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St. Augustine, Florida
February 2, 2010
From journal Historic Downtown St. Augustine
January 6, 2005
This building was elaborate, with beautiful architecture. One of the floors used to be the world’s largest indoor swimming pool. You could view the steam room that they used to enjoy. The rooms are very large and the ceilings very tall. Everything is restored, and as you wander through the rooms, you can vision the wealthy guests, dressed in their finest, enjoying an afternoon cocktail or evening dance.
The museum and the collections were a gift by Chicago publisher Otto Lightner, founding editor of Hobbies Magazine. Knowing this, I could understand the collections. The collections there were varied and covered three floors. The top floor had collections of unusual items. There were buttons made from something like 40 different materials. They were glass, wood, stone, etc. I never knew that they could be made from so many different materials. There was needlework and pictures made with human hair. That was so weird; the hair was used like thread. There were collections of cigar bands, matchboxes, and family albums. They have beautiful furniture, urns, shells, and all kinds of glass, including Victorian art glass, a brilliant period cut glass from the late 19th century, and a stained glass room with work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. That room just glowed, and their collection was quite large. There were paintings, statues, and a Victorian village. One room was particularly fun, and that was the music room. It was filled with orchestrions—a completely contained orchestra in one piece of furniture. There was also a genuine nickelodeon, some music boxes, a player organ, and hand-cranked organ. They had a demonstration that reminded me of my grandmother playing her pump organ. What a delight.
The museum is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Admission is $8. They are located at 75 King St. The former hotel also houses Café Alcazar, located where the pool once stood. They are open from 11:30am to 3:00pm Tuesday through Saturday. They also have a gift shop with great postcards of some of the collection and Tiffany-inspired gifts.
From journal Taking history class again in St. Augustine
by Mary Dickinson
December 27, 2004
Take a trip back in time to the once famous Alcazar winter resort in St. Augustine, Florida, today known as the Lightner Museum. A sign indicating a café and an antiques shopping mall were located in the back of the building, so, it being lunchtime, we got off the trolley and headed for them. The quaint little café, with live entertainment during lunch, was located in the former swimming pool and filled to capacity, so we signed a waiting list and browsed through the curious antiques shops situated around the outer edge of the former pool. Looking upward, we could see the balustrade opening to the center of the former lounge and game area on the second floor and the one from the former ballroom on the third floor. Lunches there are definitely taken leisurely, and after a considerable wait, we went elsewhere.
Later we came back and entered through the front of the building. Otto C. Lightner’s grave was in the florid formal gardens in front. A Midwestern newspaper man with money to spare, he bought the building in 1947, after it had been closed for many years, to house his enormous collections of valuable household items gleaned from estates sales from the former rich and famous who lost much during the Depression. He donated it all to the city before he died. City Hall is on the second floor, around the courtyard. Unique stores are on the first floor. I stopped at Bootsie’s and bought an attractive crushed and pressed polyester blouse for $21, marked down from $60.
When I could finally pull myself away from the stores, we went inside the museum. We came to the main sitting parlor, an enormous room with a magnificent mosaic tile floor. When Henry M. Flagler built the Alcazar in 1887, he had Louis C. Tiffany design the windows and light fixtures throughout the entire building. Next was the museum store, where we could hear the Orchestrion (like the one that plays music in the center of a carousal) playing in the music room. Demonstration over, we went to the rooms in the eastern part that were set up like delightful stores in a small toy town. West of museum store were the science and industry collections, including, among other things, a full-size stuffed lion given to Winston Churchill when it was alive and an Egyptian mummy.
Upstairs, the Russian baths were still intact, but the space for the Turkish baths was filled with all kinds of very expensive ceramic and porcelain objects. The former massage parlor was filled with a collection of stained-glass windows, and the lounge area with big expensive pieces of cut crystal. That’s just a taste of Lightner’s enormous collection.
From journal Delightful Historic St. Augustine
October 29, 2000
From journal Romantic St. Augustine