The City Gate and The Cubo Defense Line

In a city filled with history, some of the most important sites are ones you can’t see.

May 17, 2022

The next time you’re walking along St. George Street, be sure to go to the very beginning, or end of the street, where you’ll come upon one of St. Augustine’s most recognizable landmarks-- The City Gate. It’s so much more than a great spot for a selfie.

Over 200 years old, the gate was constructed in 1808, but its history dates back another one hundred years, when St. Augustine was attacked by Carolinian Governor James Moore and his troops. Much of the town was burned to the ground at that time. Following the siege of St. Augustine in 1702, the Spanish were determined to improve the defenses of the city outside of the massive masonry fortress, The Castillo de San Marcos.

Soon after, the Spanish began construction of a defensive system to protect the Presidio from land invasions. The Cubo Line, built in 1704 to safeguard the town's northern sector, was the first line of defense the Spanish raised. In the early 18th century, the Spanish in Florida used the medieval term “Cubo” to describe rounded, pointed or square bastions built into defensive walls.

The Cubo Line, as it was called, was the northern protective border made of an earth defensive wall covered with sharp leaved yucca surrounding a nine-foot palm log stockade that stretched approximately a half mile from the Castillo to the San Sebastian River. A 40-foot wide moat ran parallel to the line with a small drawbridge spanning it at the main gate. In 1740, the city was attacked again by Georgia Governor James Oglethorpe, but this time the fortification served its purpose and the city was spared.

In 1808, the City Gate was rebuilt out of coquina and stands today, even though the walls of the original Cubo Defense Line have long disappeared beneath the city’s modern streets. You can still visit the historical marker for the site of the Cubo Defense Line on the corner of Cordova and Orange Streets.