Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Ponce de Leon Hotel

Saint Augustine Florida is the oldest, continuously occupied city in the United States. The city is brimming with history and culture, and one of the historic buildings you can’t miss while in the city is Flagler College.

The college is a Spanish style structure located at 74 King Street in Saint Augustine, Florida. The college opened in 1968 and has since continued to serve as an exceptional educational institute. 

Ponce de Leon Hotel
The pre-college history is a fun and glamorous gilded age tale. It started when Henry Flagler visited Saint Augustine in the late 1800’s, he fell in love with the area. As a business man, he was impressed with innovation of the poured concrete home of Franklin Smith. Flagler tried to buy the home from Smith for a winter home for his wife, but when Smith refused to sell, Flagler instead decided to build the Ponce. Or officially named, Ponce de León Hotel, after the famed explorer who reportedly came to the area in search of the fountain of youth.

The Ponce opened January 10th, 1888 and, like Smith’s home, was constructed of poured concrete. Thomas Edison was a close friend of Flagler, and he wired the buildings for electricity from the get-go—one of the firsts in the nation. A boiler system in the basement of the hotel generated the energy needed to light-up the hotel. Interestingly, Flagler had to hire extra staff to turn on and off the electricity for the hotel’s patrons. The guests were too afraid to touch the new technology to do it themselves.

Quickly the luxury hotel attracted a variety of wealthy northerners. Rooms sold 
Dining room
for five dollars, and up, per night. The Ponce was so popular, Flagler bought two more hotels in the area to handle the overflow. The dining room boasts beautiful stained-glass windows created by the famed Tiffany & Co, and massive murals painted by George W. Maynard, whose art also graces the walls in the Library of Congress. The furniture was designed by Pottier & Stymus of New York. Only the best, newest, and most opulent decorations were used catering to the upper-class clientele and giving those folks a little lower on the social class ladder an opportunity to live like the rich and famous.

 The Ponce DeLeon Hotel was a hot spot for politicians, wealthy businessmen and their families and other rich and famous of the world. Among the long list of noted visitors was Mark Twain, Presidents Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt and baseball great, Babe Ruth. Frank Thompson, who was headwaiter in the 1880’s and 1890’s was a forerunner of the civil rights movement and organized a professional black baseball team. That sounds like an amazing story in its self.

An artist’s community was established at the hotel. Flagler built an artist’s studio building at the rear of the resort. Noted artists of the time were known to frequent the community. A few names on the guest list were, Felix de Crano, Martin Johnson Heade, Authur Vidal Diehl and Harry L. Hoffman.

By the 1910’s and 1920’s the hotel saw the number of visitors decline. Due in part to a growing resort area in Miami where the weather was warmer. Though the Ponce was one of only three of Flagler’s hotels to service the Great Depression proving its popularity.
If you’re ever able to visit the Saint Augustine area, Flagler College runs historic tours where you can still experience the opulence of this great, old hotel.

Thanks for joining me today on HHH. Have a wonderful month, until we meet again.


Multi award-winning author, Michele K. Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their six children, three in-loves, and ten grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. Michele loves to hear from readers on Facebook, Twitter, and here through the group blog, Heroes, Heroines, and History at

Michele is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.


  1. I would love to see this, it sounds beautiful! Thanks for carrying us to warmer and sunnier climes!!

    1. You're so welcome, Connie! Thank you for the comment!

  2. We drove through St. Augustine on our trip to Florida several years ago. We saw the outside, but didn't have time to stop and really see it. I always regretted that, so thanks for the pictures and information. St. Augustine has a fascinating history.