Sunday, May 8, 2016

St. Augustine: College and Castle Edition

So, if you read yesterday's entry, on Saturday we set out to see just who this Flagler guy was and what on earth he was up to.

Henry Morrison Flagler was a Gilded Age oil baron and tycoon and a partner with John D. Rockefeller in founding Standard Oil. But his true passion, it turned out, was for St. Augustine, Florida and to say that he left an imprint on this city is the grossest of understatements. His hand prints are all over town, from churches, to the jail to a series of hotels.

The crown jewel of his hotel empire was the Ponce de Leon. You did not simply drive up in your coach and check in for a few nights, residency, which was for three months, was by invitation only and cost $4,000, cash. For that guests got treated to a degree of opulence that is hardly imaginable today.

The hotel, itself, with about 300 rooms was built over an eighteen month period with workers on the job around the clock. The building was designed by Carrère and Hastings of New York, wired and outfitted by Thomas Edison with stained glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany. I could go on.

The hotel operated until the 1960s and in 1968 became campus to the newly established Flagler College which today seems to be a little known but respected regional school.

Beyond that, I’ll let the place speak for itself, though my images, any images, cannot do it justice.

Originally Ponce de Leon Hotel, today Flagler College

Twelve frogs represent the months, hours; four turtles, the seasons. Go figure

They claim the largest collection of Tiffany anywhere

Thomas Edison's clock

This gives you a sense of the size of the dining room and I show only 2/3s of it here

Note the detail piled on top of detail

A nook

After the tour, stunned, we wandered over to the city’s original landmark, the Castillo de San Marcos. The fort protected the city from 1672 onward through occupations by the Spansih, French, English, Americans and Confederates. As an historian I am ashamed to admit it, but I cannot keep straight for the life of me who owned Florida when. It bounced around, not by conquest so much as by treaty. Today the castle is conserved by the National Park Service, which does such a superb job of preserving and interpreting America’s material heritage wherever you go.
The fort from the city side
Sharon at the first entrance

At the portcullis

The early city that the fort protected

The city that the fort protects today

Facing the harbor

The dry moat would have housed livestock when the city was under attack

 One final note. We are staying in a Wingate Hotel while here. Why does that matter? Because most guests seem not to tip housekeeping at this low-end corporate hotel. We do, and houskeeper Viktoria has expressed her thanks. Rosa feels she has a friend.
On successive mornings a crab

And swans

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