Hotel George Washington (Jacksonville)

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A 1947 postcard advertising the Hotel George Washington.

The Hotel George Washington, on the corner of Adams and Julia Streets in Jacksonville, Florida, was a 15-story luxury hotel that was in operation from 1926 to 1971. In its later years, it was one of only two luxury hotels in the downtown area.[1] By the 1960s, it was the only five-star hotel in the area after the demise of the Hotel Roosevelt.

History[edit]

On Armistice Day 1925, local businessman Robert Kloeppel announced to crowds in downtown Jacksonville that a luxury hotel would be built. The local firm of Marsh and Saxelbye served as architects. Other investors built the Hotel Roosevelt (then called the Carling Hotel) to compete with Kloeppel, and both hotels were constructed throughout 1926. On December 15, the George Washington was complete. The mayor at the time, John Alsop, along with the current and former Florida governor, were on hand for ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Radios were installed in every one of the 350 rooms so visitors could listen to opening-day festivities, broadcast by radio station WJAX. [1] Kloeppel spent $1.5 million of his own money to construct the hotel. The "Hotel George Washington" sign, built on the rooftop, was the first neon sign in Jacksonville.

The Hotel George Washington, in its heyday, was the center of cultural activities in Jacksonville. The George Washington Auditorium, built in 1941, was the biggest concert hall in town at the time (replacing the Duval County Armory), big enough for classical music events and cotillion balls. The Hotel housed a steak house, a cocktail lounge, a dance hall called the Rainbow Room, a Rexall drugstore and a barber shop. Charles Lindbergh stayed at the George Washington while visiting Jacksonville.

The Beatles[edit]

The Beatles were scheduled to stay there, but due to a mix-up regarding hotel occupancy, they were denied rooms. On September 11, 1964, the Beatles flew from Montreal to Jacksonville, Florida, in a trip that had been delayed by recent and extensive hurricane damage along the Florida coast, affecting the Jacksonville area. When attempting their arrival into Jacksonville, the Beatles were detoured to Key West, and were booked into the Key Wester Motel. It was then learned that the Hotel George Washington in Jacksonville would be unable to provide them with rooms at the last second.

Not allowing the difficulties of their arrival and their stay to stop them, the Beatles still appeared for the press conference at the Hotel George Washington, and their concert at the Gator Bowl. With civil rights being a heated issue in America in 1964, the Beatles had refused to accept the booking at the Gator Bowl until they received assurance that the audience would not be segregated by race. While eating with the press, Ringo stated, "We usually eat in the room, but seeing the hotel's got no room for us, we have to eat here." Due to the damage from Hurricane Dora, approximately one quarter of the people who had already purchased tickets were unable to attend the concert.[2]

Closure[edit]

In 1964, most of the businesses which operated from the Roosevelt's ground floor moved into the George Washington. Despite the new infusion of business, behind-the-scenes turnover caused the George Washington to fall into disrepair. In 1963, original owner Robert Kloeppel sold the George Washington to dog track magnate Bill Johnston (businessman)[disambiguation needed], who in turn sold the hotel to other investors in 1969.

After 1969, one by one, the businesses inside the ground floor went out of business. The hotel was closed in 1971 and torn down in 1973. Currently, the site is occupied by the new federal court building in downtown Jacksonville.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "George Washington Hotel". Emporis.com. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ 'Twas a grand time for a grand hotel, Bill Foley for The Florida Times-Union; November 14, 1998; accessed February 8, 2006.
  2. ^ Fan Recalls Beatles Invasion of Jacksonville, Deanna Fene for First Coast News (WTLV/WJXX; February 10, 2004; accessed May 27, 2007.