When you hear the phrase "Fountain of Youth" what do you think of? Chances are its something like:
But what about St Pete? We are the indisputable home of The Original Fountain of Youth!
Don't believe me? Keep reading
Everyone's heard of the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon and his quest for the fabled Fountain of Youth. And maybe you've even visited St Augustine and seen a version of the FoY.
So let's set some facts straight (which coming from me is a bit of a stretch). Ponce was never looking for the mystic waters of the FoY.
The first claims about Ponce searching for a FoY started appearing 20 years after his death when a biographer made reference to Ponce possibly searching for a cure for impotence (google it) and then something was lost in translation. And the story morphed into the legend of Ponce seeking a mythical rejuvenating fountain. Washington Irving (of Sleepy Hollow fame) wrote a popular fictional story about the FoY and cemented the myth of Ponce de Leon and the Fountain of Youth.
Most historians today don't believe Ponce ever even set foot in what is now St Augustine. Many of them think he explored* more of the West coast of Florida near Charlotte Harbor.
Thanks to an industrious woman by the name of Luella Day McConnell (aka Diamond Lil), the FoY rumor really got a foothold. In 1904, Diamond Lil bought a parcel of land that contained a beautiful botanical garden popular with visitors. She basically created St Augustine's FoY tourist attraction by dressing up the well on the property to look like a spring and christening it the Fountain of Youth.
In true "Florida style" when a nearby tree fell down uprooting dirt and mysteriously exposing a coquina rock formation, Diamond Lil claimed it was a Spanish cross...and it had been built by the hands of none other than Señor de Leon! More proof! This lady was well known huckster (the kind Rev B can appreciate) and she delighted in amusing herself with such antics around town. When the FoY attracted a ton of tourists, the city of St Augustine whole heartedly embraced her "ancient Fountain of Youth". They even took to erecting a statue of P de Leon. The tourists ate/drank it up , paying money to sample sulfur laden egg-tasting water.
But St Pete had their own FoY well before Diamond Lil
Part II of this story will explain how Edwin Tomlinson built a pier in St Petersburg and discovered the Original Fountain of Youth years before Diamond Lil declared St Augustine home of the Fountain of Youth.
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Rev B has nearly been published multiple times and has received letters of rejection from Highlights, Jet Magazine, Dear Abby and The New Yorker. While accepting full responsibility for all grammatical errors he makes no claims of being an author. Please enjoy the entries found here and use the search function if you're looking for something more specific.