THE ALCAZAR, CORDOVA AND THE PONCE DE LEON, HOTELS IN SAINT AUGUSTINE, FLORIDASt. Augustine is probably the oldest European settlement in the United States. More than fifty years before the Pilgrims landed on the “stern and rock-bound coast” of Massachusetts, the Spaniards had taken possession of the place. It was even ceded by England back to Spain in 1783, and only came into the possession of the United States in 1819. Quiet enough in summer, in winter it becomes a very popular and fashionable resort, receiving usually about 10,000 visitors during “the season.” To accommodate this multitude of tourists, enormous hotels have been constructed here. This illustration shows two of them, the “Alcazar” and the “Cordova” as they appear to one looking from the “Ponce de Leon.” These buildings are remarkable in many ways. The Ponce de Leon hotel covers four acres of ground and is a half-mile in circuit! Not only has it spacious dining-rooms, an immense rotunda and the like, but it contains billiard-rooms for ladies, an enormous play-room for children and even studios for artists. The Hotel Cordova has a “sun parlor” 108 feet long and paved with tiles. The architecture of St. Augustine is a charming mixture of old Spanish residences with hanging balconies along their second stories, and beautiful American villas of the kind which make Nahant and Newport so attractive. The streets of St. Augustine are extremely narrow, frequently only ten or fifteen feet in breadth. This gives to the town a pleasant flavor of the Orient, for in every land of the Sun narrow, shaded streets are a luxury always to be appreciated. Most of the Spanish houses, as well as the old Spanish Fort of San Marco near by, are made of a conglomerate of fine shells and sand. There are charming drives about St. Augustine, and a delightful promenade a mile in length extends along the great “Sea Wall.” The climate here in winter is mild yet not enervating, and oranges, lemons, bananas, figs, palms and all sorts of tropical plants grow here in profusion. (from John L. Stoddard, Glimpses of the world; a portfolio of photographs of the marvelous works of God and man – 1892)

The Ponce de León Hotel was an exclusive hotel in St. Augustine, Florida, built by millionaire developer and Standard Oil co-founder Henry M. Flagler and completed in 1888. The Hotel Ponce de Leon was designed in the Spanish Renaissance style by the New York architects John Carrère and Thomas Hastings. These two would gain world renown and would eventually combine their firms into Carrere & Hastings, The hotel was the first of its kind constructed entirely of poured concrete, using the local coquina stone as aggregrate. The hotel also was wired for electricity at the onset, with the power being supplied by D.C. generators supplied by Flagler’s friend, Thomas Edison. When electricity was first put in, Henry M. Flagler hired staff to turn power on and off for his residents, because the people staying at the hotel were too afraid to turn the switches on and off. The building and grounds of the hotel are today a part of Flagler College.

The Lightner Museum, originally The Alcazar Hotel, with a statue of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés on the ground is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Casa Monica Hotel, renamed the Cordova Hotel by Flagler in 1889, is a historic hotel. It is one of the oldest hotels in the United States and is a member of the “Historic Hotels of America” National Trust. (from Wikipedia)


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