition to its Visitor Center and interactive museum displays, the Park offers picnic areas. There are great locations for birding and viewing wildlife from the boardwalk overlooking the marshy landscape. Keep your eyes out for Bald Eagles, White Ibis, and Great Blue Heron.
Many people don’t know about this part of Colonial history, when blacks followed an earlier “Underground Railroad” south to Spanish Florida to escape from slavery in England’s Carolina colonies. Some escaped as early as the late 1600’s, and Montiano, named Capitán Francisco Menende in Spanish, led the African militia at Fort Mose beginning in the 1720s. In March, 1738, Florida’s royal governor formally established the fortified settlement of El Pueblo de Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, especially for these settlers. Militia members who swore allegiance to Spain and joined the Roman Catholic Church became free men.
Although the Fort itself is gone, the site holds archeological evidence of Native American, Spanish, British, and American settlements. Fort Mose is a National Historic Landmark and is featured on the National Park Service’s Aboard the Underground Railroad Travel Itinerary. The National Park Service website has additional information about the history of Fort Mose.
Every March, St. Augustine celebrates Founding Day at Fort Mose with a living history program presented by the Fort Mose Historical Society, Fort Mose Historic State Park, and Florida Living History Inc. This year, Founding Day will be held Saturday, March 17, 2018, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Volunteers in colonial dress will give visitors a glimpse into 18th century life at the Fort, including weapons demonstrations. They will re-enact the reading of the 1738 proclamation and the blessing of the Fort. Here’s a peek at the 2017 celebration.
Fort Mose is one of the many historic sites our guests can explore during their stay in northern Florida. Just give us a call or go online to reserve your St. Augustine lodging at Casa de Solana, where we look forward to welcoming you.
Fort Mose Historic State Park
Location: 15 Fort Mose Trail St. Augustine, FL
Park hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily
Visitor Center: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
Admission to Visitors Center museum: $2.00 (children ages 5 and under are free).
Photo courtesy of National Park Service