National Register Travel Itinerary--Georgia-Florida


St. Augustine

26) Hotel Ponce de León

Hotel Ponce de LeonIn 1882, Henry Flagler, New York entrepreneur and cofounder of Standard Oil, became interested in the historic city of St. Augustine and its potential as a winter resort. Flagler's subsequent development of transportation and resort facilities in St. Augustine and along the east coast of Florida spurred rapid development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A focal point of this development was Flagler's Hotel Ponce de León. In 1887 Flagler hired two young architects from the prominent New York firm, McKim, Mead, and White, to design the hotel. With the design of the Ponce de Leon, John Carrere and Thomas Hastings launched a new architectural firm, Carrere & Hastings, which would gain national prominence. Flagler chose the Spanish Renaissance Revival style so that the hotel's design would compliment its historic surroundings. Retained to decorate the interior of the hotel, Louis C. Tiffany used stained glass, mosaics and terra cotta relief on the walls and ceilings and commissioned several grand murals. The hotel was the first large scale building constructed entirely of poured concrete. The popularity of "the Ponce" and its style strongly influenced the architecture of southern Florida for the next fifty years. The success of the Hotel Ponce de Leon was episodic, immediately contending with a yellow fever epidemic and the worst freeze in state history in 1895. St. Augustine's weather proved not to be as warm and sunny as other resort areas that were developed further south along the peninila, and the town never boomed as a winter resort. However, toursits did come during the first decades of the 20th century, and the Ponce de Leon was one of only three Flagler Hotels to survive the Great Depression. Following a lull in tourism during World War II, the hotel attracted large crowds for several years, but decline resumed and in 1967 the hotel closed and was sold to Flagler College. It has been renovated and retains most of its original integrity.

Northern Florida Map The Hotel Ponce de León (Flagler College) is in downtown St. Augustine on the block bounded by King, Valencia, Sevilla, and Cordova Streets.

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