Today we’re exploring the origins and history of one of St. Augustine’s more recognizable landmarks: The City Gate. Located at the north end of St. George Street, this gate has stood for over 200 years.
The gate we know today was constructed in 1808, but to fully understand their history and purpose, we need to travel back to the turn of the 18th century. St. Augustine was attacked by Carolinian Governor James Moore and his troops in 1702, which damaged much of the existing town. After this, the residents of the city began the construction of a fortification around the city. The northern protective border was known as the “Cubo Line“. It was mostly made of earthworks, but was fortified with palmetto logs, a moat, a cannon, and a wooden gate towards the road that we now know as San Marco Avenue.
This fortification proved its worth in 1740, when St. Augustine was attacked yet again, this time by Georgia Governor James Oglethorpe. He was unable to penetrate the city gate, and St. Augustine was saved.
That wooden gate was rebuilt with coquina, as well as a wooden drawbridge over the moat. It still stands today. The gate was almost removed toward in 1827 to make way for a more modern throughway over the moat, but the United States Army stopped the mayor from completing the project. Several stones were removed from the pillars, and they were not replaced until the late 1870s. The gate has been repaired several times over the years, but stands as a reminder of St. Augustine’s resilience and long military history.
Portions of the Cubo Line were excavated in 1938 by the Carnegie Institution in the earliest efforts to restore and reconstruct downtown St. Augustine. The National Park Service repointed the masonry and planted grass around the gate in the 1940s, and then renovated and further interpreted the site to show the redoubts and other fortifications that stand near the City Gate in 1965 as part of the Quadricentennial Celebration. Today the Gate is part of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
The gate and its history was documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1955; you can view the drawings and reports on the Library of Congress’s website, or here in Governor’s House!