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Trusted for Preservation

Sep 29, 2014

A multimillion-dollar project to restore the former Hotel Ponce de Leon’s Solarium has been recognized as one of the state’s top historic preservation projects. 

In May, the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation gave Flagler College an award for outstanding achievement for the project that was completed in 2013. 

Along with it, they gave Flagler President William T. Abare Jr. the Evelyn Fortune Bartlett Award, which goes to an individual “whose life exemplifies the guardianship of Florida’s historic properties through philosophy and actions.”

Abare received the award for preserving and maintaining the Ponce, a National Historic Landmark, as well as other historic properties on the St. Augustine campus.

The organization said “his contribution to the ongoing preservation efforts of Flagler College are immense,” and called him “a stalwart supporter of preservation on a statewide level.”

“This is an honor, not just for me, but for the entire College,” Abare said. “This represents our commitment to preserving historic properties, which is part of our mission. We take that mission very seriously.”

The Solarium, once a gathering place in the hotel with dramatic views of St. Augustine, was the last unrestored section of the Ponce. When the college first opened in 1968, the Solarium was used as a library and occasional classroom. Then, after falling into disrepair, it had been closed off to students and visitors for more than 40 years. A $2.5 million restoration of the space was completed in 2013 after Flagler Trustee Delores Lastinger and her husband, Allen, committed a $500,000 challenge gift to launch the project.

The Ponce, the centerpiece of Flagler College, was built as an opulent resort in 1888 by industrialist and railroad tycoon Henry Flagler.

Under Abare, Flagler has spent millions renovating, restoring and preserving the building, as well as 19 other historic college properties. 

Flagler College Professor Emeritus Thomas Graham and History Instructor Leslee Keys were also given Meritorious Achievement honors by the Florida Trust in the category of Preservation Education/Media for their book “Hotel Ponce de Leon: The Architecture & Decoration, Flagler College, St. Augustine.”

Flagler has won a number of awards over the years from the organization, whose mission is to promote the preservation of the architectural, historical and archaeological heritage of Florida through advocacy, education and historic property stewardship. 

In 2013, the college won an Adaptive Use Outstanding Achievement award from the Florida Trust for the transformation of the historic Florida East Coast Railroad General Office Buildings into college dorms. 

In 2008, Flagler’s Molly Wiley Art Building was recognized for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Adaptive Use after the 120-year-old artists’ studios and Edison Electric steam boiler building were transformed into a two-story studio, gallery and office complex. The rehabilitation showcased the original details of the Henry Flagler-era structure, which was used originally by renowned artists such as Martin Johnson Heade.

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