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A place of inspiration
History is alive on the streets of St. Augustine
St. Augustine Florida is the Nation’s oldest continually inhabited European founded city, originally established in 1565 by Spanish admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles. Under the command of King Phillip II of Spain, Menendez was driven to reach Florida before additional French fleets, and to overturn any already established settlements the French had made in Northeast Florida. He served as Florida’s first Governor from 1565 to 1574 before he was appointed as governor of Cuba. The city of Saint Augustine, founded as San Agustin, was the first successful Spanish settlement and became the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years. As Spain fought to expand their colonies in Florida, St. Augustine became the setting for many battles between the French and existing groups of Native Americans. Florida was handed over to the United States by Spain in 1819, and it officially gained its statehood in 1845.
In the 1880’s Standard Oil’s co-founder Henry M. Flagler traveled to St. Augustine and realized the potential the town had to attract tourists. Flagler knew with an established transportation system and uniquely designed hotels, this small town could become a resort to upper class northerners. St. Augustine became the headquarters for the Florida East Coast Railway. With the transportation the railway provided paired with the breathtaking Spanish Revival style hotels, the city soon became the destination that Flagler envisioned it to be. One of the most well-known of Flagler’s hotels, the Ponce De Leon Hotel, was one of the only hotels in the area to survive the Great Depression. It is now used as a part of Flagler College’s campus. Flagler’s Alcazar Hotel also opened to the public in 1888, gained popularity due to its casino and having the largest indoor pool of its time. The Alcazar has since been converted into the Lightner Museum, known as “a collection of collections”.
The Casablanca Inn, originally named The Matanzas Hotel, was constructed in 1914 by the architect known as Mr. Butler. The 2-story Mediterranean Revival style building and its carriage house are located on the Matanzas Bay; the same bay Pedro Menendez had traveled through to found the city of St. Augustine centuries prior. The Casablanca Inn played a major role during the prohibition era of the 1920’s. The Inn’s original operator Ms. Bradshaw helped bootleggers smuggle alcohol into the bay. On nights when ships were scheduled to bring in their illegal cargo, Ms. Bradshaw would take a lantern up to the second story window and wave it back and forth to notify the bootlegger’s ships that no government officials or law enforcement were in the area. It is said that she was greatly compensated for helping facilitate these imports.
Just a few years later, the Inn changed hands and officially became The Casablanca Inn. Today the Inn offers 22 luxurious rooms and suites which have all been updated with modern amenities without compromising its original charm and history. It has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Its close proximity to the bay and historic St. George Street makes it the ideal location for visitors. St. Augustine’s rich history is still very alive today in the cobblestone streets, beautifully preserved Victorian era style homes, and 18th and 19th century Spanish architecture. The old city continues to attract thousands of tourists from all over the world each year.