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St. Augustine Hotel
Corner of the Plaza and Bayfront
St. Augustine, Florida
Hotel St. Augustine was built in 1869 by a partnership of Captain E. E. Vaill, F. H. Palmer, and Dr. Andrew
Anderson. T. P House was the architect and builder. The hotel had gaslights, was 200 feet long, three stories
high, and contained 80 rooms (140 rooms were added in 1875). This was the first major hotel built in St.
Augustine after the close of the War of Rebellion.

In 1884 in
Chapin's Hand Book of St. Augustine by Elias Nason included the following description of the
hotel: southerly front of 200 feet upon the Plaza and 160 feet on the Bay with wide plazas and hanging
balconies from each story overlooking the City, Bay, and Atlantic Ocean. The Dining-Room, Parlors,
Billiard-Room, and many of the Sleeping Rooms are elegantly frescoed. It is lighted with gas and provided
with water conveniences, electric bells. The dining hall is capable of seating over 300 guests, and the table will
be furnished with all the luxuries of the Northern Market. By 1885 the St. Augustine Hotel had 300 rooms that
rented for $4 per day. In 1885 Solomon Myrick was the steward and Charles H. Salter and James T. Skiles
were clerks. Edward G. Vaill was the cashier.

One of the hotels claims to fame was having frescoed walls - a claim to hotel luxury. Captain Vaill was careful
to see that entertainment was provided for his hotel guests and through his influence, musical programs were
scheduled in the Plaza across the street.

Captain Vaill (a sea captain from Milton, Conn.) was the sole owner of the Hotel St. Augustine in 1887 when
the fire that also destroyed the Cathedral destroyed it. Unfortunately, Captain Vaill had canceled the insurance
on the hotel because he thought the rates were too high.

The food was described in
Harper's New Monthly Magazine Vol 40, 1870: The food furnished you at the
public hotels (they were staying at the St. Augustine Hotel) is simply dreadful. Fresh, nutritious meats there
were not. Even chickens would not come at our call' or if they did, it was evident they had made a long journey.
We were in the land of wild game, but it rarely ever came to the refreshment of our fainting bodies. This was
the soil and the atmosphere from whence proceed early vegetables; but no friendly hand ever strove to induce
their appearance aboveground, so far as we knew. In place of wholesome, well-cooked food, we were served
with canned meats, canned vegetables; and, as if in compensation, all sorts of fancy tarts, and "meringues a la
humbug," and other indigestible jimcrackeries under foreign names, were served up
ad nauseam.

If excuses could justify this ill-treatment, surely we had enough of them; but under no circumstance is there
justification for this disobedience of the Divine command to "feed the hungry," more particularly when the
consideration of four dollars a day is exacted.

Captain Edward Eugene Vaille was the grandfather of Frederick S. Vaill, a commissioner and mayor of St.
Augustine Beach. Captain Vaile was a sea captain from the age of 19. He was a veteran of the U. S. Navy
from the War of Rebellion who took part in General Ambrose Burnisde's capture of Roanoke Island.  Captain
Vaill made a gift of five acres of land to the state to provide an incentive for the building of a state school for
the deaf and blind here. Making the address when the tablet was placed in the school was George Cooper
Gibbs Sr.
Google
Web www.drbronsontours.com
Times Union
December 4, 1966
Cathedral and St. Augustine Hotel.  
[St. Augustine views.]
([ca. 1880])
Sanborn Map from 1884
Corner of Cathedral and Charlotte

http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00074227/00003
Title:  St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida, 1884
Series Title:  Insurance maps of St. Augustine, Florida
Physical Description:  Map
Creator:  Sanborn Map Company


Notes:  1. Light gas made from gasoline.
       2. Winter season only.
       3. Notice the gas house next to the school house (St. Joseph's -
white                                students)
       4. Billard room out back - stone building unknown.
       5. Note from photo above of Cathedral and Hotel that you would not know
of                      the drug store between the Cathedral and the Hotel from the photo.