St. Augustine Road Scholar Trip – Flagler Day

Day 4, January 17th, 2019

After breakfast and Ruth’s usual announcements the morning speaker was Mary Harkness Flagler – known today as Margaret Kaler. Margret is a “Tale Teller of St. Augustine” and as the first Mary Flagler, she told us colorful stories about the life and times of her dear departed husband Henry Flagler

I know this era is way past the SCA pre17th century time period, but history and its material culture are ever fascinating. A few items like those you see here have found their way to my living room showcase. Family heirlooms and personal collectibles.

Henry Morrison Flagler (1830 – 1913) was an American industrialist and a founder of Standard Oil. Through his swanky Florida hotels and their connecting railway, he developed Florida’s Atlantic coast.

We then boarded our tour bus for the Lightner Museum with its rich Gilded age exhibits and history, housed in the former Alcazar Hotel built in 1888 by Flagler.

So many fascinating, unique, ostentatious items for you to see. 
Whole rooms restored.

Our docent-led tour ended with a view of the former Alcazar Hotel’s swimming pool with its three-story-high ceiling.

View across the pool area.

Today you can dine seated on the floor of the former swimming pool as we did.

I was lucky to have a little free time at the Lightner to photograph more exhibits. I wanted to see their brilliant cut glass exhibit because I have a dozen pieces myself. I had never seen so many sparkling glass items in one place. My picture doesn’t do it justice.

I saw those lovely items but when I turned to leave I was astounded to see that many more on another display. Unbelievable to me.

So unbelievable I walked up a floor to get this overhead photo including both displays.

I also ran across this huge lampworked glass item – one of two actually. This photo I took for my glassworking enthusiasts in Calontir.

I took a picture of the Lightner beer stein collection. Another family interest.

And a snap of this odd handmade hooked rug now a wall hanging. Someone had an attitude to actually design and hook this message. 

If you can’t see all the letters the rug reads: 

Inlaws are rodents in human guiseWho eat me out of cakes & piesOer hill & vale & rivers & rutsThey gather for dinnerI hate their guts

You may be thinking “that’s a lot of pictures of things”. And it is. Realize I haven’t posted them all and I didn’t take all I could. The Lightner Museum is an imposing immense material culture treasure trove. A delight for someone like me who grew up with a few similar items in my house.

View from the Lightner Museum across to Flagler College

After our delicious lunch at the Lightner’s Cafe Alcazar – there was no bad food on this trip – we walked a few blocks to the Memorial Presbyterian Church

The church’s present sanctuary was given and dedicated by Flagler in 1890 as a memorial to his daughter Jenny Louise Benedict who died from childbirth complications. Flagler and many of his family are entombed in the family mausoleum at the church.

The original church – our docent told us – served more needs within the community than religious service. During the Civil War, the Union army used the building for military purposes resuming weekly services after the war.

She explained the beautifully carved lectern-bell’s purpose was to enhance the speaker’s volume. It kept the sound closer to the listeners and preventing it flying up to the high vaulted ceiling.

After the church, we walked back to Flager College. On the way, I spotted this cool white bird freely walking on the shrubs unafraid of the people nearby. Wish I knew what it was.

The college once was Flagler’s first luxury hotel the Ponce de Leon Hotel. He built it in 1888 in a Spanish Renaissance architectural style – a Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance elements blend heavy in ornamentation and ostentation.

The entrance garden is lushly green and gorgeous.

The inside is as gilded as the Golden Age comes.

Gilded entrance ceiling.

Our docent explained that back in the day when people checked in the hotel Gentlemen went to pay and Ladies retired to this resplendent salon to relax and refresh. The men paid the bills after all.

Clothing and menus from the day.
Road Scholars in the Flagler College dining hall.

Next, we went to see where the Flagler students and bygone guests dined.

More gilding, but note the heraldic arms on the ceiling over the windows. 

The ceiling in the next hall is just as ornamentally amazing.

The Hotel Ponce de Leon served eighty years as a luxury resort hotel and Florida tourist mecca. Its role was impressive then. Today this gorgeous place is a college and heritage tourism site continuing its impact on our nation daily.

We caught our ride back to the hotel to rest a bit before another wonderful evening meal at La Cocina International Restaurant. We ate there on our first evening and I anticipated another of their savory meals with relish. It was our tour’s last evening meal in St. Augustine together.

Related Prior Post:
Road Scholar Trip To St. Augustine Parts 1 2, and 3

External Related Sources:
General Research Resources
Hotel Ponce de Leon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Flagler’s Gilded Age Palace

Categories: Travel

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