St. Augustine City Gate

Orange St. at St. George St; Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Plastered coquina
masonry, two 24-1/2′ high square towers with finials and flanking walls. Built in 1808; repaired
1879, 1913; partially restored 1965.

The present St. Augustine City Gate, which gave access to the city from the north through the
Spanish Cubo Line Defense System, was constructed in 1808. The bridge approach was
razed in 1827 and in the same year the masonry construction was also damaged; it was not
until 1879 that these damages were repaired. In 1910 the surrounding area was filled and
leveled; in 1913 repairs and repointing were carried out and the west finial probably replaced.
The cause way (c.1830) partially rebuilt in 1937, was restored in 1965 by the National Park
Service, which also reconstructed part of the moat and log wall (Cubo Line) at the site. The
City Gate is part of Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.

The Beginnings

The Cubo Line was built as the result of the English siege of St. Augustine in 1702. In 1702
the people were saved by the Castillo but the city was burned by the departing English. The
Cubo line was built to the San Sebastian River containing six small wooden redoubts. There
has been one redoubt rebuilt on Orange Street. The first known gate was about 5 1/2 feet
wide and was located about 27 1/2 feet from the Castillo moat wall. This was from the first
reconstruction of the Cubo line in 1718-19.

The opening where the City Gate is located today was built from April 1738 to May 1740
before the Oglethorpe siege of St. Augustine. The new gate was part of the second
reconstruction of the Cubo line. The entrance to the city was moved the end of St. George
Street and has remained there ever since. Gradually the opening would become known as the
La Leche Gate (since it was the road to the Chapel of Our Lady of La Leche.

Building the City Gate

The British came, and went and the Spanish returned. On February 11, 1804, Engineer
Manuel de Hita recommended the replacement of the two wooden guard stations with
masonry. The work was authorized in February 1808 and was constructed of stone (coquina)
for greater strength. At this time the Cubo line was undergoing another reconstruction.

The gate was completed by 1809. There was a bridge in front of the gate over the moat of the
Cubo line. The bridge would always be a problem and need frequent replacement and repair.

Before the turnover to the Americans Engineer Ramon de la Cruz reported in 1821 that: “The
only exit to the north road cuts through the parapet (of the Cubo Line) at the location of the
Land Gate. The gate is in good condition, ironwork satisfactory; it consists of two leaves hung
on two strong pillars of great thickness and height. Each pillar is joined to a stone wall about 9
yards long, as broad as the parapet and following the line of the parapet. To cross the moat,
there is a new bridge 68 feet long, 16 1/2 feet wide, with railings and 4 bents…”

The American Years

By 1827 the City Council was advertising for bids to replace the bridge with a causeway.
Mayor Waters Smith offered to build the causeway without cost to the City, in exchange for “all
the stone and materials composing the old bridge, the pillars and beams, bulkhead, etc.”
Smith’s work was halted by Lt. Harvey Brown, the Post Quartermaster, on the basis that the
City Gate was U. S. Military property (as the Cubo line, the sea wall, and many other
properties belonged to the Federal government). Brown’s report to the Quartermaster General
stated that: “Where the main gate of the town formerly was there were two large pillars, one of
these they have partly torn down, and were about tearing down the other, when I thought it my
duty to …prevent any further demolition…” The Quartermaster upheld Lt. Brown and rejected
the city’s claim to the City Gate.

By July 1833 the causeway was rebuilt and paid for by the town and the gate was destroyed.

Cooley’s picture taken at the date of the War of the Rebellion shows the destruction of the
sentry boxes. What is not know is when the documented destruction occurred.

In January 1879 the City received bids for reconstruction of the sentry boxes and repair of the
northeast corner. Note the picture of the repaired wall in 1888.

In 1908 the moat was filled in.

In 1912 Dr. DeWitt Webb as Mayor requested the U. S. Corps of Engineers that the city be
allowed to take maintenance of the City Gate and the area around it. The work was to
strengthen the foundation of the east end, repoint the masonry, renewing woodwork in the
sentry boxes, and remove the growth of grass and bushes. By 1913 the repointing was done.

In 1937 the Carnegie Institution sponsored a series of archaeological excavations at points
along the Cubo line under W. J. Winter. The records of this excavation are in the St. Augustine
Historical Library. The problem of that excavation has been the missing Winter’s map.

In 1947 the National Park Service repointed the gate and the causeway.

In 1965 through the Mission 66 program helped improve the appearance of the City Gate.
Short portions of the former palm log wall were rebuilt, the sides of the masonry bridge, and
rebuilding the firing step.

Time Line

1763 – Gate called La Leche Gate

1804 – Land Gate (La Leche chapel was no longer in existence). was two wooden houses.

1808-09 Engineer Manuel de Hita supervised the construction of coquina pillars to replace the
two wooden guard shelters at the Gate.

1937 Excavation by Dr. Winters.

1965 Mission 66 program of the National Park service improves city gate.

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