On one of the ubiquitous ghost tours in this historic city, my fellow journalists are imagining that their photos reveal evidence of dead dogs lurking by woodstoves, phantasmal children wandering in the dark park. I see Henry Flagler. It’s not hard to imagine he’s still here in
St. Augustine since the
entire city is full of his accomplishments.
Nothing stood in the way of his vision.
When he admired a building, he either bought it or imitated its
architecture. He built jails and
churches so he could dictate their location.
In his grandiosity he built a Venetian Renaissance church in the memory
of a deceased daughter, a magnificent hotel to honor his wife. He also spawned a legacy of entrepreneurism
that still fuels this city.
Flagler invited industrialists to enjoyFlagler might go on to tell about his divorce from his second wife. She was in a mental institution but divorcing her was illegal in
St. Augustine’s warm
climate, and built a railroad to get them there. People like John D. Rockefeller, with whom
Flagler started Standard Oil, broke bread with railroad tycoons, church and
elected leaders. I can imagine him
hosting a lavish celebration today in the newly remodeled Treasury on the Plaza,
an event space made from a 1928 bank. The
grandeur of the building is reminiscent of the Casa
and architecture. The host might tell the story of building the
world’s largest swimming pool. “I was
worth $8 million when I got here. I
wanted a swimming pool. But no one would
use it because it smelled like sulfur. So I invited a bunch of Northern doctors
down. Gave them free vacations. Just
swim everyday I said. Then everyone swam.”
The deep end of that same pool is now Café Alcazar. Joseph Finnegan, the innkeeper at the Flagler College is also a problem solver. Opened in 1791, his bed and breakfast is the oldest
continually used inn in St. Francis
oldest city. Its unique rooms,
courtyard, swimming pool and dining room are charming and exceedingly well
appointed. But it didn’t have a beach so the owners developed some property on
the coast nearby and now guests can enjoy both when they stay at either: breakfast or parking in town, beach chairs
and towels at the beach.
On the table would be delights from the city’s best chefs: the deconstructed caprese salad from Chef Jean-Stephane Poinard of Bistro de Leon with its beautiful peeled love apple stuffed with mozzarella mousse, datil pepper sauces from Hot Shot bakery, pasta from Nona’s Trattoria, exotic olive oils from The Ancient Olive and desserts from French chocolatier at Claude’s Chocolates. The guests might plan a further exploration of the city’s culinary delights on The Tasting Tour where Flagler would feel right at home climbing into the horse and buggy to discover hidden dining gems.
Flagler and his guests would proudly toast eachother’s accomplishments.
Augustine is now one of the country’s most popular
wedding destinations, girl’s get-aways and one of the top 5 places in the world
for Christmas lights according to National Geographic Magazine. I imagine the party winding down, the guests
ambling over cobblestone streets past their host’s magnificent namesake Flagler College,
back to the . They’d cap off the evening with one of Chef
Janice Leary’s nightly treats, a bit of sherry and revel in the enduring virtues
of St. Francis Inn St. Augustine.
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more photos are here: St. Augustine photos