Flagler College Celebrates 125 Year Legacy

If you’re not familiar with the history of St Augustine, you know Hotel Ponce de Leon only as Flagler College, which is what the building exists as today. Upon walking historic St Augustine, it is one of the most noticed buildings in the area. Its stands taller than any other building and is massive in size. The architecture reflects Spanish Renaissance, most noticed are its dome and its beautiful terra cotta roofing times, along with its extensive collection of stain glass Tiffany windows on one side, which still to this day serves as a dining room as it one did just before the turn of the century.

The hotel, which is now a Liberal Arts College was built and originally owned by Henry Morrison Flagler, co-founder with John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil. Hotel Ponce de Leon was named for Juan Ponce de Leon, the explorer seeking the Fountain of Youth. The hotel officially opened January 10, 1888, for friends of Henry M. Flagler and January 12, 1888 for the general public.

Henry Flagler forever changed the landscape of Florida when he chose St. Augustine as the site for the Hotel Ponce de Leon, the first of his many luxury hotels that would span the entire east coast of Florida.

When Flagler College was founded in 1968, as a memorial to Mr. Flagler, the college became the stewards of this magnificent structure. With financial support from the Flagler and Kenan families, foundations, trustees, and friends of the College, more than 60 million has been invested in restoring, rehabilitating, and removing the former Hotel Ponce de Leon, including the Dining Hall, the Grand Parlor, and the Rotunda. Forty Five years later, we are still committed to maintaining and preserving the beauty of Henry Flagler’s grandest hotel.

In May of 2013, the renovation of the Solarium and rehabilitation of the fourth floor of the Ponce de Leon Hall. When the hotel first opened, the Solarium was a place for hotel guests to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Social engagements, such as teas, were held every season, and the outdoor spaces on the two terraces provided guests with panoramic views of the St. Augustine and the Atlantic Ocean. When the restoration project is complete, the spectacular facility and the entirety of Ponce de Leon Hall will return to full use.

Amazing Facts about the Hotel

– This massive structure took only 2 years to build

– Had 4,100 light bulbs making it one of the largest sources of electricity during the time period and wired by Thomas Edison himself

– 300-400 workmen on site daily during its construction, each tower in the hotel held 8,000 gallons of water! 

Presidential Visits

Grover Cleveland in 1888

Teddy Roosevelt in 1905

Warren G. Hardy in 1922

Flagler College is one of the most visited places in St. Augustine is Flagler College for its Legacy Tour. The Flagler College Legacy tour is conducted twice a day at 10 am or 2 pm during the school year and every hour on the hour from 10 am – 3 pm during off season. The tour is conducted by a student and offers significant history and detail of the building and all its charm; including the grand dining hall where one can catch an up-close glimpse of priceless Tiffany stain glass windows. Be sure to include this in your plans for your upcoming St. Augustine visit. The college and the majority of St. Augustine’s attractions is just steps away from our convenient location.