Hastings, about 18 miles southwest of St. Augustine, is an agricultural center that. according to the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, literally grew from a garden. Henry Flagler, who built tourist hotels in St. Augustine, needed a source of fresh vegetables for his guests. He persuaded a cousin, Thomas Horace Hastings, to develop a farm; a small town evolved to which Hastings gave his name. Since that birth in 1980, Hastings has been known as the “Potato Capital of Florida” with 21,000 acres of potato farmland. The area is also known for its cabbage, onions, eggplant and ornamental horticulture. The small-town closeness of Hastings coexists peacefully with the progress the town has made in recent years. The Al Wilke Recreation Field, just across the street from the town office, provides a venue for children’s fun and organized sporting events.
Northwest St. Johns County Fruit Cove, Switzerland and Orangedale has been experiencing growth for quite some time. The area is home to Julington Creek Plantation, which encompasses 4,119 acres, with more than a dozen distinctive neighborhoods. Among the top 10 master-planned communities in Florida, Julington Creek Plantation offers recreational facilities, a large selection of homes and a great location- 30 minutes to St. Augustine. Compared to many areas of Florida, Julington Creek has a young residence base, with families flocking to the area because of the high-rated school system and close proximity to major super markets, pharmacies, top-ranked restaurants, golf courses, and numerous office parks. Many recreational opportunities exist, including golf course, such as The Champions Club in Julington Creek. The Julington Creek Marina offers wet and dry storage for boating.
For a community with an evergreen name, Palm Valley has been through plenty of changes. Once home to only Native Americans and later Spanish settlers, in 1908 a canal was dug through the area (then called Diego Plains) connecting the San Pablo River to the north with the Tolomato River near St. Augustine to the south. This intracoastal canal made access much easier for the residents that had settled in this area. Residents raised cattle, farmed and logged. The plentiful palms prompted residents to change the name from Diego Plains to Palm Valley. Prohibition turned some of the valley residents to another source of income moonshine. The abundant water supply and deep woods helped conceal illegal whiskey distilling. The moonshine industry thrived even after the Volstead Act was replaced in 1933, but the rising price of sugar finally brought the industry to an end. The expansion of the beaches has grown Palm Valley from a quiet community into a luxurious land to live on. Today most farms in the valley have disappeared, and waterfront properties along Roscoe Boulevard sell for at least $ 1 million to several million.
Ponte Vedra Beach and Sawgrass
The rich history if the area and its pristine natural resources helped shape Ponte Vedra Beach. Years of conflict between Timucuan Indians, the Spanish, the French and the English persisted until around 1821, when Spain sold Florida to the U.S. and it became a territory. Nearly 100 years later, in 1914, two young chemical engineers, Henry Holland Buckman and George A. Pritchard, discovered that Ponte Vedra’s beaches contained industrial minerals, including components necessary for the production of titanium and zirconium. The National Lead Co. bought out the partners in 1916. The mining settlement, named Mineral City, played a crucial role in World War I, as titanium was a key component in the manufacture of poisonous gas. In 1928, the National Lead Co. rechristened Mineral City in honor of what was believed to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus- Pontevedra Spain. City founders later learned that Columbus was actually born in Genoa, Italy. The name Ponte Vedra stuck and today has come to symbolize sophisticated beach-style living. Modern-day Ponte Vedra Beach began to take shape when National Lead built a nine-hole golf course for its employees along with a log clubhouse and polo field in 1922. In 1928, the complex became the world-famous Ponte Vedra Inn and Club. With the post-war mineral market gone and production at a standstill, National Lead used its clubhouse and golf course as the base from which to launch a resort community. Road construction in the 1940s through the 1960s brought further development and, in 1972 developer James Stockton Jr. broke ground on the 1,100-acre development known as Sawgrass is home to THE PLAYERS Championship golf tournament and is world headquarters for the PGA TOUR, thanks to a legendary 1978 deal in which developers Jerome and Paul Fletcher sold then-PGA TOUR Commissioner Deane Beman 415 densely-wooded acres for $1. Although synonymous with luxury, Ponte Vedra Beach does have affordable housing away from the ocean.
St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach
The oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the U.S. still gives residents a taste of small-town charm more than 450 years after its founding. St. Augustine, 35 miles south of Jacksonville beside Matanzas Bay, was established by Spanish Admiral Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles Sept 8, 1565. St. Augustine is the host of more than 50 annual events, many revolving around the city’s historic role. The Fort Castillo de San Marcos, built between 1672 and 1695 by the Spanish, dominates the city’s tableau. Its massive gates draw tourists and longtime residents to explore the city’s past. More than 85 historic sites lie within the city’s confines. Numerous museums detail an aspect of the city’s development, while archaeological digs proceed throughout the year, unearthing further information on St. Augustine’s heritage. Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, the St, Augustine Alligator Farm and Potter’s Wax Museum are among the popular attractions. With an average temperature of 70 degrees and mild winters, St. Augustine allows for year round recreation. Boating, swimming and surfing take a high priority in leisure activities as does golf, with championship golf courses, including two at the World Golf Village. St. Augustine is a shopping experience with more antique shops, art galleries and an abundance of specialty shops, many located on the brick-lined streets of the city’s historic district. Two outlet malls off Interstate 95 and State Road 16 are visited by locals and by visitors. The city is also known for its fine eateries. Restaurants in St, Augustine, some ranked among the highest in the state, offer everything from authentic French cuisine to eclectic new world fusion cooking. Higher education is provided by Flagler College, a private four-year liberal arts school, and St. Johns River State College. Golf course communities, ocean front homes, Intracoastal Waterway spreads, marsh front properties and homes in the city’s historic district command top dollar.
Residents in the seaside community of Vilano Beach enjoy Oceanside lving with a small-town feel. The community really started to develop in 1995 when the small bridge connecting Vilano Beach to the mainland was torn down and the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge a graceful arch of steel and concrete, was opened. Vilano Beach is a peninsula bordered by South Ponte Vedra Beach to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, St. Augustine Inlet to the south and the Intracoastal Waterway to the west. The Vilano/Surfside area was primarily a summer beach community, but more and more people are living there year-round. Vilano Beach also has one of the few red shell coquina beaches in the state.