< Back

Lightner Museum

A beautiful museum located downtown that tells the history of the oldest city in the USA. The Lightner Museum, in what had been one of Henry Flagler’s most luxurious hotels, the Alcazar. It was built in what was known as the Spanish Renaissance style. The same firm that built the Alcazar built another Flagler hotel, the Ponce de Leon, right across the street. Years later, members of that firm designed the New York Public Library and the U.S. Senate Building. The Alcazar sat on the bed of a stream that used to run through that part of the city. Flagler had the stream blocked, then bought a farm north of St. Augustine. He had workers strip the soil from the farm, bring it to St. Augustine and use it as fill in the creek bed. Flagler was wealthy. How wealthy was he? So wealthy that he built his own railroad to bring wealthy patrons to his hotels. Now that’s wealthy. Guests had to agree to rent their rooms in the hotels for the entire season, thus assuring that Flagler’s hotels would be full of people who could afford to take a summer off and live in a hotel. The only exceptions to that rule were U.S. presidents, six of whom were Mr. Flagler’s guests. The presidents still had to pay for their rooms. The last chief executive to stay there was Lyndon Johnson in 1966. The museum’s grounds and buildings were beautifully maintained. Two two-story pillars flanked the sidewalk leading to the front door. The red tile roof reminded me of buildings I’d seen in Italy. Across the street was another Flagler property, the Ponce de Leon, that was, if anything, ritzier and more exclusive than the Alcazar. This one, too, was flanked by two towers that had been built to hold enormous water tanks to keep guests and the hotel kitchen supplied.