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If you thought that only mutant superheroes could be young forever, wait until you read about the Fountain of Youth!
The Fountain of Youth is a mythical fountain located in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the USA. Believed to have healing waters that can restore youth, the legendary fountain is proof of the centuries-old fantasy of humans to maintain a youthful appearance forever.
The history of the Fountain of Youth dates back to the 16th century when Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León presumably discovered the mythical spring and its magic waters. Today, the site is known as the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, a privately-owned park with several tourist attractions. Despite its fabled reputation of reversing the aging process, there is no scientific evidence that the fountain's waters could preserve youth for eternity. However, the history of the Fountain of Youth is full of fascinating revelations about the city of St. Augustine and the supposed origin of the mythical spring.
The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is located in the city of St. Augustine in present-day Florida, USA.
The Fountain of Youth is a natural spring located within the 656,598.5 sq ft (61,000 sq m) scenic grounds of the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine, Florida. St. Augustine is believed to be the oldest site of European settlement in the USA, and also the origin of colonial America. Today, the waterfront Fountain of Youth Park located along the Matanzas River and the St. Augustine inlet serves as a popular tourist destination. Apart from the spring, the youth fountain park in Florida houses the Planetarium, Discovery Globe, Timucua Indian Exhibit, Spanish cannons, and a Native Christian Burial Ground Exhibit. The place takes visitors back to the days of the conquistadors and celebrates the Spanish heritage through the colonial and native displays. Besides, the natural beauty of the lush Florida landscape makes the St. Augustine locale all the more appealing to visitors.
The park is open to visitors daily from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. The entry ticket costs $19.95 for adults, children (6-12 years) and senior citizens have to pay $9.95 and $17.95, respectively. No entry fee is required for children under the age of five. While you can explore the park and its exhibits at your leisure, it is recommended that you spend at least a couple of hours at the site. The best way to start exploring the park is by visiting the Spring House, a 60-year old building centered around the spring of eternal youth. You can even take a sip from the spring and see for yourself if the waters keep you young forever!
The Florida location where the Fountain of Youth park presently stands is witness to landmark historical events.
Native Americans, known as Timucua, began settling in the region stretching from present-day Central Florida to southwest Georgia during 2,400 BCE. In 1513, Spanish explorer Ponce de León landed ashore at the Timucua village of Seloy off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Ponce de León thought the place to be an island and named it La Florida because it was the time of the Festival of Flowers. He claimed the new land for Spain and continued his journey, traveling through the Florida Keys and along the western coast. Leon undertook several voyages in his quest to discover new lands and treasures. He had also heard about a mythical fountain whose waters could preserve youth for eternity and came to La Florida searching for the magical waters. However, historians are divided over designating St. Augustine's natural spring as Ponce de Leon's magical fountain. In fact, some historians believe that Ponce de León wasn't looking for any fountain and may not have set foot near St. Augustine.
The historical significance of the place does not end with Ponce de León. In 1565, Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived at Seloy to claim the land for Spain. He founded the city of St. Augustine and established a settlement along the coast, the present-day location of the park. The Spaniards and the native Timucua co-existed peacefully for some time until hostilities broke out between the two groups, forcing the Spaniards to move out. Then, in 1857, St. Augustine became the headquarters of the first Christian mission in the USA. Also, the first Thanksgiving feast was held in St. Augustine on September 8, 1565, more than 50 years before the Mayflower Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock. However, the Queen Annes' War (1702-1713) completely wiped out the existence of the Spaniards and the Timucua from the region.
The landmark site had its first visitors in and around 1868, after Henry H. Williams acquired a property just outside of St. Augustine. Subsequently, excavations carried out at the location in the 20th century unearthed skeletal remains of Native Americans, hinting at the earliest known remains of a burial ground of the indigenous people. In 1900, Henry Williams sold the property to Dr. Luella Day MacConnell. Walter B. Fraser bought the estate in 1927 with a vision to educate the public about the site's significance in American history.
The world is no stranger to tales of the Fountain of Youth with its alleged restorative powers.
Accounts of the Fountain of Youth have appeared in literature since ancient times, including the writings of Herodotus, the stories of Prester John, and in 'Alexander Romance.' Stories of the magical fountain and its ability to cure sickness and reverse aging were also widespread among the Carribeans during the Age of Exploration in the early 16th century. It is said that the Arawak Indians were the first to describe the mythical land of Bimini and its Fountain of Youth. Also, Ponce de León was allegedly enticed by the Indians' accounts of the fountain and set out to find it. It was mainly the legends that tempted adventurers and explorers to look for the heavenly waters that could restore youth and vitality.
The water from the Fountain of Youth supposedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks it or bathes in it.
Despite the legends around the Fountain of Youth, there is no concrete evidence to confirm Leon's expedition to Florida or the youth-preserving powers of the fountain. However, these mythical fountains could be natural springs, or a river with mineral-rich waters imparting health benefits. In fact, balneology is the study of treating diseases by bathing in or drinking the waters of hot springs, a practice often seen in spas. So, while the sulfur-rich waters of the Fountain of Youth spring in Florida could help treat certain diseases, saying that it can preserve youth might be a gross overestimation!
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