ST. JOHNS, Fla. – The Castillo de San Marcos, which has been closed since March 17, reopened to visitors on Wednesday.
According to a release from the National Park Service, starting Wednesday, the Castillo will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
From its incredible structure to its cannons, the Castillo de San Marcos is a history lesson up close. It has brought families together for generations. Vicki Perdue and her husband were visiting St. Augustine from Texas and recalled their first time bringing their young children to see the fort.
“We have two sons that are grown now, but they really enjoyed it,” Perdue said. “They’re guys, all the cannons... it was just exciting for them to see that.”
The Perdues were excited to find out the fort is finally reopening to the public Wednesday.
“I think it’s amazing, people need to see this. They need to see parts of history, especially in our country,” Perdue said. “What’s here and especially with the craziness that’s going on right now.”
According to Steven Roberts, Chief of Interpretation, Education & Visitor Services, the fort had a $40 million impact on local communities in 2019. Roberts went on to say in an email to News4Jax:
“The area tourism industry is truly a partnership between governments, attractions, local restaurants and businesses, and the community members at large. The Castillo team is glad to be part of this community, and we hope we are a positive contributor.”
While the fort has a positive economic impact, for Larry Brelowski, his first visit was priceless.
“I was also impressed by how short people used to be,” Brelowski said with a chuckle. “Once you get inside and see the rooms and the cells and things like that. I think I was taller than that when I was in about the seventh grade.”
There will be a maximum capacity of 100 visitors in the fort at any time. Visitors are encouraged to socially distance themselves and wear a mask.
With the fort being closed for so long, Perdue hopes this will remind people not to wait.
“Get out and go see things,” Perdue said. “This is your life, this is your history. You need to train your children and let them know what happened here.”
For the park rangers, being back to work and sharing its incredible history is everything.
“This is more than just a paycheck,” Roberts said. “This is actually a life’s work for National Park rangers. It is more than a paycheck. This is about serving the American public and welcoming them to the historic sites.”
The fort will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but the public can still access the grounds. Normal entrance fees apply: $15 for adults (16 and older), Free for children 15 and under (must be accompanied by an adult). Federal Recreation Passes are also accepted. Only credit/debit cards will be accepted for payment.
Please note that all visitors must wait in the designated line for admission.
The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the United States. It is located on the shore of Matanzas Bay in St. Augustine.
The Castillo was designed by the Spanish engineer Ignacio Daza, with construction beginning in 1672, 107 years after the city’s founding by Spanish Admiral and conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, when Florida was part of the Spanish Empire, according to the National Register of Historic Places.