The Lightner Museum, originally the Alcazar Hotel, with a statue of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés on the ground.
|Location||75 King Street
St. Augustine, Florida
|Built||1887 (museum opened 1948)|
|Architect||Carrère and Hastings|
|Architectural style||Spanish Renaissance Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||71001013|
|Added to NRHP||February 24, 1971|
The Lightner Museum is a museum of antiquities, mostly American Gilded Age pieces, housed within the historic Hotel Alcazar building in downtown St. Augustine. This 1887 Spanish Renaissance Revival style building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The museum occupies three floors of the former Hotel Alcazar, commissioned by Henry M. Flagler to appeal to wealthy tourists who traveled south for the winter on his railroad, the Florida East Coast Railway.
- Fort Mose
The Hotel Alcazar site had previously been the bed of Maria Sanchez Creek, and to provide fill dirt to raise the creek bed, Flagler purchased a farm north of town and had his crews dig it up and move the earth downtown. The farm was the site of the first Fort Mose, the pioneer free black settlement dating back to 1738 that was the northern defense of St. Augustine and that is today recognized as a National Historic Landmark. Many of the archaeological remains of this first Fort Mose (which had been destroyed in 1740) are located underneath what is today the Lightner Museum and St. Augustine City Hall.
The hotel was designed by New York City architects Carrère and Hastings, in the Spanish Renaissance Revival style. The firm also designed the Ponce de León Hotel across the street, now part of the campus of Flagler College. Both structures are notable for being among the earliest examples of poured concrete buildings in the world. These architects later designed the New York Public Library in New York City and the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.
The hotel had a steam room, massage parlor, sulfur baths, gymnasium, a three-storey ballroom, and the world's largest indoor swimming pool; however, after years as an elegant winter resort for wealthy patrons, the hotel closed in 1932. After purchasing the building to house his extensive collection of Victorian Era pieces in 1947, Chicago publisher Otto C. Lightner turned it over to the city of St. Augustine.
The museum is housed in the former health facilities of the hotel, including the spa and the Turkish bath, in addition to its three-storey ballroom.
The first floor of the museum houses a Victorian village, with shop fronts representing emporia selling period wares; a Victorian Science and Industry Room displays shells, rocks, minerals, and Native American artifacts in beautiful Gilded Age cases, as well as stuffed birds, a small Egyptian mummy, a model steam engine, elaborate examples of Victorian glassblowing, a golden elephant bearing the world on its back, and a shrunken head. Moreover, the first floor contains a music room, filled with mechanized musical instruments—including player pianos, reproducing pianos, orchestrions, and others—dating from the 1870s through the 1920s.
The second floor contains examples of cut glass, Victorian art glass and stained glass work from Louis Comfort Tiffany's studio. The third floor, in the ballroom's upper balcony, exhibits paintings, sculptures, and furniture, including a grande escritoire created for Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother and King of Holland between 1806 and 1810. The Ballroom Gallery has oil paintings by Paul Trouillebert (Cleopatra & the Dying Messenger), Léon Comerre (Maid of Honor), and Albert Bierstadt (In the Yosemite). It also has sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux and Randolph Rogers.
- Ossman, Laurie; Ewing, Heather (2011). Carrère and Hastings, The Masterworks. Rizzoli USA. ISBN 9780847835645.
- Media related to Lightner Museum at Wikimedia Commons
- Official website
- "Florida's Smithsonian"
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. FL-168, "Alcazar Hotel, 75 King Street, Saint Augustine, St. Johns County, Florida", 8 photos, 6 data pages, 1 photo caption page