St. Augustine will celebrate its 450th birthday over Labor Day weekend with fireworks, street parties, live entertainment, re-enactments and commemorative ceremonies. To add to these festivities, University Press of Florida recommends reading three books highlighting the unique and historical features of America’s Oldest City:  Hotel Ponce de Leon, Walking St. Augustine, and Mr. Flagler’s St. Augustine.

Hotel Ponce de Leon by Leslee F. Keys is the first work to present the opulent Hotel Ponce de Leon’s complete history and detail its transformation into the heart of Flagler College. Keys, who helped with the restoration, recalls the complicated construction of the hotel and the efforts to preserve and restore it to its former glory. “Keys does an excellent job of capturing the historical, cultural, and even political themes that were part of the hotel’s development,” says Flagler College President William T. Abare Jr. Today, the hotel is one of Florida’s most visited heritage tourism destinations.

Keys will sign her book on Sept. 4 from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Ponce de Leon Hall, 74 King Street, St. Augustine. The signing is free and will be hosted by Flagler’s Legacy Tours. She’ll also be speaking at the Florida Heritage Book Festival on Sept. 26, from 12:50 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. at the Flagler College Ringhaver Student Center, 50 Sevilla St., St. Augustine. The festival event is free and open to the public.

If you are looking for a guided tour of the historic city, Walking St. Augustine fuses illustrated history in an intimate and convenient handbook. “Through descriptive prose, pictures, photos and maps, it brings to life five centuries of the city’s past,” the St. Augustine Record says. “It also provides ample evidence that St. Augustine is not only a historical shrine, it is a vibrant, living community, maintaining its ties with the past, but also moving forward into the future.” The guide divides the colonial village into color-coded sections, all easily walked in a single day. Author Elsbeth “Buff” Gordon, one of the city’s most highly regarded historians, is also a resident and offers insider tips for exciting adventures.

To discover the man behind St. Augustine’s creation, dive into a biography about Henry Morrison Flagler, one of the wealthiest men in America who single-handedly turned the Old City into a highly desirable vacation destination for the rich. Winner of the bronze medal in the Florida Book Award for Florida nonfiction, Mr. Flagler’s St. Augustine by Thomas Graham provides an authoritative look at an intriguing man and a captivating time in American history.

Graham will speak at the Florida Heritage Book Festival on Sept. 26, from 9:30 a.m. to 10:25 a.m. at the Flagler College Ringhaver Student Center, 50 Sevilla St., St. Augustine. The event is free and open to the public.

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