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10 Facts You Should Know About the Ponce

Apr 4, 2013
by Staff

In 2013, Flagler College marks the 125th anniversary of this National Historic Landmark with special tours, community events and programs that commemorate this historic building, and the legacy of Henry Flagler. Here are ten things you should know about the centerpiece of Flagler College

1. Tiffany Stained Glass – Louis Comfort Tiffany was commissioned to design the interior of the Ponce at the beginning of his career. He designed 79 stained glass windows throughout the Ponce — the world’s largest collection of Tiffany windows in their original location.

2. Martin Johnson Heade and other artists – On the northern end of the Ponce, Henry Flagler constructed studios for noted artists to work during the three-month winter season the hotel was open. The most famous was Martin Johnson Heade, whose work can now be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the White House.

3. Architecture and architects – Ponce architects John Carrere and Thomas Hastings led one of America’s leading architectural firms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The two architects established themselves in St. Augustine with their Spanish Renaissance Revival style and would go on to design the Senate and House office buildings in Washington D.C., the New York Public Library and the approaches and architectural work for the Manhattan Bridge.

4. Construction – The Ponce is no ordinary structure, and while it is noted for its Spanish Renaissance architecture, its construction is just as unique thanks to the innovative decision to build with cast concrete — a mixture of Portland cement, sand and locally quarried coquina. The hotel was the first large, multi-story building constructed of concrete in the United States, and more than 100,000 barrels of cement were used in its construction.

5. Henry Flagler – Flagler was co-founder of the Standard Oil Company with John D. Rockefeller. The industrialist, oil magnate, land developer and railroad pioneer has also been called the father of Florida tourism thanks to his resort hotels, the Florida East Coast Railway and many philanthropic efforts. He is credited with helping to develop much of the east coast of Florida from St. Augustine to Miami, Palm Beach and even Key West.

6. Edison and electricity – Also unique to the Ponce was the use of electricity in the hotel, employing Edison Electric Light Co. dynamos. Four boilers fed by eight tons of coal a day produced the steam needed to drive the direct-current dynamos that lit up the Ponce, which featured more than 4,000 light bulbs, and was one of the first hotels in Florida to have power.

7. Famous visitors – Over nearly eight decades as a hotel, the Ponce would welcome a host of distinguished guests, among them three U.S. presidents and a host of other notable visitors like Will Rogers and Gary Cooper.

8. The Solarium – Once a grand, sunlit gathering space overlooking St. Augustine and the bayfront, the domed Solarium on the fourth floor of the Ponce has been closed off for nearly 40 years. But now the Solarium is getting a second chance as the college has started a $2 million renovation of the gorgeous domed area above the Rotunda.

9. Artistry of the Ponce – George W. Maynard painted many of the murals throughout the Ponce, including murals of exploration in the rotunda. A famous muralist, he later replicated these images in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Italian painter Virgilio Tojetti was responsible for the Flagler Room’s ceiling canvases.

10. Recast as a college – When the fate of the once grand hotel was in doubt in 1967, Flagler Systems president Lawrence Lewis Jr. announced that the Ponce would become home to a private liberal arts college. Flagler College was founded in 1968, first as an all-women’s school. Today, Flagler has an enrollment of about 2,500 students, and is regularly featured in U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review.

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