St. Augustine can claim a lot of superlatives, but did you know we have the narrowest street in the United States? A short section of Treasury Street, running from the bayfront to Charlotte Street, holds this distinction at just 6 feet and 1 inch wide.
Local legend says that Treasury Street was purposely designed to be wide enough for two men to carry a chest of gold to and from the Royal Spanish Treasury and the water, but not wide enough for a horse and carriage to drive through and steal any of the loot. This myth hearkens back to the very real threat of piracy and smuggling during St. Augustine’s early days. But is this particular story fact or just fiction? We looked into some of the historical files in our library to find the answer.
Unfortunately, the truth is much less exciting than the myth. The street did run from the water to the Royal Treasury, which explains the designated name. The Spanish didn’t have a conventional standard for naming streets and often referred to them by a landmark, so when the Americans came in the 1820s and created street names, Treasury Street simply stuck.
We couldn’t find any firm evidence as to the reasoning behind the narrow design of the street, but our best guess is that the street was narrow because of the layout of St. Augustine at the time. When the city as we know it today was first set up in 1580, most of the streets were narrower than what we see today. The Spanish style of architecture built during the First Spanish Period had houses and buildings coming right up to the street line, creating a much more closed in atmosphere. The look and feel of the streets and homes evolved over time to reflect British and American styles and customs.
The rest of the streets in the oldest parts of the city have widened enough for carriages, sidewalks, and cars, but the narrow section of Treasury Street between Bay Street and Charlotte Street will continue to remind us of the city’s past.