Celebrating a Grand Hotel

Flagler College's Crisp-Ellert Art Museum on Sevilla Street.

Flagler College’s Crisp-Ellert Art Museum on Sevilla Street.

Yesterday we spent a delightful morning visiting an exhibit celebrating the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Ponce de Leon Hotel. In its heyday it attracted the cream of society to Florida to enjoy a luxurious visit in the nation’s Oldest City. Since 1968, it’s been the home of Flagler College, a private liberal arts college. They take their heritage seriously. Not only have they maintained the original hotel, they have made an effort to design new buildings – such as the library, student center and auditorium – in a similar architectural style. The campus now sprawls across a significant part of St. Augustine’s downtown.

The Flagler College campus.

The Flagler College campus.

The exhibit is small, but quite fascinating. There are architectural drawings and photographs of the hotel’s construction as well as early photographs of the dining room, lobby and parlors.

Construction photo of the hotel.

Hotel construction photo.

Although the museum did not prohibit taking pictures of the exhibit, the lighting and reflective glass used to frame many of the drawings often made them impossible to photograph.

In addition to the photographs and drawings of the hotel itself, the exhibit included a number of paintings created by artists who had studios in the hotel. The story of these studios, their artists and the paintings they created are a fascinating part of the hotel’s history.

Ink sketch of a hotel doorway. Click to view details.

Ink sketch of a hotel doorway.

The museum is open from 10:00am to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday. There is no charge for admission. This exhibit – Planning and Painting in Paradise: The Art and Architecture of the Hotel Ponce de Leon – will continue until February 22, 2013.

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HMS Bounty

HMS Bounty passing the Castillo de San Marcos

The HMS Bounty pays a call at St. Augustine. This replica of the infamous ship was built in the 1960s for the Marlon Brando version of the movie, Mutiny on the Bounty. It is built to scale from records found in the British Admiralty, however it is larger than the original – to make room for the camera and sound equipment needed for the movie. Mutiny isn’t the only movie where the Bounty has made an appearance. She was also a performer in Pirates of the Caribbean II: Dead Man’s Chest.

Her arrival in St. Augustine was quite an event. We were watching from the top of the Castillo de San Marcos as she motored in on the high tide. She will spend the weekend here before heading on to Savannah and parts north as part of her 2012 tour of the East Coast.

Learn more at the HMS Bounty site.

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Mabel Cody’s Flying Circus

Mabel Cody on Vilano Beach

Mabel Cody performing on Vilano Beach, 1924. Photo courtesy of the Florida Photographic Collection.

Mabel, who claimed to be the niece of Buffalo Bill Cody, was the star performer in Mabel Cody’s Flying Circus – one of the early groups of barnstormers touring the Southeast. A 1999 article in the Florida Times-UnionThe Flight of Fearless Mabel – describes several of her unsuccessful attempts to transfer from a speeding car to an airplane. In addition to the photo shown here, the video clip below shows that Mabel became quite capable of performing that feat.