Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Hotel Ponce de Leon and Residence Hall

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Institution Name: Flagler College
Original/Historic Place Name: Hotel Ponce de Leon
Location on Campus: 74 King St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1885-1888original construction Carrère, John Hastings, Thomas
Designer: John Carrère & Thomas Hastings
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: cast-in-place concrete
Walls: cast-in-place concrete
Roof: clay barrel tile
1888-1968other (luxury winter resort hotel)
1942-1945other (US Coast Guard training station)
1968-present (2006)academic department building (art, including studios)
1968-present (2006)faculty offices
1968-present (2006)classrooms
1968-present (2006)dining hall
1968-present (2006)residence hall

The building is the centerpiece of the Flagler College campus. For example: The former guest rooms are student dormitory rooms; the dining room is still the campus dining room; the utility wing is primarily classrooms and faculty offices; the artists studios are art department studio/classrooms.

The opening of the Hotel Ponce de Leon in January, 1888 marks the beginning of the modern era of Florida history. Standard Oil magnate Henry M. Flagler created this magnificent palace as the ultimate winter resort for America's elite of wealth and power. He connected it by railroad with the population centers of the North and subsequently went on to extend his rail and hotel empire southward down the East Coast of Florida, creating cities like Palm Beach and Miami.

Ultimately, decades of progress left the Hotel Ponce de Leon behind, and it became a relic from an elegant but bygone era. In 1968 the venerable building became the home of Flagler College. Since that time the College has enjoyed remarkable success, and the former hotel has become an outstanding example of adaptive reuse of a historic structure.

The Hotel Ponce de Leon was the first major commission of John Carrere and Thomas Hastings. These young architects showed great wisdom and sensitivity in designing a building that suited the built environment of America's Oldest City. The Spanish Renaissance style created by Carrere and Hastings complements St. Augustine's old stone walls, overhanging balconies, and arched porticoes. The hotel might also be considered the first of the Mediterranean Revival buildings that have become a signature style in Florida.

The Hotel Ponce de Leon was the first large building in the United States constructed of cast-in-place concrete. The hotel's builders, James A. McGuire and Joseph McDonald, pioneered the use of concrete. The building lacks the steel reinforcement employed in modern concrete structures, except in some features such as the spans above arches. However, the massive walls of the building have endured the test of time admirably.

Noted artists contributed to the Hotel Ponce de Leon. Louis C. Tiffany created the stained glass windows and may have played a role in the interior decoration. Bernard Maybeck, later to gain fame in California, worked on the staff of Carrere and Hastings. George W. Maynard filled the walls and ceilings with allegorical murals. Pottier & Stymus furnished the woodwork, the furniture, and perhaps some of the interior decoration. Martin Johnson Heade was one of the painters who occupied a studio in the hotel and whose paintings enlivened the walls of the parlors.

In times past the Hotel Ponce de Leon entertained wealthy patrons like the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, creative artists like Henry James and Will Rodgers, heroes like Admiral John Dewey, and five Presidents of the United States.

Today the rooms once occupied by the wealthy and notable are inhabited by the students of Flagler College.


Akin, Edward N. Flagler: Rockefeller Partner and Florida Baron. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1992.

Braden, Susan R. The Architecture of Leisure: The Florida Resort Hotels of Henry Flagler and Henry Plant. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2002.

Cardwell, Kenneth H. Bernard Maybeck, Artisan, Architect, Artist. Santa Barbara, CA: Peregrine Smith, 1977.

Channing, Blake. "The Architecture of Carrère and Hastings," Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1976.

Craig, Robert M. Bernard Maybeck at Principia College: The Art and Craft of Building. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2004.

Graham, Thomas. Flagler's Magnificent Hotel Ponce de Leon. St. Augustine, FL: St. Augustine Historical Society, 1975. Reprint from the Florida Historical Quarterly (July 1975).

Scardaville, Michael, and Larry Paarlberg. Model Land Company Historic District [Flagler College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1983.


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Last update: November 2006