Hotel Ponce de Leon celebrates 125 years

Historic City News readers in St Augustine can look forward to a year-long celebration beginning January 10, 2013; as Flagler College commemorates the 125th anniversary of the opening of the city’s most photographed resort; the Hotel Ponce de Leon.

From that day in 1888, through the generous gifts of its benefactors, Henry Flagler, several generations of his family, and a grateful community of supporters; the National Register Historic Landmark’s successor and steward, Flagler College, plans to celebrate in the style of its founder.

In a quote attributed to Henry Morrison Flagler, as he reflected on the cost and time spent constructing the Hotel Ponce de Leon, he said, “I think it more likely I am spending an unnecessary amount of money in the foundation walls — but I comfort myself in the reflection that a hundred years hence, it will be all the same to me and the building the better because of my extravagance.”

The anniversary celebration will honor the legacy of Flagler’s entrepreneurship and community-building. A founding partner with John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil, he launched a resort empire along Florida’s east coast with construction of the hotel.

The Spanish Renaissance Revival hotel incorporated the talents of New York architects John Carrere and Thomas Hastings, as well as Bernard Maybeck interiors and 79 stained glass windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany, murals by George Maynard and steam power and electricity by Thomas Edison. The Ponce’s twin towers serve as an anchor to St Augustine’s historic area.

“Celebrating the Legacy” will include an opening day tour with period re-enactors leading guests through the Ponce on the same day the hotel first opened its doors, an exhibit of beautifully preserved original blueprints of the Ponce, a “Celebrating the Legacy” exhibit of the hotel’s construction, sports, leisure and arts, a community lecture series by Flagler professors, and a gilded age speaker series.

Ponce de Leon Solarium to reopen:

“Celebrating the Legacy: 125 Years of the Hotel Ponce de Leon,” Flagler College in St Augustine has taken on the final restoration of the hotel, the Solarium.

The domed Solarium rises from the center of the building and is flanked by symmetrical roof terraces and twin towers, with dramatic outdoor spaces providing views of the city, the nearby Intracoastal Waterway and Bridge of Lions, as well as the Atlantic Ocean.

The Solarium served as a place where hotel guests gathered for conversation, enjoyed entertainment or watched activities taking place in town. It has been closed for more than 20 years, and the restoration is expected to be completed in 2013.

The college has kicked off a major fundraising campaign for the restoration, including naming opportunities.