In 1999 Florida's Department of Transportation declared one of the countries most unique bridges structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. This led to a debate over whether to tear down the Bridge of Lions, which is St. Augustine, FL's most famous landmark. City leaders and preservationists waged a campaign to save the bridge and won with a five-year, approximately $77 million effort.
"Our historic buildings are a core value to our city," says Nancy Sikes-Kline, a city commissioner and member of the Citizens for the Preservation of St. Augustine. "It's why a lot of people move here. It's what we're most identified with, our Spanish Colonial architecture."
St. Augustine was founded in 1565 and considered the oldest city in the country, and includes structures that date back to the early 1600s. It is the site of the oldest aid-to-sea navigation in North America, a watchtower build in the late 1500s, that has been replaced by a tower built in 1874.
Historic properties located within the city's seven nationally recognized historic districts are protected by strong city codes. Sikes-Kline says those codes go so far as restricting the colors of paint used on old homes and even the types of door knobs.
"I think that gives people security in knowing that their neighborhood is going to increase in value and remain stable," Sikes-Kline says. "It's also a quality of life issue. Everything will be well maintained."
Number of Properties on the National Register of Historic Places (including districts): 37
• Top 10 Prettiest Towns Forbes, 2012
Historic Landmarks: Ponce de Leon Hall at Flagler College (1888), Castillo de San Marcos (1695), Old St. Johns County Jail (1891), Bridge of Lions (1927)