An extraordinary collection that will transport guests back in time. The primary focus of this museum is the period in American history that ran from the Civil War to the stock market crash in 1929, which Mark Twain called the Gilded Age.
The museum resides in the old Alcazar Hotel built as a Resort Hotel by railroad Tycoon Henry Flagler in 1888 in his dream to turn St Augustine into a Southern Riviera. Flagler of course wanted the wealthy East Coast tourists that traveled south for the winter on his railroad to stay at the Alcazar or his other more elaborate hotel the Ponce de Leon which was built in 1885 and which is now part of Flagler College.
Flagler engaged architects John Carrere and Thomas Hastings to help realize his vision, both studied at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. The Ponce de Leon had an Italian Renaissance and Moorish design while the Alcazar was a magnificent Spanish Renaissance Revival building. These hotels were the earliest examples of poured concrete multi-storied buildings in the world. The Alcazar had a casino, elaborate spas and the world’s largest indoor swimming pool that is now an upscale restaurant in the museum.
Otto C Lightner a wealthy newspaper publisher who began collecting when wealthy Chicagoans began selling off their art in the 1930s to pay back taxes, bought the hotel for his collection and opened it as a museum on January 1st 1948. The music room in the museum takes up the whole first floor with instruments, the second floor has a breathtaking collection of Tiffany examples of Victorian art glass and the third floor has over a 20,000 piece collection of sculptures and paintings. There is an incredible collection of watches and toys, Native American artifacts, a shrunken head and even an Egyptian Mummy.
The entire Old Towne St Augustine is showered with Christmas lights for the holidays and the museum is well worth a couple hours of your time off Route 1.
David Garland FL St. Augustine Nov 29, 2022 Arts Museums Then & Now