|The Manager: Osborn Dunlap Seavey (1848-1923)
Osborn D. Seavey was born in the Central Hotel, Unity, Maine; at an inn run by his father. His father later
moved to the Elmwood (House) Hotel in Waterville, Maine. Seavey was part of the hotel industry until his
death in 1923 at age 75.
In 1868 Seavey became the manager of the Phoenix Hotel in Concord, N. H.; a property his father had
leased. When his father died in 1870, Seavey took over management of the family business and in 1876,
Seavey and Miss Caroline Brooks DuParr were married. He became the assistant superintendent of a
hotel in Marion, N. J. but he wanted experience of a city hotel so he took a job as night clerk at the New
York Hotel. Within six months he was made room clerk.
Seavey managed the Hotel Brunswick in Boston for five years. While at the Brunswick he met Isaac S.
Crufts and became the manager of the Maplewood Hotel in Bethlehem, N. H. When Crufts turned his
attention to Florida, Seavey took charge of the construction and management of the Magnolia at Magnolia
Springs (one mile north of Green Cove Springs) and the San Marco in St. Augustine. Needless to say this
ability to transcend management to actual construction provided him with invaluable knowledge for the
Ponce de Leon and the Alcazar.
Seavey met Henry Flagler at the San Marco Hotel in St. Augustine and Flagler hired him to open the new
Ponce de Leon Hotel. Seavey was responsible for the furnishings, organization, and staffing of the hotels
and stayed with Mr. Flagler and the Ponce de Leon for seven seasons. He had control of the Alcazar and
the Cordova as well as the Casino. In the summer, Seavey managed the Hotel Champlain at Lake
Champlain, N. Y. His role as manager gave him social prominence and he was a frequent guest at the
Seavey spent the entire year of 1889 in St. Augustine (the Alcazar stayed open through the summer as an
experiment) and the St. Augustine Daily News reported that he received a salary of $10,000 a year. (In
1885 Seavey was bankrupt.)
The Boston Home Journal described Osborn Seavey: "He is a man of strong individuality, a most original
man, a bright man, a business man, and a thorough hotel man. It was while manager of the San Marco, that
Mr. Flagler, then a guest at his house, first broached the subject of the Ponce de Leon to Mr. Seavey. This
was in the winter of 1884-85, and the scheme was not long in taking shape, for the early part of January,
1888, will see the immense establishment in full blast. Mr. Seavey has had charge of the construction of the
Ponce de Leon from the first, and to his experience and practical ideas it owes many of its most striking
features. In height Mr. Seavey is about five feet seven or eight inches, is of a complexion approaching the
blond, has bluish-gray eyes, wears a full beard, and is a little inclined to be stout. ¦To great executive ability
is added that measure of bonhomie and companionableness which make the perfect hotel man."
Seavey was responsible for selecting and placing the contract for the purchase of all furniture, complete
furnishings, and equipment for the Ponce de Leon and the Alcazar Hotels. The 1894 Tatler included Mrs.
Seavey in the credit for purchasing the furniture, organizing the staff, and opening the hotel. The Florida
Times Union gave Mrs. Seavey credit as the instrumental person behind the Grand Fair for the hospital.
Seavey's greatest contribution was establishing the reputation of the hotels. Perhaps, as fitted his position,
his favorite selection for the orchestra was "Overture of William Tell". Flagler contracted with McGuire
and McDonald to build a house for the Seaveys behind the Ponce de Leon Hotel.
Thomas Edison sent one important invention to the hotel in 1890 he sent a Thomas Edison phonograph. It
was used at the hospital fair at the Casino with the following message: I am a cute little thing invented by
Thomas Edison in 1877, but was not born to perfection until 1888. I can talk, although not having a tongue;
can hear without ears, and can think without brains. Ha! Ha! O. D. Seavey also recorded his remarks about
the 1890 Ponce de Leon celebration on a cylinder on Edison's machine. Florida Times Union, March 11
and 18, 1890
Osborn Seavey may be compared with another hotel manager --- Cesar Ritz (1850-1918). In Europe,
Cesar Ritz was entertaining in grand scale the same group of Americans that Seavey came in contact with:
the Goulds, Vanderbilts, and Astors. Seavey also had to worry about President Grover Cleveland, Mrs.
Benjamin Harrison, and Mrs. U. S. Grant. The attention to detail extended from the sleeping rooms and
suites through the dining rooms. The Ponce de Leon operated not only as a grand hotel but also as a
wonderful place to dine. The Daily Herald called the dining room the finest sale-manger in the world.
Besides well-known chefs the hotel maintained an extensive wine cellar with an attending wine steward. In
the dining room, with its ambiance in the room decorations and the music, the great meals, and the attention
to service, the hotel€™s reputation would be made or broken. In the course of time, Seavey would be
manager of the first four hotels with a superintendent under him: The Ponce de Leon, The Alcazar, The
Cordova, and The Royal Poinciana.
The Times-Star makes an important note about him that added greatly to the Flagler vision: In addition to
his qualities as a host, Mr. Seavey is an all-round athlete, is devoted to out-door amusements and athletic
exercises, making him a prominent figure in many parties. Locating the Cuban Giant Baseball Team at the
Ponce de Leon Hotel is attributable to Seavey, along with the early emphasis on tennis. Of course, the
Casino with its swimming is another program that he was responsible for. In 1892, Seavey is the head of the
St. Augustine Gun Club.
Seavey resigned from the Flagler hotel system in 1894 and spent two years traveling around the country.
He stayed as manager of the Champlain Hotel in New York. Henry's son, Harry Flagler, became head of
the hotel system. There was a bit of a shock wave with Seavey leaving. The Atlanta Constitution
reported: The hotel world will be surprised to learn that Osborn D. Seavey, manager of Henry M. Flagler's
hotels, the Ponce de Leon and the Alcazar, since their opening has resigned their management, to take effect
at the close of this season. Charles W. Bixford, the Ponce de Leon steward, and associate of Seavey also
resigned to become postmaster in Rochester, New York. Robert Murray, steward of the Cordova (since
1889), moved to the Ponce de Leon as steward. Robert Murray eventually became the longest-serving
manager of the Ponce de Leon Hotel.
Captain Henry Marcotte reported, in his Florida Times Union column, about the special event that marked
the end of the Seavey era. Seavey was presented a gold watch by his hotel staff. On the inside it said that it
was presented by officers of the Hotel Ponce de Leon 1894.
Seavey's management style was characterized by coolness under fire. He was always able to act quickly
and quietly to solve problems. Employees were very loyal; his chef was with him over twenty-two years; the
baker and the pastry cook over twelve years, and a housekeeper over fifteen years.
Role of his wife highlighted in Tatler 1892
Mrs. O D Seavey is an ideal wife going about with her husband on business trips and doing everything
possible to advance his interests. She is a handsome gentlewoman who devotes her spare time to charity
work. Every employee of the houses he manages is cared for by her when ill; the feeble and sick look to her
to provide them with light employment and comforts, and never in vain. She is especially interested in Alicia
Hospital, never going there empty handed, providing many comforts that would not be from other sources.
His Brother George Seavey
His brother was a well-known artist. He painted mostly landscapes and flower paintings. Although his studio
was in Boston, he also spent time in the artist studios at the Ponce de Leon hotel.
Return to Florida
In the 1900s Seavey would return to Florida as manager of the Magnolia Hotel in Magnolia Springs Florida,
the same hotel that he started in Florida decades before.
May 1907 (Board of Trade Journal)
Mr. O. D. Seavey, one of the most widely known hotel men in the country, was a recent visitor to Portland
and talked very interestingly of the many changes in Maine since 1881, when he left the state. "I can see that
Maine has expanded," said Mr. Seavey, "especially in the hotel business. The business was rather crude
back there in my boyhood days. I have just been visiting some friends down Rockland way and it seems to
me that Maine hotels are very prosperous. There is hardly a hamlet which does not boast a hotel which is
much better than similar houses in towns of the same size in other states. They must do a driving business in
the summer." I did not get down as far as the Samoset, but I understand that it is a very fine hotel. As a
summer resort state, Maine has them all beaten. The Adirondacks are not in it at all. You can start at the
seashore and travel through to the Canada line and there isn't a town but has a summer resort of some
kind." Mr. Seavey built the present Elmwood Hotel at Waterville and managed it for several years. He has
also had the management of the Ponce de Leon, Alcazar and Cordova Hotels at St. Augustine, Fla., the
three famous winter resorts owned by the Flagler interests; a house in the White Mountains, the Magnolia
Springs on the St. Johns, and at present is associated with General Thomas H. Hubbard of Hallowell in a
large house at Lenox, Mass. Mr. Seavey will pass the winter in the South.
In 1916 Seavey retired from the hotel business and listed the Magnolia Springs hotel for sale. The hotel had 200
rooms and 5 cottages with 12 rooms each.
Florida Military Academy
The hotel remained vacant for a couple of years until Seavey rented it out to Col. Hulvey, who moved the Florida
Military Academy there. The school was well run by Hulvey and his wife until the hotel and two cottages burned
on November 11, 1923 (with $100,000 damage). . For a brief period the school operated in three cottages that
stood on the property,
|Osborn Dunlap Seavey
|Ponce de Leon Dinning Room and Main Ballroom
|Ponce de Leon with Cordova and Alcazar in right background
Shot taken from tower of the Ponce
|Magnolia Springs Hotel Florida
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