102 Orange Street, St. Augustine, FL
The imposing pillars sit at the start of St. George Street, towering above travelers at three-stories high. Some say they're haunted by a nine-year-old girl, the daughter of St. Augustine’s gatekeeper. Others think that the specter belongs to an unidentified body left at the entrance. Who's haunting Old City Gates?
Do these coquina columns have a poltergeist? Paranormal enthusiasts claim to see a bewildered specter in a Colonial-style dress. She’s sighted near midnight, playing along the passageway.
Is she the phantom of the infamous, fever-stricken Elizabeth – or something else?
Legend says that this poltergeist is an adolescent specter named Elizabeth. She succumbed to the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1821, one of the hundreds interred at Huguenot Cemetery. Her body rests in an unmarked grave, though her spirit sits and skips about St. Augustine’s entrance.
Some say that she was the gatekeeper’s daughter, who helped her father open and close Old City Gates. She’d join him at dusk and dawn, dancing around the coquina columns while he latched and unlatched the locks.
Is she the spirit that “sensitives” see?
In the nineteenth century, St. Augustine assigned soldiers to Old City Gates on rotation. They’d stand guard on “sentry duty,” keeping post at the passageway. These guards acted as gatekeepers, because there never was a gatekeeper.
No gatekeeper means no Elizabeth. But that doesn’t mean no ghost.
Is this the unidentified body of a fourteen-year-old girl? An infamous inhabitant of the Huguenot Cemetery, she died after exposure to the Yellow Fever Epidemic. Her body was left unceremoniously at the Old City Gates, unclaimed and unknown.
With her identity undetermined, she was interred in a pauper’s tomb. She’s the haunt of Huguenot Cemetery, though she may visit the Old City Gates, too.
In 1702, the City of St. Augustine was at its wit’s end. They had been attacked by the British, who had terrorized the townspeople. Although Carolinian Governor Moore was unable to conquer their impenetrable Castillo de San Marcos, he and his ardent, English force pillaged and ransacked homes. For St. Augustine, it was “The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back.”
Two years later, St. Augustine was spurred into action. They decided to fortify their outer rims and began to construct the Cubo Line. Palmetto logs were layered and stretched across northern St. Augustine, backing a large, earthen wall. Bayonets and cactus were planted atop the structure to add height.
Soon, the Rosario Line ran south, encircling the city. With this fortification, the “Ancient City” was impenetrable. These protective panels offered an effective defense against invasion: in 1740, Governor James Oglethorpe besieged the city for thirty-nine days but was unable to pass through the walls.
St. Augustine incorporated the Old City Gates into the Cubo Line in 1808. These blocks were supplemented with coquina, a soft limestone made from broken shells. They replaced an earlier entryway made of wood, adding strength to the fortification. It was the Cubo Line’s last reconstruction.
Since the Cubo Line was an earthen wall, it was rebuilt and repaired throughout the century, deteriorating over time. The Old City Gates were one of the few structures that survived. Built with coquina, these impressive pillars outlived the Cubo Line.
Today, they’re a remarkable reminder of St. Augustine’s resilience.
You can find the Old City and Historical Marker at 102 Orange Street. It’s located directly across Huguenot Cemetery, so let us know if you encounter any paranormal activity. You may find more than tourists at this historic site.