Flagler College President William T. Abare, Jr., announced to Historic City News that the college has received a $500,000 challenge gift from Allen and Delores Lastinger toward the rehabilitation of Ponce de Leon Hall’s fourth floor Solarium.
“We are tremendously pleased to have received this extremely important gift from the Lastinger Family Foundation to help us complete the restoration and full use of Ponce de Leon Hall,” said Abare. “We appreciate the Lastinger’s generosity and their strong support for our projects and programs.”
“The college has already matched the first $100,000 pledge payment, all of which is part of a $2 million restoration campaign goal for the fourth floor, including the solarium or the domed room, which is located above the rotunda,” said F. Mark Whittaker, vice president for Institution Advancement at Flagler. “Significant naming opportunities are available for other donors in this historically important location in Ponce de Leon Hall.”
Ponce de Leon Hall is readily identified by its twin towers and central dome. Under the dome, the solarium or sun room and adjoining roof terraces, afford unparalleled views of the city and beyond.
Historically, the solarium served as a space where hotel guests could gather for conversation, enjoy entertainment, or watch activities taking place in town or on the waterfront. Rehabilitation of this room and the fourth floor will enable similar uses. In addition, a catering kitchen and meeting rooms are planned.
The Ponce de Leon Hotel was built by Henry M. Flagler in 1888. Flagler was the founding partner with John D. Rockefeller, Sr., in Standard Oil. The building [Ponce] is the only one in the world to feature the combined talents of the nation’s foremost artisans and innovators, including Louis Comfort Tiffany and Thomas Edison. During its 80 years as a hotel, the building hosted many distinguished visitors, including Presidents McKinley, Cleveland and Harding; Lyndon Johnson in 1963 when he was vice president; and Admiral Dewey. In 2006, the Ponce de Leon Hotel was designated as a National Historic Landmark, the highest recognition a property can receive in the United States.
Noted national persons involved with Ponce de Leon hall:
John Merven Carrere and Thomas Hastings – This was the first commission for these architects, who later designed more than 600 buildings, including the New York Public Library (1897-1911).
Bernard Maybeck – He served as chief draftsman and construction supervisor of the Hotel Ponce de Leon. He is most famous for designing the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco (1915).
Louis Comfort Tiffany – At the beginning of his career, he designed the interior of the building with Thomas Hastings and created the 79 stained glass windows and the Grand parlor’s crystal chandeliers.
Edison’s Electric Company – Thomas A. Edison’s company provided four direct current dynamos. The hotel boasted 4,000 electric lights, and each hotel room featured steamed heat.
George Willoughby Maynard – He painted ceiling murals in the Rotunda and the Dining Room. Ten years later, he replicated a set of murals for the Library of Congress. Maynard’s other commissions include Trinity Church, Boston, and the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
Virgilio Tojetti – The Italian artist created murals for the Grand Parlor, now the Flagler Room. Most of his works are in museums and private collections, including Edison’s home, Glenmont, in New Jersey.
The hotel was rededicated as Ponce de Leon Hall upon the founding of Flagler College in 1968 and is one of the most highly visible and visited of the region’s historic sites. In 2010, Flagler College received a prestigious Save America’s Treasures grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities to conserve the blueprints for the building, a project scheduled to be completed in 2012. In January 2013, Flagler College will celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the opening of the Hotel Ponce de Leon and its adaptive use as the centerpiece of the campus.
“Our family has identified historic preservation as a focus for our philanthropy,” said Delores Lastinger. “As a trustee of Flagler College and with Allen’s interest in Florida and St. Augustine history, it was a perfect fit for us to start a fund to restore the solarium. It has been, and will once again become, one of the many jewels of the original Hotel Ponce de Leon.”
The Lastinger’s moved to St. Augustine from Jacksonville a decade ago when Allen retired from a long and distinguished banking career, serving as CEO of Barnett Bank. Delores was an educator, teaching for many years at Episcopal High School in Jacksonville. The Lastinger’s became involved with Flagler College in 2001 when they attended the New Year’s Eve Ball and joined the President’s Society the following spring. Delores was elected to the Flagler College Board of Trustees in May of 2006, where she serves on the Executive Committee. In addition, she is a member of the Student Affairs and the Trustees Committees.
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News contributed photograph