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.
Historically, St Augustine is best known as being the oldest European City in the New World. The city and surrounding country has seen centuries of conflict due to its important location. First visited in 1513 and settled as a Spanish settlement, it has gone thru two Spanish periods, a British period and finally absorbed by the United States after the Spanish were unable to entice Spanish settlers to colonize the area in 1821. During these years not only were there conflicts between nations, but the aggressive pirates and other criminal elements raided the area for profit.
Now the area is best known as tourist stop and growing population of those seeking the sun year around. This all started and was made possible by the interests of one man-Henry Flagler-who was an oil tycoon who made his fortune with his share of the Standard Oil Company. He not only opened St Augustine, but much of Florida to tourists from the north and provided many of the locals with work. His name is everywhere in St Augustine.
The big highlights of the area include the Spanish fort and the historic district with buildings that date from 1703 to 1898. Among then the oldest school house in the United States. I must say that the historic district is one giant tourist trap selling all the things you can buy in any tourist trap in America, but all the T-shirts say St Augustine.
Never the less, we enjoyed our day in the area. Certainly the weather was wonderful and walking the streets pleasant.
24 November 2007 Saturday was overcast with very high winds that started blowing hard overnight. As a result, we decided to take a walk on the beach and then explore the nearby small village of Mayport. The high winds had deposited salt spray and sand on everything. Clearly, I will be forced to wash the motorhome very soon.
The waves were breaking well and a number of brave sailors were surfing in the cool water. We just made a few miles walk and returned to the motorhome to shake out the salt. We have missed getting a close up view of the several navy ships that have gone right by our motorhome, and today one was going out just as we returned. I managed a quick picture as she was nearly out of the channel and into the Atlantic for another long deployment.
Mayport turned out to be a fishing center that is hanging on by its finger nails. Everything is a bit worn and leaves you wondering how long it might last. The sign at the edge of town welcomes you to historic Mayport founded in 1572. That makes it one of the oldest settlements in the country. With that much history, perhaps it will survive.
We did find, next to the fish plant, a very nice seafood market and eatery. We picked up some fresh snapper for the grill and will return for a lunch there and more fresh fish to take home.
20-22 Nov 2007 Tuesday we moved south to the Jacksonville, FL area. We are camped at the mouth of the St John’s River on the Mayport Naval Station. It has a great view of the river and Atlantic Ocean. It has also brought back fond memories of naval tradition as you hear the bugle calls for morning and evening colors and the playing of the national anthem.
We had let our friends Ted and Sharon Polgar know that we were going to be in the area and they very kindly invited us to Thanksgiving dinner in their home in St. Augustine. It was a great time and great meal. Since Ted is also retired Coast Guard and we served together some (I.E. many) years ago in Toledo, it was also an opportunity to remember the good old days. They also had invited another couple from Maine and we all had a fun and lively conversation during the course of the meal.
It was truly a time to be thankful for all the good things in our lives.
Oh, yes, and of course I ate too much of the great food!
Before we move on to the next destination, we would be amiss not to mention the many houses of worship in the historic district of Savannah. They are perhaps the oldest structures remaining in the city. A number of them date to before the revolutionary war. The mother church of Georgia is Christ Church established in 1733. We attended service there last Sunday and found that it has retained much of the stern approach that must have existed at its founding.