Flagler College, in the Historic District of St Augustine, is one of the more interesting buildings to be found there. It started life as the Ponce De Leon Hotel. It was the idea of Henry Flagler, mentioned in the last blog, as a hotel concept to attract the rich and famous to St Augustine. It was a unique and modern design that proved to be very successful for a number of years. It is lavish in its outfitting including the largest collection of Tiffany windows in the world. It also has several truly priceless tiffany chandeliers in the original women’s lounge of the hotel. It was one of a number of hotels that he built in the city.
Today, the building is the home of Flagler College which started life as an all women’s college, but today is a co-ed liberal arts private college of around 2000 students. The female students reside in the hotel itself and all students eat in the original dining room of the hotel. They dine on Tiffany chairs under the sunlight shining thru the Tiffany windows and can enjoy the beautiful woodwork and fittings that remain from its exclusive hotel days.
Henry Flagler truly put the town on the map and helped popularize the east coast of Florida as a vacation destination. We all know how that turned out. To ensure that his hotel stayed full, he also built a train line to let his guests arrive in comfort. Even with this success, he continued to expand his interests south to include Miami. It was Flagler who built the railroad all the way to Key West so that we could all enjoy the sunsets there today.
He enjoyed the St Augustine area the most and built the Memorial Presbyterian Church near the college, where it just so happens, that he is buried with his first wife and one daughter in a special section of the church.