One of Florida’s most treasured National Historic Landmarks, did you know that you can take a behind the scenes tour of the visually stunning Flagler College? Step back into the Gilded Age and experience its turn-of-the-century old European ambiance, as this Spanish Renaissance architectural masterpiece offers an educational glimpse into the glitz and glamour of one of Florida’s most exclusive luxury resorts.
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The former Hotel Ponce de Leon is a shimmering palace that was established in 1888 by railroad and oil magnate Henry Flagler. Its beauty can be appreciated not only by its students but by anyone who joins one of the famous Legacy Tours, where history enthusiasts can learn the inspiration behind Henry Flagler’s architectural vision.
Princeton Review dubbed Flagler College “one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States”, and it’s easy to see why. Where Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Babe Ruth, William R. Rockefeller and many other prominent names walked the halls during its heydey, this famous hotel was viewed by many as the most luxurious in that time period.
The large complex and its grounds occupy an entire city block, where some of the highlights of the tour include an up-close view of the gorgeous Dining Hall, the Flagler Room, and the Rotunda with an 80-foot domed ceiling. Along the way, you can see original hotel furniture and artwork, in addition to personal photos and mementoes from Henry Flager and his family.
The tour starts in the picturesque courtyard where you’ll spot a sundial fountain adorned with fish and turtles and leads through the light-filled Dining Hall lined with 79 Louis Comfort Tiffany Stained Glass windows and hand-painted murals. The murals throughout the hotel were painted by George W. Maynard, who also worked on the Jefferson Building and Library of Congress Building in Washington D.C.
The Rotunda showcases a mesmerizing high ceiling with hand-carved details, while the Flagler Room features hand-crafted Austrian crystal chandeliers that shimmer above you. The Flagler Room is also where you can see a rare Thomas Edison clock that contains the largest piece of intact white onyx in the western hemisphere.
A perfect excursion for those interested in Florida’s past or who want to admire one of the most architecturally beautiful structures in the state, take a step back in time on Flagler College’s Legacy Tours and appreciate its rich history and luxurious grandeur.
Legacy Tours, Flagler College
Address: 74 King Street, St. Augustine, FL, 32084
Phone: (904) 823-3378