Built as a winter residence for a Boston millionaire, Villa Zorayda is a prototype for Florida construction techniques. In a region with no native stone or clay for making bricks, the cost to import such items was quite prohibitive. Franklin W. Smith, a wealthy Bostonian, had purchased property in St. Augustine to build a winter residence. During a tour in Europe looking for design inspiration for his home, he found the look he wanted at the Alhambra palace in Granada and the construction technique in Switzerland. This technique used concrete – a relatively new idea here in the United States.
After Villa Zorayda’s completion in 1883, Franklin Smith also built the Casa Monica hotel at the corner of King and Cordova streets using this concrete technique. His friend, Henry Flagler, not only bought the Casa Monica hotel from Smith, he also used Smith’s concrete technique to build his Ponce de Leon and Alcazar hotels.
Today the Villa Zorayda is a museum open to the public.