Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Saturday, January 12, 2013 dawned sunny and beautiful in the City of St. Augustine, exactly 125 years after Henry Flagler opened his new hotel to the citizens of St. Augustine in 1888.  Throngs of today's citizens and tourists packed the street and courtyard just as they had done on January 12, 1888.  And Henry Flagler himself (interpreted by John Stavely) warmly welcomed them into his hotel.

Henry Flagler then

John Stavely as Henry Flagler now

Guests from the Gilded Age had already arrived for the winter season and directed citizens to the beautifully decorated domed rotunda, Tiffany glassed dining room, and elegant Flagler sitting rooms.

Today the Hotel Ponce de Leon is the landmark center piece of the Flagler College campus.  Womens' dorms occupy the former guest rooms but the elaborately decorated public areas are still maintained by the college in their gilded age splendor. Some of these areas, now occupied by the President's office and Flagler college administrative offices, were opened to the public on Saturday.  This was a rare treat for our local citizens and tourists as these areas are usually open only to college personel. 

Original china place settings and silver serving pieces from the hotel's high seasons were displayed in the Tiffany dining room.

And of course, the beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows glowed beautifully in the sunshine of this lovely January Saturday.

Music, as it was played on the original opening day, was heard again in the rooms and verandas of the hotel.

Flagler College student guides answered questions and told stories to eager visitors about the glory days of the grand hotel.

The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum opened a gallery exhibit of some of the original blueprints and architectural drawings prepared by the firm of Carrera and Hastings.  The hotel was designed in the Spanish Renaissance Revival style by this pair of young New York City architects selected by Henry Flagler early in their careers. And what a magnificent hotel was produced for our City by these young but talented architects!  The Hotel Ponce de Leon has lasted 125 years with many more years to come as the adaptively reused women's dorm on the the Flagler College campus.

Original Blueprint

Architectural Rendering

This public opening event and gallery opening is only the beginning of Flagler College's year of festivities celebrating the legacy of this beautiful old hotel. Check out the web site for future events at

Text and photos by Toni Wallace, FPAN - NE

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