A&E Columns

This must be the place: ‘I've stumbled through the valley, halfway up the mountain now’

St. Augustine is the oldest city in America. Garret K. Woodward photo St. Augustine is the oldest city in America. Garret K. Woodward photo

Hello from Lemon Street in St. Augustine, Florida. Since 2013, my folks, who live in Upstate New York, have been coming down here for the month of March to escape the frozen North Country winters. 

And for the last eight years or so, I’ve wandered down for a few days of fun in the sun on the beach and nighttime mischief in the heart of the oldest city in the United States. White sand beaches and cold suds. Live music and margaritas. Seafood and strangers becoming fast friends over happenstance conversations of who, what, where.

Normally, I’d hop in the truck and motor down after putting the newspaper out Tuesday. But, with work obligations and fatigue of daily life, I was dragging my feet this year. And yet, by Thursday morning, my girlfriend said we should go. I agreed. Why not? So, it was decided to buy an inexpensive Allegiant plane ticket and get picked up at the airport in Sanford, Florida, later that same day.

Saturday morning. The bright sunshine streamed through the window blinds of the guest room of the rented bungalow on Lemon Street. It was also my father’s 82nd birthday. My girlfriend and I handed him a bottle of nice wine and a birthday card (half heartfelt, half sarcastic). He smiled at the wine and laughed at the card.

At 11 a.m., the University of Vermont men’s basketball team was playing against UMass-Lowell in the America East Championship. I was able to find the correct TV channel to view the game to my father’s delight, as he’s a die-hard UVM Catamounts fan. We sat and watched UVM win its third straight conference title, all while rehashing memories of when he’d bring me to Catamount games as a young kid.

Thereafter, I laced up my running shoes and started trotting down Lemon Street towards the intersection with Riberia Street. On most occasions, I’d head towards downtown St. Augustine and jog across the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island before circling back through the depths of the city of back alleys and cobblestone streets.

Related Items

This go-round, I moseyed below King Street along Riberia. The chaos of King Street traffic, noise and endless streams of tourists soon faded away. The neighborhood emerged with small, quiet bungalows, marinas and warehouses. The hot sun peeked out from behind the clouds. Beats of sweat started to roll down my forehead while joyous in the continuous motion of rhythm and stride.

By Duero Street, I turned left and headed east towards Washington Street. At the corner of Duero and Palmo streets, I noticed a historical marker in front of a bungalow. It said it was formerly the home of the Rev. Goldie M. Eubanks.

The marker stated, “Humbled by Family and Fatherhood, Leadership and Christian Fellowship, and driven by a cry from within his inner soul to make this world a better place, this self-styled minister and Christian Evangelist was a Vice President of the N.A.A.C.P. and S.C.L.C. leader with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. This home was often the target of nightriders and opponents of civil rights.”

Pushing further down Duero, the road swung north and turned into Washington Street. At that juncture, there was a home tucked under the haunting beauty of the Spanish moss draped over oak trees in the front and side lawns. A man was working in the yard, presumably the owner by his demeanor. We connected eyes and I gave him a small wave.

“Nice pace,” he yelled from the yard in a tone of solidarity and friendliness. “I’m trying,” I replied. “Do a lap for me,” he shot back with a smile. “Have a great day, my friend,” I said. “You, too,” his voice responded, soon fading into the Spanish moss and ether of a universe all too mysterious, glorious and true.

Wandering down St. Francis Street, I could hear the sounds of the trolleys zooming around with loads of tourists, pointing out historical locations over its PA speaker system. Upon further inspection, I saw where it had stopped. A sign said “The Oldest House” above the picturesque abode.

Known as the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, the marker stated, “For more than three centuries this site has been occupied by St. Augustinians. Beginning about 1650, a succession of thatched wooden structures were their homes. This coquina stone house was built soon after the English burned St. Augustine in 1702.”

The final stretch of the run came on Avenida Menendez. With the Matanzas River to my right, it was narrow, somewhat uneven sidewalks. The tranquility of the previous streets quickly transitioned back into the organized chaos of people and noise in the middle of St. Patrick’s Day Weekend.

An afternoon crooner under the shade of the outside patio at O.C. White’s Seafood & Spirits. Bachelor party shenanigans peering out of bay windows at the A1A Ale Works at the intersection of the Bridge of Lions. Trot past the Tradewinds Lounge in the early afternoon of local musicians, classic rock covers and cheap beers in the escape hatch from the world that is the dive bar on the corner.

Charlotte Street and dogging cars and tourists atop cobblestone roads and spilled beverages. Ice cream shops and cigar bars. Seafood joints and high-end art galleries. Clothing boutiques and fried chicken spots. Freshly-made fudge and souvenirs T-shirts for $10. A lone motorcyclist drifts by, reeving the engine to a deafening roar, Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” blasting from the stereo.

Lemon Street is now just two blocks away. The downtown chaos once again dissipates. Quiet side streets and more bungalows. Spanish moss and oak trees. Plans are already in the works to celebrate the old man’s birthday with a visit to a nearby wine bar. Twas another enjoyable run into the depths of a curious world just outside the front door of some place, somewhere.

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

Leave a comment


  • Thank you for taking me on a tour of my hometown. I was raised on Saragossa St., at the Cordova end. My backyard backed up to the Tolomato Cemetery. It was a quieter time—almost 70 years ago—but you stirred up some memories. Thank you.

    posted by Mary Ford

    Saturday, 03/23/2024

  • What does this have to do with WNC?

    posted by GeneA

    Saturday, 03/23/2024

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.