When Henry Flagler finished building his grand Hotel Ponce de Leon, he was still rolling hot. In 1889 he popped across the green and put up the Alcazar Hotel.
Scaling back a bit the Alcazar was more 4 star than the full blown 5 star Hotel Ponce. A place for everybody in Flagler's world. Remember, he wanted everyone to ride his trains. Give the people a place to go. Make it special.
Get the folks down here from Up North on the East Coast Railway and have them spend their money. That was Flagler's thinking. Here we are years later and Florida is still working the tourist trade.
Flagler never did anything half-way but his grand hotels of that time have been transformed. Travelers want motels with front door parking. Most want a view of the ocean and a sandy place to walk at night.
The big brother Ponce across the street now houses Flagler College with a ballroom dining area for students.
The little sister Alcazar is filled with antique stores and little shops. A cafe sells coffee and bagels and keeps irregular hours. Everything works charm and not convenience here. So be it.
I love to stroll in here away from the car noise and sight-seeing trains. Mostly I like coming here early in the morning before things open up. I can peek into windows and feed the fishes with no complaints.
The architecture features framing arches and terracotta tiles. Cool even in July heat, the walls were made of poured concrete, a new method at the time. A castle feeling permeates.
The St. Augustine City Hall is housed here, too, because even a castle needs its throne room, I suppose, where important issues are settled.
Nothing here feels like Disney World, or like a Hilton or a Hyatt but if Flagler was building today he would have plasma TVs in every room. I just know it. The man was cutting edge for his time.
The Alcazar featured the largest indoor swimming pool in its day. On another visit I will show you what swims there now.
Enjoy the beaches but enjoy this, too, if you come to my town. I do share well with others.
Drop some money is the donation jar. The roof leaks due to the rain and strong winds from recent hurricanes. A bit of a problem getting worse.
The far end of this building houses the Lightner Museum but I will share that, too, with you later. It needs to shine in its own light. Talk about treasures!
I will tell you this though. The Lightner houses the most amazing Tiffany glass and someday I want to find out how they clean it. I could not be trusted.
Thanks, Henry Flagler, you did good work and now I get to play Florida princess here when no one else is looking.