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Casa Monica Hotel

Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. Digital sketch by the author.

Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida.
Digital sketch by the author.

Casa Monica opened in 1888 as one of three grand hotels which turned St. Augustine into a winter resort. The hotel was built by Franklin Smith, but quickly sold to Henry Flagler who owned the other two hotels. He renamed it the Hotel Cordova.

In 1932 the Hotel Cordova closed. Shops remained in the building at street level, but it was mostly empty until the county bought it in 1962 and remodeled it to serve as the courthouse. By the 1990s the county had outgrown this courthouse and a new facility was built north of town. In 1997 the hotel was sold to The Kessler Collection which restored the building and its original name. The Casa Monica hotel reopened just in time to usher in a new century.

It is a beautiful jewel offering visitors an opportunity to taste a bit of the grandeur that was St. Augustine’s gilded age.

Henry Morrison Flagler

Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church

Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church

The beautiful Memorial Presbyterian Church was built by Henry Morrison Flagler as a memorial to his daughter Jenny Louise Flagler Benedict who died from complications related to childbirth.

Portrait of Henry M. Flagler hangs in Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Portrait of Henry M. Flagler hangs in Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Flagler (January 2, 1830 – May 20, 1913), a founding partner in the Standard Oil Company, also built the Florida East Coast railroad which opened up the east coast of Florida down to the Keys.  In St. Augustine, he created a winter resort with three elegant hotels.

When his daughter died soon after the birth – and death – of her child, he chose to build a church as a permanent memorial to her.  The Presbyterian congregation that benefited from his largess is the oldest Presbyterian congregation in Florida and at the time of the church’s dedication numbered only 40 members.

In addition to Jenny Louise and her daughter, Marjorie, Mr. Flagler and his first wife, Mary, are also buried in the family mausoleum at the church.

 

A view into the mausoleum. The mirror shows the ornametal detail of the mausoleums dome.

A view into the mausoleum. The mirror shows the ornametal detail of the mausoleum’s dome.

The mausoleum is the domed structure in the foreground.

The mausoleum is the domed structure in the foreground.

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Cordova and Alcazar Hotels

Cordova and Alcazar Hotels postcard

Two of Flagler’s magnificent hotels appear in this postcard postmarked 1911. On the left is the Cordova Hotel with the Alcazar on the right. The Cordova was originally called the Casa Monica hotel until Henry Flagler bought it. Today it has been restored as a luxury hotel and once again is known as the Casa Monica. The Alcazar is now home to St. Augustine’s city government and the Lightner Museum. Some of the spaces have been restored to show their original purpose and can be seen as part of the museum.

Photo courtesy The Florida Memory Project.

The Bacchus Club

Bacchus Club Sketch

The Bacchus Club – a sketch by Henry Shaw Wyllie

Situated on the corner of Cordova and Treasury Streets, the Bacchus Club was a house of chance conveniently located just across the street from the Ponce de Leon Hotel’s carriage entrance. Wyllie’s description of the club:

At the corner of these streets is situated the Bacchus Club and Restaurant, which with its luxurious fittings, excellent tables, its choice works of art and many conveniences for whiling away the dragging hours is one of the features of the modern town.

Even though gambling was illegal in Florida, that didn’t stop Henry Flagler from building a gambling club near each of his Florida resorts. He wasn’t alone. Henry Plant – who was developing Florida’s west coast in much the same way Flagler was to the east – also had gambling houses nearby.