Where can you find Juan Ponce de León on Florida’s Historic Coast?
There are a total of four statues depicting Ponce de León on Florida’s Historic Coast – St. Augustine | Ponte Vedra. In front of St. Augustine’s Plaza de La Constitución and across Avenida Menéndez from the Bridge of Lions stands a bronze statue of Juan Ponce de León. An identical statue and pedestal stands before the Cathedral of San Juan on the island of Puerto Rico, where he was governor before his monumentous voyage. On April 3, 2013, there was a re-creation of Ponce de León’s landing on the St. Augustine Bayfront, followed by laying of wreaths, a rededication ceremony at the statue and a special Mass at the St. Augustine Cathedral Basilica. There is also a statue of Ponce de León looking over archeological sites at The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park just steps away from the landing spot of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the city’s founder. At the northern entry on U.S. 1 in St. Augustine, there are statues of both Juan Ponce de León and Pedro Menéndez de Avilés greeting motorists as they arrive to the nation’s oldest city.
On April 2, 2013, a statue of Juan Ponce de León was dedicated at GTM Reserve’s Ponce de León 30°8´ Historical Site. This permanent addition to the visitor experience recognizes the only surviving navigational reading of Ponce de León’s “Journey of Discovery,” taken the day prior to his landing on April 3, 1513, when he claimed La Florida for Spain. The site, located north of St. Augustine near Ponte Vedra Beach, includes an official state historical marker, interpretive signage and a 15’ statue of Ponce de León gazing over the dunes.
Fountain of Youth
The world-famous Ponce de León’s Fountain of Youth Archeological Park is located on 15 acres of waterfront in St. Augustine. The park is documented to be the site of what was once a Timucuan Indian village and also the original St. Augustine settlement. It’s been the site of archeological studies since the 1930s.
Recent archeological field studies at the park have targeted the Spanish Colonial era, and a "Discovery Globe" exhibit traces the routes Spanish explorers took across the Atlantic Ocean. The park also has a planetarium exhibit featuring the stars in the night sky as they appeared in 1513, when Ponce landed and claimed the land for Spain. In the Discovery Globe, it is explained that Ponce claimed all of North America, up to present-day Newfoundland, for the Spanish crown.
The Fountain of Youth Park, in conjunction with the St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation and the St. Augustine Lighthouse, are building a replica of the type of ship Ponce sailed. The new boat-building operation, called a Haustiras, is located on the Fountain of Youth grounds. The Haustiras is a replica of an early piece of St. Augustine waterfront in the Spanish era, which began in 1565 when the city was founded on land where the Fountain of Youth sits today. For more, visit fountainofyouthflorida.com.
Hotel Ponce de León
In 1888, co-founder of Standard Oil and railroad magnate Henry Flagler opened his luxurious hotel Ponce de León. Designed in the Spanish Renaissance style by New York architects John Carrere and Thomas Hastings, the Ponce was constructed entirely of poured concrete. The hotel also was wired for electricity at the onset, with the power being supplied by D.C. generators provided by Flagler’s friend Thomas Edison.
The building and grounds of the hotel are today a part of Flagler College. Today, the college offers tours of the opulent hotel. In addition to the tours, in 2013 Flagler College is celebrated the 125th anniversary of the opening of the hotel.
All things Ponce de León
Ponce de León has been celebrated on Florida’s Historic Coast for centuries, naming streets, buildings and attractions after one of history’s most famous of the Spanish explorers:
- Ponce de León Boulevard (U.S. 1)
- Ponce de León’s Fountain of Youth Archeological Park
- Henry Flagler’s Hotel Ponce de León now Flagler College
- There are four statues of Ponce de León on Florida’s Historic Coast:
- At the northern entrance to the city, on Ponce de León Boulevard, there are two statues on either side of the road. One is Ponce de León and the other is Pedro Menéndez de Avilés.
- A statue of Juan Ponce de León is located on the grounds of the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park at N 29° 54.424 W 081° 18.863.
- Ponce de León statue in the Plaza de La Constitución: The statue of Ponce de León was donated by Dr. Andrew Anderson (a St. Augustine philanthropist who also commissioned and donated the two lions at the entrance to the Bridge of Lions) in 1923 and is a replica of the statue found in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
- On April 2, a bronze statue of Ponce de León is being erected at GTM National Estuarine Research Reserve’s north beach overlook, very near the 30 degree 8 minute north, on the coast of where Ponce’s navigator took the off shore reading on April 2, 1513.
- Numerous medical and professional businesses with the Ponce or Ponce de León in their names – including the Ponce de León Mall are located here.
- There are at least 20 families listed in the phone book with the last name Ponce.
- In the late 19th century, the City of St. Augustine held an annual celebration called Ponce Days or, later, Days in Spain that continued to be a major celebration through most of the 20th century.
Ponce de León and 30°8’
In March 1513, Ponce de León set sail from Puerto Rico on a voyage of discovery to explore lands to the north. At noon on April 2, 1513, Ponce de León’s navigator, Anton de Alaminos, charted their location as 30 degrees 8 minutes north latitude, just south of today’s Ponte Vedra Beach. The next day, Ponce de León and his men came ashore and claimed La Florida for Spain, becoming the first documented visitors of European culture to Florida’s coast.
Help create awareness of that historic moment by joining the Ponce de León Society of Navigators. As a member, you will be able to induct others into this prestigious society that is capable of navigating their way through historic facts.
To join the select ranks of the society of navigators, you must have a keen sense of direction. Start by standing and recite Ponce’s journey to La Florida and do the following:
- Face West and repeat the word "thirty"
- Face North and repeat the word "degrees"
- Face South and repeat the word "eight"
- Face East and repeat the word "minutes"
Now you are a Navigator and you can induct others into the society. When navigators meet, they share the following password exchange:
Question: Where was Ponce? Answer: 30 degrees, 8 minutes, north latitude.
Viva Ponce de León!