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1894 Description of Flagler's St. Augustine Hotels
by the
Tatler Magazine
Tatler  December 1894

St. Augustine as a Winter Resort --- Her Hotels

St. Augustine enjoys a prestige unrivaled among the resorts of the
country; not alone as the oldest town in the United States, but also as
the oldest winter resort. For many years before winter resorts had been
thought of, scores of people came here for the benefit of the salubrious
climate, many remaining,, and they and their children have become
thoroughly identified with the city. As the custom of leaving home for a
period of immunity from the severity of Northern winters became more
general St. Augustine grew in popularity, additional hotels were required
to accommodate the visitors who came down the St. John's to
Picolata
and across the country (the scene of contests between the red men and
the soldiers) to the city; late the
Tocoi road, primitive enough, was
constructed, and visitors considered themselves exceedingly fortunate,
crude as were its accommodations. A few years later the road between
Jacksonville and St. Augustine was constructed and the progress of the
Ancient City was assured.

St. Augustine Hotel, the Florida House, Magnolia and San Marco
Among the first hotels built in answer to the growing demand was the St.
Augustine since destroyed by fire; the Florida House and the Magnolia.
In 1883 General Crufts, who was then building the
Magnolia Springs
hotel on the St. Johns, visited St. Augustine accompanied by Mr. O. D.
Seavey, and on his representation purchased the site of the San Marco
hotel and made a contract with the builders of the Magnolia Springs to
build the present perfectly arranged hotel. Two years later it was opened
for the reception of guests, and from the first was a success and indeed
struck the key note of St. Augustine's fame as a winter resort. (
See
Flaglers 1890s Competiton)

The Ponce de Leon
Mr. Henry M. Flagler, with Mrs. Flagler, was a guest of the San Marco
during its first season, and believing that the American people were as a
recent writer expressed it, learning to enjoy themselves, and that a hotel,
combining the luxuries and elegancies of the palace homes of persons of
wealth, with proper means of amusement the delightful climate and the
prestige St. Augustine would attract this class of visitors here, making it a
winter resort, projected the
Ponce de Leon, whose grandeur of
conception, beauty of architectural design, perfection of detail, perfect
arrangements for heating, lighting, its decorations, arrangement of public
and private rooms, superior sanitary arrangements, together with its
superior management securing an unexcelled cuisine, perfect service
and the amusement of the guests, making it a charming winter home, the
delight of the wealthy and cultured classes of the country.

In addition to the magnificent hotel, with its superb appointments,
magnificent frescoes, carvings and tessalated floors; its dining room and
parlors of almost regal magnificence; its handsome reading, writing and
smoking rooms; its loggias, court and fountains another building, almost
rivaling it in architectural beauty, was erected opposite as an annex to
the Ponce de Leon. Around its beautiful court pretty shops would supply
the guests with gowns, hats, jewels and bric-a-brac. The rooms above,
spacious and handsomely furnished, are to be occupied by guests of the
Ponce de Leon. Beyond were located the magnificent marble baths, both
Turkish and Russian; and in connection with them the immense bathing
pool and
casino, the former at the time of its construction the largest in
the country, and the casino, an immense room, unique and beautiful in
design and finish. In the grounds surrounding the
Alcazar were located
the tennis courts, with bowling alleys located near by.  Two years was
occupied in constructing this magnificent hotel, the Ponce de Leon;
another in completing the Alcazar and baths.

In January, 1888, the
Ponce de Leon opened its doors for the reception
of guests, without ceremony dinner was served, meanwhile the fine band
of twenty-four pieces, secured for the entertainment of the guests during
the season, was stationed in the east wing rendering an excellent
program. A few invited guests, friends of the owner,
Mr. Flagler, the
architects and painters, their friends, a number of the citizens and the
guests already assembled, gathered about enjoying the music, marveling
over the wondrous beauty of the room, the elegance of silver, china and
napery spread before them.

The season was a phenomenal one; until the 1st of May there was a
constant stream of visitors. The great hotel drew guests to the other
hotels as well, and the long line of cars that arrived many times daily
brought wondering, delighted guests to the Ancient City. A season of
prosperity marked this era, leaving an impress upon the city that time will
not efface.

Grace Methodist Episcopal Church
In addition to the Ponce de Leon and Alcazar miles of concrete pavement
were laid, new streets opened, a
Methodist church built, cottages and a
fine, commodious depot sprung into existence as if by magic, changing
the entire aspect of the city.

Marsh land was transformed into beautiful gardens and fields, and
throngs of visitors have been coming and going each season since. The
Hotel Ponce de Leon has accommodations for five hundred and fifty
guests. Many of the rooms are in suite, with corridors shutting them off
from other rooms; at least fifty rooms have private baths, and every
appointment of both parlors, bed-rooms and dressing-rooms, handsome
and as perfect as modern appliances can secure. Almost all the parlors
attached to bed-rooms have pretty artistic fireplaces, others are heated
by steam, some by both, although it is only occasionally that either is
necessary.

The plumbing and all sanitary arrangements are of the highest order, the
water coming from an artesian well fourteen hundred feet deep. The
house and grounds are lit by electricity, the plant being in the basement
of the kitchen, during the summer of 1893 entirely new wires were placed
all through the house incased in brass tubing and running to a series of
switch boards located in convenient places that any repairs may be
made without the workmen entering the rooms. These boards are of
marble designed by the house electrician making the entire system
perfectly fire proof.

Some idea of the cost of maintaining such a hotel may be gathered from
the amount of linen and napery required; tablecloths of the heaviest and
finest damask, manufactured expressly for this hotel, with monogram, are
purchased by the hundred, similar napkins by the thousand, and
replenished every season. Blankets of the finest texture are purchased
by hundreds of pairs; linen pillow slips are used entirely, the material
purchased by the fifty pieces; both linen and cotton sheeting is used, and
similar purchases made. Towels, woven expressly for the Ponce de
Leon, come by the hundreds of pieces. The purchase of crash for use in
dining, serving-room and kitchen would support some families for some
time, as in one season twenty pieces of one kind, thirty of another,
twelve of two or three kinds are made up for a beginning. Eider down
comforts are purchased by the score; spreads by the hundreds, all of
superior make.

Then the breakage is enormous; yearly hundreds of dollars are spent in
replacing china, glass and silver that has a habit of disappearing most
mysteriously.

The Hotel within the Ponce de Leon Hotel
The Ponce de Leon, in fact, maintains a second hotel within itself the
entertaining of the nurses, maids and help employed in the hotel. A
handsome dining-room in the portion of the building in rear of the dining-
room is for the use of the officers, a second for the second officers, who
are served from the main kitchen; while another kitchen, with a fine range
and all modern conveniences, has been provided for preparing food for
the help. Above stairs is a dining-room for the band, and down stairs one
for colored officers, one for colored men, another for colored women, and
two for white help. A number of persons are employed in preparing meals
for them, and in serving them, as everything is a systematically arranged
as for the guests in the larger house. Help is also required to care for
these rooms about one hundred and fifty. One hundred and fifty rooms
are in the building, called the barracks, for the accommodation of male
help, and about sixty more over the immense laundry.

This season Mr.
Clarence B. Knott, formerly the cashier of the Ponce de
Leon and last season manager of the
Cordova, assumes the
management of the great hotel, opening it on January 16th, 1895. A
number of the staff formerly employed will remain with
Mr. Knott including
Mr. Romer Gillis who will again preside over the register assisted by Mr.
Streeter who was room clerk the past summer at Passaconaway Inn, Mr.
W. S. Crichlow, bookkeeper, Mr. William Greaves will again fill the
important position of cashier and assisted by Mr. George Gibbs, Mr.
Clarence M. Murphy formerly passenger agent of the Richmond and
Danville at Asheville will have charge of front mail and keys. Miss Anne
McKay, who has so satisfactorily filled the position of housekeeper to
both manager and guest heretofore, will again have charge of that
department. Mr.
Robert Murray, formerly steward of the Cordova, will fill
that important position at the Ponce de Leon this year with Frank
Thompson at the head of the dining-room force, and Wm. Lowry head
bellman.

Hotel Alcazar
Hotel Alcazar. Although the first intention in constructing this building was
as an annex of the Ponce de Leon; before its completion, this idea
seemed impracticable, and a restaurant was built in addition to it, and the
house first opened on the European plan, a year later on both the
European and American plans. But this was not entirely satisfactory, and
it was then managed on the American plan alone, growing constantly in
popularity, and each season additions were made to it, in order to meet
the demands made upon it.

Three years ago forty rooms were added, with a larger parlor and ladies
waiting-room on the first floor, occupying the space of four shops, and an
annex to the dining-room. The season following was one of unparalleled
success. Last year, owing to the depression in financial circles, the
house was opened for rooms only.

Arrangements have been completed to open the Alcazar for this season
in January on the American plan, with rates fixed at $3.50 per day, under
the management of Mr. Knott. As the Alcazar is directly connected with
the
Casino, and the Imperial Gypsy Band will give daily and evening
concerts there, commencing in January; a regular orchestra will not be
employed.

The Alcazar is built around four sides of a square, or court, the lower, or
office floor, entirely surrounded by a beautiful arched loggia. The rooms
are arranged to either look into the court or streets surrounding the
house. They are large and beautifully furnished, the parlors attractive
and with handsome appointments. A superior cuisine and service will be
maintained, with an excellent staff and corps of help.

Hotel Cordova became the property of Mr. Henry M. Flagler in 1889 by
purchase. Immediately many changes in its interior arrangements were
made and the hotel under the management of Mr. E. N. Wilson. Last year
Mr. Flagler appointed Mr. Clarence B. Knott, who had been cashier of
the Ponce de Leon, manager, making the rate three and four dollars per
day.

This year the house was opened on the 5th of November again under
the management of Mr. Knott and has been remarkably well patronized.
On Sunday last one hundred guests were dined.

The Cordova
The Cordova occupies the southeast corner of the Alameda, is a
handsome house of pure Cordovese architecture, its main entrance on
Cordova street facing the beautiful grounds of the Alcazar. The office
and writing-room are extended into a sun-parlor where tropical plants
add to the attractiveness of the entire apartment; here the daily and
evening concerts are given and enjoyed both by guests and cottagers
who are welcomed most cordially by œmine host, making it one of the
favorite gathering places in the city. Weekly dances are given every
Wednesday that are greatly enjoyed by hundreds of visitors to the city.
The large handsomely furnished parlor adjoins the sun-parlor and opens
upon a broad veranda facing King street with the beautiful Government
park opposite; a ladies' entrance and hall separates this from the library
or reading-room that occupies the the corner of the building, and
commands a magnificent view of the Ponce de Leon. All are furnished
most harmoniously.

A private entrance south of the office leads directly to the dining room,
one of the finest in the State high studded ceiling, with finely draped
windows looking into a pretty court. The table furnishings are particularly
pleasing. Fine damask, sparkling silver on it, glass and dainty china add
to the excellent menu served.
Ponce de Leon
San Marco Hotel
Cordova Hotel and Alcazar Hotels
Grace United Methodist Church
Casino - Swiming
Alcazar Court Walk
Cordova Courtyard
Florida House
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