Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Flagler College, St Augustine

Just across the street from the Lightner Museum is what was once the magnificent Ponce De Leon Hotel and is now Flagler College.   Constructed of poured concrete, a mixture of sand, coquina shell and cement, it was built in the Spanish Renaissance style between 1885 and 1887 by the railroad magnate Henry Flagler. 

Only open for the months of January, February and March each year the Ponce De Leon Hotel was where the really seriously rich wintered.   The cost was $8,000.00 (about ¼ million today) for the 3 months, if you stayed a night or the whole 3 months the price was the same.  
After crossing the courtyard
we entered the magnificent reception hall, which with its Tiffany glass dome created lots of light.

On arrival ladies were ushered to the left and into a beautiful ladies only parlour, it was thought that if they knew how much it cost to stay at the hotel they’d go blind!   Either that or their husbands didn’t want them to know just how much money they’d got, but then again, back then even though the men swam, played golf and tennis ‘Ladies’ weren’t encouraged to strike out on their own.   It must’ve been terribly boring, but I guess if that’s the sort of life you’re used to.
Although it did have some compensations as the ladies parlour is a gorgeous room, full of marble, ivory and if it looks like gold, it is 14k gold, blue velvet sofas line the walls, irreplaceable crystal tiffany chandeliers (all of which are wired for electricity) hang from the ceilings.
From there our tour guide took us through to the main dining room, we entered through the ‘elite’ entrance used by the multi billionaires or by invitation only.

The average common or garden millionaires and billionaires would enter through another door.   The pecking order started with Henry Flagler, the closer you sat to him the more important you were.

All the glass in the dining room is by Tiffany and unsurprisingly it all has protective coverings.   An unusual feature of the dining room was that wheels were added to the front legs of the dining chairs, as the ladies, when dressed in their evening finery, wearing their whale bone corsets and covered in jewels added as much as an extra 45lbs to their weight.  This nifty solution was devised to stop the men looking like complete wimps as they tried to move all this weight around.    

This beautiful building is now a busy college, and the once grand dining room is now in daily use as the college dining room.   I wonder what Henry Flagler and all those billionaires would think of that? 

Have fun, we are!

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