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Our Rooms :: Henry Flagler's Verandah

Henry Flagler's Verandah is one of our most popular rooms. Enjoy some "people watching" from your large balcony which overlooks historic Charlotte Street. Linger in front of your electric fireplace or two-person Jacuzzi tub / shower, sipping complimentary wine, and relax your cares away. King-size bed; cable TV; iPad/iPhone-docking station/sleep machine/Clock radio. This room includes on-site assigned parking behind the Inn.

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Henry Morrison Flagler – “An Enterprising Yankee and American Tycoon”

Henry Flagler was a major contributor to the style, art movement, history, architecture, and tourism industry in St. Augustine. His tale is filled with adventure, business speculations, billionaires, and legendary escapades while touching every corner of our City since his arrival in the late 1870’s. His partnership with John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil is a book unto itself, as were his years developing railroads throughout America, primarily in Florida. He was a key figure in the development of what eventually became the Florida East Coast Railway…as well as creating the progressive expansion of Florida’s eastern coast along the Atlantic Ocean.

Born in 1830 in Hopewell, New York, Henry Flagler was known as the ‘father’ of Miami, although his own father was a poor Presbyterian minister. With only an 8th grade education and a few coins jingling in his pocket, his intellect & business insight propelled him into developing a salt mining and production business, then the grain business where he met Rockefeller. By 1872, together they lead the American oil refining industry, producing 10,000 barrels per day.

The railroad tycoon brought his ailing wife from New York to Northeast Florida a few years later and although he found St. Augustine charming, the hotel facilities and transportation systems were inadequate. He recognized Florida’s potential to attract out-of-state visitors and began construction on the 540-room Ponce de Leon Hotel. It opened in 1888, an instant success. (Continuing southward, his legacy included Palm Beach’s Royal Poinciana Hotel, the Breakers Hotel and the Royal Palm Hotel in Miami. By the time Flagler married his third wife Mary Lily Kenan, he built her a wedding present with 55 rooms – Whitehall – their Palm Beach estate that established the Palm Beach social ‘season’ for the wealth of America’s Gilded Age!)

The Daily News-Herald of Jacksonville, January 11, 1888 reported”

The Ponce de Leon Opens. Tourists Gaze in Wonder at the Handsome Structure. At precisely twelve minutes past five this afternoon a special train carrying the passengers of the vestibule train from Jacksonville, arrived in the St. Augustine station, having made the run in fifty-seven minutes. The passengers were brought in two parlor cars…and numbered thirty in all. An almost deafening shout of “Hotel Ponce de Leon” arose from the throats of two or three dozen bus and carriage drivers, and in less than five minutes the party was rolling rapidly down Cordova Street amid clouds of dust, all eager to get a glimpse of the most wonderful inn yet built in the whole world.

The St. Augustine Society Newspaper, The Tatler, described the dining room of the Ponce as:

…the grandest, the most magnificent, indeed persons who have traveled the world over pronounce it the most magnificent of any hotel on earth; its area is ninety by one hundred and fifty feet, and eight hundred persons may dine in it at the same time!

Throughout the Gilded Age of Henry Flagler and the Golden Years of St. Augustine’s tourist trade, each hotel was always filled to capacity during the season. During the heyday of his years, when asked why he chose this area he responded “I believe this State is the easiest place for many men to gain a living. I do not believe anyone else will develop it if I do not.”

On May 23, 1913, a Florida East Coast Railway train pulled into the St. Augustine station, a lone whistle announcing its arrival. While trains across Florida stood still in silent tribute, Henry Flagler’s coffin was lifted from his private rail car. Two black stallions pulled the funeral carriage down a street that Henry Flagler had paved while thousands lined the route in solemn respect. The cortege continued to Memorial Presbyterian Church, the magnificent cathedral he built for his beloved first wife Mary and his daughters Jennie Louise and Margery. He was laid to rest beside them.

We dedicate our Verandah Room to Henry Morrison Flagler!

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