St. Augustine

J. Michael Francis / La Florida: The Interactive Digital Archive of the Americas

J. Michael Francis spent nearly a decade combing through thousands of scribbled notes, ship logs and dusty relics to chronicle Florida’s Spanish past. He hoped that one day he could bring that once hazy picture into sharp focus.

For the chair of the Florida Studies program at University of South Florida St. Petersburg, that day is Thursday, when the website, La Florida: The Interactive Digital Archive of the Americas, is formally unveiled. (Editor's Note: The website will go live 3/15)

Clyde and Corrita Warner came to St. Augustine on vacation from Louisville, Ky. They know their history.

"Well, I knew that this started before the Pilgrims landed and before Jamestown," says Corrita. "You know, this area was first."

St. Augustine treasures being the first — and oldest — city in the United States. So when the area around Jamestown, Va., adopted the title "America's First Region" a while back, the gloves came off.

On Florida's northeast coast, trams filled with families and school groups run constantly in St. Augustine, hitting nearly all of the old city's historic sites.

But down a side street lies an important piece of St. Augustine's history most visitors don't see, because it's only open one day a month.

"This is Tolomato Cemetery. It was formerly the parish cemetery for what is now the cathedral parish," says Elizabeth Gessner, who heads the cemetery's preservation association.