Friday, August 24, 2018

Happy Birthday Flagler College!  This Fall, Flagler College is celebrating its 50th Anniversary with events throughout the year (to see an events list, click here).  In 1968, the college first opened its doors to women.  Since that time, Flagler has given diplomas to 18,000 graduates.

For about a decade now, I've walked past countless student lead tours and always thought "I should take one of those some day!"  This being such a momentous year, I figured it was now or never. 

Historic Tour of Flagler College
 Of course, there was some information on the tour that I already knew:
If you live in St. Augustine (or Miami or Palm Beach) and don't live in a cave, you most likely are familiar with Henry Flagler, a founder of Standard Oil and business partner of John D. Rockefeller.   Flagler played a key roll in developing the Atlantic Coast of Florida and the Florida East Coast Railway.  (If you want to read more on the subject, check out Les Standiford's book Last Train To Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean).

Last Train to Paradise by Les Staniford



Flagler built the exquisite Ponce Hotel in St. Augustine, FL in just 18 months.  It was completed in 1887.  (The hotel now holds Flagler College's administrative offices, girls dorm rooms and the college dining hall). 

The original Ponce Hotel that is now Flagler College (photo by Dreamstime.com)


But, I also discovered many new things from taking the tour!  Here is just a sampling:

The Women's Grand Parlor (now known as the Flagler Room) was where the ladies would be ushered upon arrival.  Women were not allowed to witness money transactions (they might faint!)  Their husbands paid  for the entire season's stay upfront and in cash ($4,000 which today translates to about $100,000).

A fainting Vicotiran lady (photo by: todayifoundout.com)

The Women's Parlor has 11 handmade Austrian crystal chandeliers and a clock containing the largest piece of intact white onyx in the western hemisphere.

largest piece of intact onyx in western hemisphere

The dining room contains hand painted murals and 79 Tiffany Stained Glass windows (how many college students to get to eat in a place like that!)  The dining room also has TWO musicians' balconies.  There were two because Henry Flagler never wanted the music to stop!  Two balconies allowed one band to set up while the other was winding down without missing a beat.


One of two musician balcony's in the Flagler College Dining Hall
Today, the dining hall's chairs are mostly replicas, but there are still a few originals in the mix.  You'll know that you're sitting in an original horse-hair stuffed Flagler era chair if it has wheels attached to the front legs (so men could scoot their large hoop-skirted wives' into the table).  Another indicator is the  cherub baby head behind you.  If your chair's baby head is looking angry, you're in a replica.  If the baby is gazing at you pleasantly, you're in an original Pone Hotel chair!


original Ponce Hotel dining chair

replica Pone Hotel dining chair

And last but not least, I learned the Henry Flagler had his own, private entrance into the Ponce Hotel Dining Hall (I never knew this existed before the tour!)

Henry Flagler's private dining hall entrance


For details on how you can take your own Flagler College Historic Tour, lead by an authentic and enthusiastic Flagler College student, click here: Historical Tours of Flagler College.


TEXT and Photos (except where noted) by FPAN Staff:  Robbie Boggs 

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