Another museum. The Lightner.
Today, we are driving into town to visit the Lightner museum. The museum takes up about half of a what was built as a huge luxury hotel.
Whoo, Hoo! More History: (but short this time)
The original hotel was built by Flagler and called “The Alcazar” for a cost in excess of $1,000,000. Which would be over $28 million in today’s dollars. He wanted very high-end hotel with lots of what at the time would be considered luxury. The architects firm Carrere and Hastings were commissioned to design the building. Later, that company went on to build the US Senate Office Building and the New York Public Library. Flagler also commissioned Tiffany to design the interior.
The hotel opened in 1888 and was 4 stories tall, 1 city block wide and 3 blocks deep. The hotel is constructed out of poured concrete and the outer walls are made of coquina. At the time, it was one of the first buildings in the country constructed out of poured concrete.
When the building was first constructed, the north section was for the hotel rooms and restaurants, but the south section of the building contained Turkish and Russian baths, a cold plunge pool, and Swedish massage rooms and a gymnasium. Adjacent to the baths was the casino, a three-story ballroom, and the indoor swimming pool, which was the largest indoor swimming pool in the country. It was surrounded by three-story arches and covered by a glass roof that could be opened.
The swimming pool was 120 feet long by 50 feet wide and was supplied with artesian water from a well on the property that was believed to have medicinal properties and gave off a distinct sulfur odor.
After years as an elegant winter resort for wealthy patrons and once the railroad had been built south to Palm Beach, the hotel closed in 1932 after being open for 44 years.
The building sat unused for 15 years until 1947 when Chicago publisher Otto C. Lightner purchased the building to convert the old hotel into a hobby's museum. The Alcazar had long since been abandoned and was in shambles. He bought it for $150,000 and invested in restoring the hotel.
He used the space to house several collections, including his own extensive collection of Victorian era art. Lightner owned Hobbies Magazine and felt that everyone should have a hobby like collecting.
In 1948, Mr. Lightner turned the building over to the city of St. Augustine as long as the museum was maintained and opened to the public. At that time the north section was renovated into offices and other city business, the entire south section remains as a museum.
OK, I guess I was wrong about being short.
This museum has lots of collections. There is a huge range of subjects. Everything from fine art and sculpture to cigar bands and shells. Even the lobby had some art displayed.
First let us start in the music room. This collection includes music boxes to player pianos. Some are really big and have lots of instruments included.
The next room had a wide of small collections. Shells, Rocks, an Egyptian Mummy, …
The next part of the museum was dedicated to art and crystal.
Many pieces of furniture and sculpture. All of these are old, and all the furniture is in pristine condition with the original fabric. Most of the items are from the early 1800s or older with so much color and detail.
The pool is now a restaurant and reception area. The deep end was filled in to make it level with what was the shallow end.
Wow, this place was built for elegance. The areas that still show some of the original uses are interesting.
Stained glass, much of which was Tiffany.
They have kept the exterior as close to the original appearance as possible.
We did take a walk around town and for lunch.
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