On our tour of St. Augustine, my favorite stop was Flagler College. Having worked at a small private college for 18 years, it was fun to make comparisions to Flagler. Some of the things I learned about Flagler just blew me away! The pictures below will show you why the campus is ranked as one of the top ten most beautiful in the USA.
First a bit of history. In 1882, Henry Morrison Flagler, a New York entrepreneur and the co-founder, with J. D. Rockefeller, of the Standard Oil Company, envisioned a series of resort hotels in Florida. By 1887 he had hired an architectural firm and had begun work on his plans. A huge hotel, the Ponce de Leon, was built in the tiny town of St. Augustine, Florida. Eventually two other hotels were built within a block of the Ponce de Leon, all owned by Flagler. These hotels were the first big buildings with electric lights and running water. They were open only for three months, during "the season," from January through March. These hotels were built specifically for the rich from the northeast to have a place to winter. However, getting to Florida was a rough trip, so Henry Flagler built a railroad all the way to St. Augustine.
Flagler also hired a "decorator." A Mr. Louis C. Tiffany! The Ponce de Leon was to be the very best, and it was magnificant. The dinning room, which doubled as a ballroom, was a kind of rectangle with the two long ends bowed, and fitted with two layers of stained glass windows. Tiffany made great use of stained glass in this hotel. He also used mosaic for the floors, terra cotta relief on the walls and ceilings, painted murals, and crystal chandeliers in the reception rooms. And these things remained after this famous hotel was converted to a private liberal arts college in 1968.
This is part of the spectacular architecture of Flagler College.
Just inside the main entrance.
A Tiffany chandelier and a Thomas Edison white onyx clock over the white onyx fireplace in a large reception room.
The dining room with Tiffany windows.More Tiffany windows in the dining room. Some of the chairs in this room are the original from the hotel, some are copies. If a student breaks one they are charged what the chair is worth, $1200. The windows are valued at 36 million, and have bullet proof glass on the outside, but nothing protecting them on the inside! I'm guessing the students don't toss footballs in there!
These are the steps leading up to the women's dorm, with another beautiful Tiffany window. The women are housed in the original hotel along with the administrative offices and the dining room. Men are housed in a separate building, and there is no visiting rooms allowed by the opposite sex. Some of the rooms have their own private bath, and other rooms are in a group of eight which share four bathrooms.
Because of a huge endowment, the tuition and board and room for this private four year liberal arts college is only $14,000. It is truly a beautiful place and I'm so glad we decided to include Flagler College on our visit to St. Augustine.