Tuesday, December 8, 2015

St. Augustine: The Hotel Alcazar - City Hall - The Lightner Museum


St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in North America. It was also the original home of Florida tourism. Henry Flagler was one of the founders, along with John D. Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews, of Standard Oil. However when his first wife became ill, Flagler traveled to Jacksonville FL. After she died, he remarried and moved to St. Augustine with his new bride.

File:Portrait of Henry Morrison Flagler.jpg
The Cyclopaedia of American biography, 1918
Flagler quickly saw that Florida could become a tourist destination for the rich of the northern United States. To facilitate this he built his first hotel in St. Augustine - The Ponce de León. Today this masterpiece is the heart of Flagler College. He also purchased the Florida East Coast Railway to provide passage south from Jacksonville.

File:1913 Florida East Coast Railway advert.jpg
Advertisement from 1913
In 1887 Flagler built The Hotel Alcazar, as an overflow hotel for the Ponce de León. The two hotels sat across the street from each other. The building is based on the Alcazar Castle in Seville Spain

File:SOUTH FRONT, VIEW FROM THE TOWER OF THE PONCE DE LEON HOTEL - Alcazar Hotel, 75 King Street, Saint Augustine, St. Johns County, FL HABS FLA,55-SAUG,43-3.tif 
Today the Hotel Alcazar is a multi purpose building housing St. Augustine's government offices, some commercial spaces and the Lightner Museum.

The Parking lot in the photo above has been replaced by a beautiful public space surrounding a fountain and a statue of Don Pedro Menendez, founder of St. Augustine.

Park in front of City Hall

Statue of Don Pedro Menendez

Entrance to the Building
 As you enter the building you pass through a walkway to beautiful courtyard.

At the far end of the Courtyard is the Lightner Museum. In 1932 the Hotel Alcazar closed, and the building was bought in 1947 by Otto C. Lightner, the Chicago publisher, to house his collection of Victorian era pieces. 

But pieces does not do justice to this collection. There is a room devoted to music boxes - but think player pianos.

Some of the "music boxes"

 Also a room for Natural Sciences:

They have also set up exhibits as a Victorian street with store fronts representing different types of collectibles:
Doll Houses

Tobacco Jars
 The Lightner Museum occupies what were the health facilities of The Hotel Alcazar. They have left some of the facilities intact including an old steam room.

In its time The Hotel Alcazar must have been a splendor. There are very few of these "grand hotels" left to see. I am really glad that this building still exists.

1 comment:

  1. This place is a real gem, especially for visitors like me who enjoy being transported to another time and place. I love the architecture and as a fan of unusual museums, I enjoyed the collections of unusual Victoriana.