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Bien Venido: 1897

Bien Venido: 1897

St. Augustine, Florida, circa 1890s. "The Alcazar and Cordova from the Ponce de Leon." Three of Henry Flagler's landmark Florida hotels, with a welcome spelled out in Edison lights. 8x10 negative by William Henry Jackson. View full size.


Still beautiful

Proving once again youth is wasted on the young as an 18 year old college freshman I ate my dinner in the Flagler College dining hall, the old Ponce's ballroom surrounded by the world's largest collection of Tiffany stained glass and gorgeous murals and hardly noticed.

Flagler dorms now

My friend went to college here, and had a dorm room you can just about see in this picture! Amazing.

Why They Did Not Burn Down

All three hotels are built of mass concrete (without any steel reinforcing), with a coquina shell aggregate found in the neighborhood. The two St. Augustine churches built by Flagler, Grace United Methodist Church and Memorial Presbyterian Church (both designed by Carrere & Hastings, architects of the Ponce de Leon and Alcazar Hotels), are also built of this material. A large number of the 19th-century hotels that burned were built of wood.

Mostly still there

I was just there and was amazed to see how much is still there today. You can take a quick walking tour of Flagler College (which owns the courtyard below), then stroll over to Hotel Alcazar. Be sure to see Cafe Alcazar where the large indoor pool was (you'll find pictures of it here on Shorpy).

Here's a 360 of the entryway at the bottom left of this picture.

Still looks lovely.

I'll spare everyone the cliche; Like stepping back in time!

Bing Birds-Eye view:

Looks like a good place to winter. Assuming 'winter' can be used as a verb. (which I do)

St. Augustine Lighthouse in distance

If you at the top of the left-hand tower of the Cordova (now the Casa Monica Hotel) what looks like a small spire of some kind is not on the hotel roof at all. It is the St. Augustine Lighthouse in the distance, across the Matanzas River on Anastasia Island. Built in 1874, The Lighthouse still stands today, too, with its unique black and white spiral paint job and bright red framework for the beacon housing. A museum now fills a reconstructed Keeper's House at the base of the tower and the tower itself is open for tours daily. The Lighthouse remains as proud a landmark for locals as The Old Fort, The Bridge of Lions and Flagler's hotels.
By the way, this photograph is looking generally southeast with the ocean way out beyond Anastasia Island where the Lighthouse stands. The waterway in the middle distance is the Matanzas River, also called the Matanzas Bay, with some tidal marshes visible off to the south (to the right in the photo). The Matanzas River is part of the modern Intracoastal Waterway system.

The Nation's Oldest City!

All three of these buildings remain open and very extensively used today, although only one is still a hotel.
In the immediate foreground are the entry gardens of the Ponce, now Flagler College. Though not seen in this photograph, the Ponce's original ornate ballroom is the dining hall for today's students.
The Alcazar is on the right behind the full-block sized gardens, which are also still there and kept up very well, thank you. Today the Alcazar serves as both St. Augustine's City Hall and the Lightner Museum where you will find preserved many "Splendors of the Gilded Age" as they put it.
On the left is the Cordova, now known as the Casa Monica Hotel, and it is as beautiful as ever. My wife and I stayed there for an anniversary just a few years ago.
Don't forget that St. Augustine is home to many historic sites including Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, or "The Old Fort", a 17-century Spanish bastion. And coming up in 2015 is St. Augustine's 450th Anniversary! (Take that, Santa Fe!)

Did Not Burn Down!

Amazingly, these buildings are all still there. One is still a hotel, one is now city hall and one is used by a college.

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