Lost St. Augustine: Ponce de Leon Motor Lodge

Ponce de Leon Lodge

Ponce de Leon Lodge

The Ponce de Leon Motor Lodge was part of the Flagler hotel system that included the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine and The Breakers in Palm Beach. When the Ponce Hotel closed in 1968, the Motor Lodge was the only luxury hotel in St. Augustine for many years. It was actually located just north of town on US1 and included the golf course, country club, tennis courts and swimming pool. It was known for its Saturday buffet dinner dances and was the scene for many wedding receptions, class reunions and other large functions.

Today the lodge, country club and golf course are gone. The buildings were torn down and the landscaping left to its own while developers slowly develop the property. It still lives on in the memories of many local residents.

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Lost St. Augustine: Matanzas Theatre

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Distant Drums premier – photo courtesy State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Many of us remember the Matanzas Theater next to the Exchange Bank building. How many Saturday afternoons were spent enjoying the air-conditioning while watching movies, cartoons and western serials. There were summer-long contests for bicycles and enticements to get you back. For our parents, it was a couple hours of peace and quiet.

This photo was taken in 1951 during the premier of the Gary Cooper movie, Distant Drums, a Seminole War story which was partially filmed here in St. Augustine. Notice the original Chimes Restaurant to the right of the theater.

The theater was torn down sometime in the early 1960s leaving St. Augustine with only a drive-in theater for movie entertainment. It would be a decade or more before St. Augustine had a walk-in theater again when the “mini-theaters” opened at the new mall.

Photo courtesy of the Florida Photographic Collection.