Budget conference: House doubles ask for upgrades at Hotel Ponce de Leon to $35M

Flagler College, Ponce de Leon Hotel, St. Augustine FL, South co
The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and listed as a National Historic Landmark.

House lawmakers have increased the state money they’re seeking for structural remodeling at the historic Hotel Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine to $35 million.

The House originally offered $17.5 million. The Senate hasn’t offered a cent yet but may match the House earmark or make a counteroffer.

The new total House members issued is equal to the sum that Republican Sen. Travis Hutson of Palm Coast and Rep. Cyndi Stevenson of St. Johns County sought in November through matching appropriation requests.

If approved, the funds will go to Flagler College, the school for which the hotel’s original building and grounds have served as a centerpiece since 1968. In turn, the private liberal arts college will pay for the construction of a new roof, chilled water system and complete plumbing overhaul, a modern fire suppression system, new windows and “visitor experience displays.”

Those upgrades are necessary, wrote Flagler College President John Delaney and St. Augustine Beach Commissioner Beth Sweeny, who works as the school’s director of external and government relations, “to preserve the National Historic Landmark building and enhance visitor experience.”

“Without the structural repairs,” they wrote, “hundreds of students will be unable to be housed in the Ponce. Additionally, the repairs allow the Ponce to remain economically viable and open to the public for historic tours and public use.”

Renovations, if fully funded, are to begin in May and conclude in August 2025.

Joseph Mobley of Jacksonville-based The Florentino Group lobbied lawmakers on behalf of the college.

In addition to the state funds, Flagler College is also receiving $55,000 in contributions from “other” sources, the funding requests said.

The Hotel Ponce de Leon — known also simply as the Ponce — is a Spanish Renaissance Revival-style structure built between 1885-1887 by developer and Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler.

It was the first major project of the New York architecture firm Carrère & Hastings, which later built the House and Senate Office Buildings at the U.S. Capitol and the New York Public Library.

Louis Comfort Tiffany, namesake of the world-renowned luxury design house, led the building’s interior design and provided the stained glass windows in the hotel’s dining room. Bernard Maybeck, who later designed the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, among other noteworthy projects, served as the Ponce’s draftsman and designed its 540 guest rooms.

During World War II, the federal government took over Ponce and used it as a Coast Guard training center. The building is considered to be the birthplace of the Coast Guard Reserve.

It closed in 1967 after visitor numbers declined. Eight years later, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2006, it became a National Historic Landmark.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


2 comments

  • Worthless and Shameful florida

    February 27, 2024 at 5:38 am

    As a former St Augustinian, I approve defunding this structure, and all of florida.

    Let us sink into the sand.

  • Rick Whitaker

    February 27, 2024 at 8:46 am

    florida is a hellhole.

Comments are closed.


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