Flagler College
King St.
St. Augustine, Fl.

November 19, 1999

If the Fort can be considered the most prominent structure in St. Augustine, Henry Flagler may well be the most prominent figure. Arriving with his new wife for their honeymoon in the late 1800s, Flagler, a self-made man who, with John D. Rockefeller had created the Standard Oil Company, found in St. Augustine, the potential to develop the kind of winter resort that would cater to the aristocratic northern travelers who were trying to escape the harsh winters. Using the unlimited resources at his disposal, he developed the town in the "Spanish Renaissance Revivalist" form, which quickly brought the city into the  Golden Age of Tourism, which still exists in a somewhat lesser degree today. The center piece of this splendid development was the Ponce de Leon Hotel. Although the rich and famous have long since departed, the Hotel remains as Flagler College. The magnificent structure was created between 1885 and 1887 by Henry M. Flagler. Designed by the New York architectural firm of Carrera and Hastings, the building reflects the Spanish  Renaissance style throughout. The hotel was the first major edifice in the United States to be constructed of poured concrete, a mixture of cement, sand, and coquina shell. The interior is decorated with imported marble, carved oak, and murals painted by Tojotti and George W. Maynard. Its stained glass windows were created by Louis Tiffany of New York. The Ponce de Leon Hotel was the flagship of the Flagler Hotel system which soon extended all along the east coast of Florida. Located in the "Winter Newport," this resort hotel entertained celebrities from around the world, including several U.S. Presidents. To make sure that the customers would come Flagler assisted in extending the railroad to St. Augustine, thus allowing the travelers their luxury on the trip down. During World War II, the hotel served as a Coast Guard Training Center. In 1960, this historic landmark was converted into Flagler College, an accredited four year liberal arts institution. Independent and coeducational, the college serves students from across the nation. The college is open to the public from 11AM-4PM. If you would be interested in finding out anymore about the college check out there website at: http://www.flagler.edu.

As we went into Flagler College I couldn't help thinking about the "rich and famous" who must have passed through these doors before me. The main entrance went through a very pleasant garden, that had very interesting architectural accents. There were dragon heads embedded in the walls of the second floor balconies that allowed the water to empty out through their mouths. Inside the foyer, it was amusing to see the mixture of "new and old". I'm sure there are those who would be offended that the college would allow the students to hang banners from the beautiful ceiling. But I felt that it was a wondrous mixture of "old glory" and "new spirit". In other words they allowed the student to enjoy the beauty around them, but still do the type of things that students enjoy doing. As we went through the foyer we noticed the golden lions around the ceiling with light bulbs in their mouths, lighting up the hallway. While all of this was fetching, it was the dining room that really took our breath away. As we stepped inside the dining room, I could almost imagine Henry Flagler and his wife "holding court" in this glorious room for all their many friends and relation. Even today, the beauty of the dining room is awesome. The woodwork in this room as in the rest of the building was obviously hand carved. The overall feeling was one of an opulence you just don't see today. It was an era that had its heyday but is long since past. My main thought, as I left the building, was that I hoped the kids who spend their days there today stop to look around once in awhile to appreciate the beauty of their surroundings. If you get to St. Augustine I heartily recommend going through Flagler College.

Good Luck! Have Fun! and Stay Safe!


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