A December 2004 trip
to St. Augustine by Mary Dickinson
Quote: Henry M. Flagler added a distinct architectural style to this city that still dominates. He intended to open Florida to tourism by offering the finest to the richest people, and it’s still thrilling to see the wonders he created.
Hotel | "The Harbor Club at Palm Coast"
Most timeshares in Florida have tropical furnishings, and the Harbor Club at Palm Coast was no exception. The full kitchen had lots of storage space, new full-size appliances, and a wide counter that opened to the dining room. A bundle of bamboo that was painted white was cut off and used for a table base, giving a lacy look to the center of the table in the dining room. Chairs were painted white to match. The brocade-upholstered full-size couch that pulled out to a queen-size bed matched the bamboo armchairs in the living room (that was open to the dining room), and a large television was hidden in an armoire. All the rooms in the unit had sliding glass doors leading to the veranda.
A comfortable king-size bed, with a mirrored headboard, was placed catty-corner in the master bedroom, which also had a double dresser and a television. A deep Jacuzzi, glassed-in shower, long vanity counter with two sinks, closet, and closed-off toilet made the master bath particularly pleasing. Vertical blinds in the second bedroom in front of the sliding glass doors leading to the screened-in veranda gave that beautiful room an enchanting look when the sun shone through the blinds. It had a queen-size bed, bamboo end tables, and a triple dresser and television, and it was nicely decorated. A convenient full-size bathroom was nearby in the hall, as was a full laundry.
The resort offered wine-and-cheese night and a pizza party. Within sight was the town park with an activity center. Everybody at the resort walked down to watch the Christmas Boat Parade. Boat rentals were available. There is a good shopping center about 2 miles away with a Publix and restaurants, and if you cross Route 95 (a short distance west), you will find a Super Wal-Mart.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 27, 2004
Celebrity Resorts Palm Coast
98 Palm Coast Resort Blvd.
Palm Coast, Florida 32137
Attraction | "Old Jail"
We paid $4 apiece (with a $1 discount, because we bought a package tour), and then we sat on a bench in front of the jail with Sheriff Joe Perry. He was nice and quiet (he was a statue), and the deputy offered to take our picture. A crowd of tourists arrived to see the jail, and the deputy told us that we were all his prisoners and had to go in the back door. On the way around back, we stopped at the stockades and torture cage, and he told us how Sheriff Joe didn’t like new prisoners because they had an attitude, and he demonstrated how it would be adjusted if they had any complaints about working 16 hours a day on the new highway. He warned us that Joe’s nickname was "Always Gets His Man," and he had no intention of letting anyone out of jail until the new highway was completed. We were also warned about "Sure Shot Higgins" up in the tower, and the deputy then showed us the gallows and told how every one in town enjoyed showing up for a hanging.
The women’s cell was right inside the back door, but few women ever stayed there because the judge usually had them confined to house arrest. However, the trustee that greeted us was a woman (she must have committed a serious offence or she wouldn’t have been in jail). She explained how she was willing to provide extra blankets and "privileges" if we gave her a bribe, and she looked us over to see if we had any jewelry or valuables. The kitchen and a few solitary cells were downstairs. We were marched into the kitchen, where the cook told us that prison food consisted of coffee and hardtack and said, with a foul cackle, that it tastes better if you dip the hardtack in the coffee and drowned the weevils.
We were allowed to go through the sheriff’s apartment, a two-floor, nicely furnished Victorian household, and then to the cells. There were two floors, each consisting of eight cells per floor, four bunks per cell. All cells were in the center of the room, with a corridor around the outside. The windows had no glass when the prison was in use. Sheriff Joe (an animated figure) told us his brutal rules while he was standing up on the second floor, but we escaped out the back door and down the stairs just the same.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 27, 2004
Old Town Trolley
167 San Marco Ave.
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
Pleasing the affluent would require the finest of everything, so capitalizing on the fact that St. Augustine was an old Spanish city, he decided on Spanish Moorish architecture and hired the firm of McKim, Meade and White from New York to design the biggest concrete structure in the country at that time. The windows and interior were designed by Louis C. Tiffany, and Thomas Edison was in charge of planning and providing electricity. The great rotunda in the dining room was decorated with painted canvases by George W. Maynard, and the parlor was covered with paintings by Virgilio Tojetti. Flagler called that enormous castle The Hotel Ponce De Leon.
Flagler discovered it became warmer the farther south he went in Florida, and soon he built railroads and resorts all the way to Key West. St. Augustine still had many great years and a few not too great. Finally, in 1967, it was not feasible to continue operating as a hotel, and the building was sold, becoming a women’s college, known as Flagler College. Now it is a coed school that offers two tours a day to the general public.
Entering the front gate, we could see the women’s dorms surrounding the formal courtyard with the original fountain in the center. As we waited in the foyer for the tour to begin, we watched a video showing the different stages of development for the building and more. Then a student conducted the tour, explaining how the gentlemen registered themselves and their families while the wives sat in the elegant formal parlor, socializing. The heavily air-conditioned parlor is still furnished with original art work, velvet sofas, and matching brocade-upholstered armchairs and is off limits for students.
We toured the dining hall that looked much the same as it did originally. The upholstered burgundy Victorian side chairs (many were the originals) were in place around tables covered with burgundy tablecloths. The great paintings were still enhancing the rotunda in the center of the hall, and the chandeliers and windows made this the largest collection by Tiffany in one place in the world. As most of the country must have done when it was first opened in 1888, I regretted I couldn’t stay and loll in such opulent ambiance.
74 King Street
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
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.
75 King St.
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
The Exxon Station was also the location of the Old Jail, a fancy Spanish Renaissance building with friendly, comical guides trying to laugh at brutal inhuman justice. See and hear about the Mission Nombre de Dios and Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth as you travel back to town. On the way you will also experience one of the most beautiful streets in the world, Magnolia Avenue, with live oaks forming a vaulted archway over the entire street. Stop and tour Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum or the Castillo de San Marcos (the ancient walled fort), or keep going to the other attractions. You can get off and get back on all day, but you have to pay $18 for a pass for three consecutive days, even if you are only there for one.
The trolley stopped at both ends of St. George Street, which has a rich variety of restaurants, opulent shops, and many side attractions, and then went on to the Flagler buildings. Henry Morrison Flagler developed the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with remarkably beautiful Spanish Renaissance buildings that can be easily identified by their colossal size, flat concrete walls, arched doors and windows, courtyards, and red-tile roofs. His two enormous hotels, the Alcazar and the Ponce de Leon, are now the Lightner Museum and Flagler College respectively. Tours of the college are available two times a day. A discount is offered for most of the attractions when you buy your trolley pass.
Flagler financed and help plan many other buildings. The tour included the imposing Memorial Presbyterian Church, built in memory of Flagler’s daughter who died from complications after childbirth. The Grace United Methodist Church is another Flagler building, and he even financed the rebuilding of the Catholic Cathedral basilica after a destructive fire. You can stop right in front of it and visit Government House across the street as well.
Lincolnville, a small section of St. Augustine, is part of the tour because Martin Luther King stayed in one of the houses and was arrested there on trumped-up charges. The next stop was the winery, and then it continued back to town with the guide pointing out the interesting places to see. With your pass you can also take a free shuttle to the alligator farm, lighthouse, and/or beach.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 27, 2004