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Embed code for: 2 Casa Monica Hotel Historical Site Analysis - Sandy Asher
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Casa Monica Hotel St. Augustine, FL Historical Site Analysis By Sandy Asher
Current Owner – Richard C. Kessler, President and CEO of The Kessler Enterprise, Inc. Grand Theme Hotels Part of The Kessler Hotel Group and Marriott International, Inc. – The Autograph Collection
The hotel address - 98 Cordova Street, St. Augustine, St. John’s County, Florida
Located on the southeast corner of King & Cordova Streets
Construction Year: Phase One 1887: Franklin Smith’s Casa Monica (Cordova Hotel) began construction in 1886. This first installment of the hotel opened in January 1887. It was a small version of what would later come. This section abutted the Lyon Building on the west side. Both buildings were made of poured concrete and appeared to be one continuous structure. This opening was more of a precursor to the official grand Casa Monica opening in 1888. At the end of the winter season in April 1887, Smith closed the hotel and immediately dismantled the Sunnyside Hotel next to the Casa Monica and moved it to West King Street. Other buildings on the west side of the property were cleared to make way for the remaining sections of the Casa Monica.Phase Two 1888: Franklin Smith was in competition with Henry Flagler to finish his hotel before Flagler opened his Ponce de Leon Hotel. This may have resulted in Smith rushing the completion of the Casa Monica to the detriment of the final product resulting in shoddy workmanship. The Casa Monica opened on January 17, 1888 but it was reported that at the end of the season, much of the interior had to be ripped out and redone.
Original Use: The original intent of the fully completed building was a 200-room free-standing hotel. The first floor interior had many rooms arranged for the pleasure of the guests, including the Puerto Del Sol (sun parlor), a drawing room and some private dining rooms. Three hundred guests could be seated at one time in the main dining hall. There were 200 guest rooms with closets, gas lighting, steam heat and call bells to request service. There were several staircases as well as an elevator. There was one bath on each floor and some suites included private baths. In addition there were hot and cold sulphur baths from an artesian well . A primitive fire escapes system consisted of metal rings with long ropes attached to the walls under the windows. In addition, the first floor included variety shops such as El Unico tobacco products and Asaboonian and Simonian Curiosity Shop; H.W. Davis Clothing; Smith & Woodman Druggists; W.J. Henry Bicyclists; and Ward Foster’s Book Shop.
Current Use: In December 1999 the newly renovated Casa Monica opened as a luxury resort hotel and continues to operate today.
Other Use: include years to and from
1911 – 1927 converted to an elegant apartment house. There were two apartments on each floor, containing from two to ten rooms each with private baths.
1927 - 1932 turned into low-budget hotel
1932 – 1961 the Great Depression forced the hotel to close (some of the small shops remained open)
1961 - 1992 purchased for St. John’s County Courthouse. After extensive remodeling, the court house was dedicated in May 1968. Early 1990’s the county courthouse moved to another location.
Moves: There were no moves. The structure stands on its original site.
Alterations were made to the building indicate the dates and nature of alterations
Henry Flagler took over the Casa Monica in mid-April 1888 and undertook extensive remodeling of the hotel’s interior. In July 1888 he renamed it the Cordova. As a part of the remodel, the entrance was moved to the west side facing the Alameda, bringing the focus of all three of Flagler’s hotels ( Ponce de Leon, Alcazar & Cordova) onto the same garden. The small freestanding kitchen behind the hotel was demolished and replaced by a larger, better equipped kitchen. The inferior quality materials in the interior had to be removed – pine flooring was ripped up and replaced with tile and pine paneling was removed and replaced with plaster. New furniture was brought in but the decorating remained dark and overdone. Apparently, Flagler did not consider this a complete refurbishing and over time made further changes. However, it was ready to open for the 1889 tourist season.
Current main entrance facing Cordova St.
Remnants of the old connecting bridge
Original main entrance
facing King St.
Alterations were made to the building ( include the dates and nature of alterations)
In 1892 soft water was piped in from Henry Flagler’s own waterworks located several miles outside of town, replacing the unpleasant sulfur water.
In 1902 a covered walkway was erected over Cordova Street on the second floor between the Alcazar and Cordova hotels. The Cordova was said to have lost its independent identity at this point and became know as the “Alcazar Annex.” The walkway was helpful to the Alcazar staff who were now serving a combined total of over 400 guests. They were able to eliminate the need for a second front desk. It also allowed the guests to share amenities such as the Alcazar’s casino, pool and shops. The bridge was removed in July 1947.
In 1903 Flagler refurbished 150 of the upper story rooms, adding new furniture, enlarging some of the rooms and added bathrooms.
In 1911 major renovations were made were made to the ground floor foyer and eighty-five guest rooms. This included adding thirty-five bathrooms with modern plumbing fixtures. The original gas space heaters were replaced . An elevator was also added.
In the 1960’s the 3-story coquina arcade was replaced with classical columns
In 1962 the Cordova was sold for the St. John’s County Courthouse.
In 1968 a one-story addition was added to the south side of the building. It has no ornamentation and contains a variety of windows and doors.
1968 most of the hotel interior was gutted back to the concrete walls to accommodate St. John’s County Courthouse’s modern government offices. The exterior grays walls were plastered and painted. Wood floors were removed and replaced with terrazzo. Plaster and lathe walls and ceilings were removed and replaced with dry wall. Many of the ceilings were lowered to house mechanical systems and finished with acoustical tile. Hotels rooms were converted to offices resulting in the removal of many internal partitions and floor systems in several sections of the upper floors were removed to create courtrooms.
1997 the Cordova underwent a major $17 million renovation and again became the Casa Monica Hotel –
reconfigured guest rooms to 138 rooms including 14 suites .
1500 sq. foot conference space
Restaurant, market, lounge, fitness center
Additions: no or yes; if so, indicate dates and nature of additions
Architect – Franklin W. Smith. He was interested in reproducing architecture of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. His Casa Monica was described as a Moorish Revival structure.
Casa Monica and Lyon Building -http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00074227/00002 Material Information Title: St. Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida, 1888 Series Title: Insurance maps of St. Augustine, Florida Physical Description: Map Creator: Sanborn Map Company
Casa Monica Architectural Features
Balconies and Balconetts (Seville kneeling balconies allowed the faithful to kneel during religious processions), massive columns, towers with battlements adorn the Casa Monica /Cordova Hotel.
The original 1888 arched front entrance faced King Street.
During Flagler’s 1889 renovation, the front entrance was relocated, facing Cordova Street and has remained facing west with a view of the Hotel Alvarez Almeda in the foreground
The Casa Monica architect and builder, Franklin W. Smith was described as a wealthy, upper class Boston capitalist and philanthropist who had an impressive “resume”. He was one of the founders of the YMCA, he traveled extensively throughout the world and was an amateur architect. He was an acquaintance and business partner of Henry M. Flagler and also had a vision to develop St. Augustine albeit in a somewhat different fashion. The two agreed on a deal to build a $200,000 hotel, Smith putting up $50,000 and Flagler as the silent partner provided $150,000. Smith along with Dr. Andrew Anderson were also responsible for obtaining the properties necessary to build the Casa Monica and other Flagler hotels. In exchange for his 1/6th interest in a portion of the Flagler land in the area, Smith got the piece of property which became the site of his Casa Monica. Unfortunately, the partnership quickly proved unworkable due to the fact that Smith wasn’t able to come up with his share of the money. Historians also suspect that these two strong-willed men were used to getting their own way and were not able to see eye to eye and work comfortably together. Only three months after opening, Smith sold his hotel to Henry Flagler in April 1888. Flagler renamed it the Cordova Hotel. It then became, along with the Alcazar and Ponce de Leon, the beginnings of Henry Flagler’s resort empire in Florida. The Cordova was permanently closed in the 1930’s due to the Great Depression.
The Florida East Coast Hotel Company ( one of Flagler’s companies) sold the property to St. Johns County in the 1962.
In 1997 it was purchased by Richard C. Kessler and, after extensive renovations, it was opened as the new Casa Monica Luxury Hotel.
Franklin W. Smith
Henry M. Flagler
1. Style – Moorish Revival Style (eclectic style combining both Spanish and Moorish influences)
2. Exterior Plan – The building was constructed of very dense mix of concrete, composed of Portland cement and sand dredged from the Matanzas Bay bottom. This was a new departure from the norm since he did not have access to the coquina quarries or sand mixed with shells used in the nearby Flagler buildings. This all-sand mixture resulted in a smoother, more uniform appearance and its density made it extremely strong. The face of the building appeared to be one solid mass, but actually had been built as several separate units closely abutting each other. On the western side it abuts with the Lyon Building.
3. Number of Stories – 4-stories with 3/5-story and 2/6 story towers.
4. Exterior Fabrics – poured concrete (it has since been refinished with smooth stucco and painted)
5. Roof Type(s) – the roof is a flat, built out type with crenelated and arcaded parapets. It is broken by the towers and other secondary roof structures
6. Roof Material(s) – built up; clay tiles
7. Windows (types, materials, etc.) – DHS metal 6/6, 2/2, fixed multi-pane. The upper floors contain a variety of window openings. The King Street (north) façade has display windows and entrances across the front of the first floor.
8. Distinguishing Architectural Features (exterior or interior ornaments) .
The Casa Monica is a U-shaped building with five towers, some battlemented, some with hip roofs. A crenelated round tower projects about mid-way. The remaining towers are square in plan with hip roofs.
There are balconies/balconetts with stylized cast-iron railings, balconies with turned spindle posts, jig-sawn brackets under the eaves of the tower, decorative tile work, and an engaged column with a spiral tower at the northwest corner. ( The wrought iron balconetts, called in Seville “kneeling balconies”, allowed the faithful to kneel during religious processions).
The building’s west facade featured an intricate tracery of concrete ornamentation.
A crenalated square tower projects about midway on the west side and the remaining towers are also square but have hip roofs.
Tiles imported from Valencia, Spain were set in panels in some of the exterior walls. Unfortunately, this was changed during the courthouse renovations.
Distinguishing Architectural Features (exterior or interior ornaments) .
The original entrance on the north façade faced King Street and featured a large archway that led into the main parlor. In 1888 Flagler changed this area into a store front. In later years it became the entrance to the parking garage.
The new main entrance then faced Cordova Street(west) and contains five separated doors and two large spiral columns on each side of the entrance.
The glass –roofed “Plaza del Sol” was the most significant feature of the original interior. This was a glass-covered interior portion of the hotel functioning as a lobby area, taking advantage of Florida’s sunny climate.
The floorplan was described as wandering about, creating a warren of interesting interiors.
No two rooms were the same.
9. Ancillary Features or Outbuildings (record outbuildings, major landscape features) – In 1911 ceramic clay paving tiles with a double-bulls-eye pattern molded in their surface replaced wooden walkways around the Flagler hotels.
10. Number of Chimneys (include chimney materials) – Two chimneys appear in old photos. In speaking with the current engineering staff of the Casa Monica, they could not confirm this or provide additional information.
11. Structural System – masonry, concrete cast-in-place
12. Foundation Types and (13.) Foundation Materials – continuous poured concrete foundation layed out in a u-shaped footprint supports the exterior walls which are also poured concrete.
14. Main Entrance (stylistic details)
The original entrance on the north façade featured a large archway that led into the main parlor.
The new main entrance on the west contains five separated doors and two enormous spiral columns on each side of the entrance
15. Porch Descriptions (types, locations, roof types, etc.) – N/A
16. Condition (Excellent, Good, Fair, Deteriorated or Ruinous) - good
17. Narrative Description of Condition – Considering the $17 million renovations that were done in 1997 and it remains a highly rated luxury hotel, I would say that it has been well maintained and in good condition.
18. Archaeological Remains – N/A
Identify primary sources that you utilized in completing this site form
Mr. Flagler’s St. Augustine, Thomas Graham
Identify secondary sources that you utilized in completing this site form
Flagler’s St. Augustine Hotels, Thomas Graham
Site visit to modern day Casa Monica Hotel… staff and engineering department.
Identify any additional archives or museum access you used in the completion of this form
Grande Opening, Times Union 12-6-1999, Dana Treen
Florida Archives, Jacksonville Main Library
Viewpoint: A little history on the Casa Monica, St. Augustine Record , Elizabeth K. Oliver, 9-5-2004
Franklin Smith’s use of poured concrete on his beautiful Casa Monica Hotel was perfect for the Florida climate and has survived its sometimes harsh weather, including the most recent Hurricane Matthew. It became the most prominent Moorish Revival Style building associated with the St. Augustine’s Flagler Era. The Casa Monica retains a high level of historic architectural integrity and with its location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling and associations contribute to the significance of the St. Augustine Historic District.
,r, decorative tile work, and an engaged column with a spiral tower at the northwest corner. ( The wrought iron balconetts, called in Seville “kneeling balconies”, allowed the faithful to kneel during religious processions).
The original entrance on the north façade faced King Street and featured a large archway that led into the main parlor. In 1888 Flagler changed this area