Wednesday, February 13, 2019

St. Augustine Road Scholar Trip - Flagler Day

Day 4, January 17th, 2019

After breakfast and Ruth's usual announcements the morning speaker was Mary Harkness Flagler - known today as Margaret Kaler. Margret is a "Tale Teller of St. Augustine" and as the first Mary Flagler, she told us colorful stories about the life and times of her dear departed husband Henry Flagler

I know this era is way past the SCA pre17th century time period, but history and its material culture are ever fascinating. A few items like those you see here have found their way to my living room showcase. Family heirlooms and personal collectibles.

Henry Morrison Flagler (1830 – 1913) was an American industrialist and a founder of Standard Oil. Through his swanky Florida hotels and their connecting railway, he developed Florida's Atlantic coast.

We then boarded our tour bus for the Lightner Museum with its rich Gilded age exhibits and history, housed in the former Alcazar Hotel built in 1888 by Flagler.

So many fascinating, unique, ostentatious items for you to see. 

Whole rooms restored.

Our docent-led tour ended with a view of the former Alcazar Hotel's swimming pool with its three-story-high ceiling.

View across the pool area.

Today you can dine seated on the floor of the former swimming pool as we did.

I was lucky to have a little free time at the Lightner to photograph more exhibits. I wanted to see their brilliant cut glass exhibit because I have a dozen pieces myself. I had never seen so many sparkling glass items in one place. My picture doesn't do it justice.

I saw those lovely items but when I turned to leave I was astounded to see that many more on another display. Unbelievable to me.

So unbelievable I walked up a floor to get this overhead photo including both displays.

I also ran across this huge lampworked glass item - one of two actually. This photo I took for my glassworking enthusiasts in Calontir.

I took a picture of the Lightner beer stein collection. Another family interest.

And a snap of this odd handmade hooked rug now a wall hanging. Someone had an attitude to actually design and hook this message. 

If you can't see all the letters the rug reads: 
Inlaws are rodents in human guiseWho eat me out of cakes & piesOer hill & vale & rivers & rutsThey gather for dinnerI hate their guts

You may be thinking "that's a lot of pictures of things". And it is. Realize I haven't posted them all and I didn't take all I could. The Lightner Museum is an imposing immense material culture treasure trove. A delight for someone like me who grew up with a few similar items in my house.

View from the Lightner Museum across to Flagler College

After our delicious lunch at the Lightner's Cafe Alcazar - there was no bad food on this trip - we walked a few blocks to the Memorial Presbyterian Church

The church's present sanctuary was given and dedicated by Flagler in 1890 as a memorial to his daughter Jenny Louise Benedict who died from childbirth complications. Flagler and many of his family are entombed in the family mausoleum at the church.

The original church - our docent told us - served more needs within the community than religious service. During the Civil War, the Union army used the building for military purposes resuming weekly services after the war.

She explained the beautifully carved lectern-bell's purpose was to enhance the speaker's volume. It kept the sound closer to the listeners and preventing it flying up to the high vaulted ceiling.

After the church, we walked back to Flager College. On the way, I spotted this cool white bird freely walking on the shrubs unafraid of the people nearby. Wish I knew what it was.

The college once was Flagler's first luxury hotel the Ponce de Leon Hotel. He built it in 1888 in a Spanish Renaissance architectural style - a Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance elements blend heavy in ornamentation and ostentation.

The entrance garden is lushly green and gorgeous.

The inside is as gilded as the Golden Age comes.

Gilded entrance ceiling.

Our docent explained that back in the day when people checked in the hotel Gentlemen went to pay and Ladies retired to this resplendent salon to relax and refresh. The men paid the bills after all.

Clothing and menus from the day.

Road Scholars in the Flagler College dining hall.

Next, we went to see where the Flagler students and bygone guests dined.

More gilding, but note the heraldic arms on the ceiling over the windows. 

The ceiling in the next hall is just as ornamentally amazing.

The Hotel Ponce de Leon served eighty years as a luxury resort hotel and Florida tourist mecca. Its role was impressive then. Today this gorgeous place is a college and heritage tourism site continuing its impact on our nation daily.

We caught our ride back to the hotel to rest a bit before another wonderful evening meal at La Cocina International Restaurant. We ate there on our first evening and I anticipated another of their savory meals with relish. It was our tour's last evening meal in St. Augustine together.

Related Prior Post:
Road Scholar Trip To St. Augustine Parts 1 2, and 3

External Related Sources:
General Research Resources
Hotel Ponce de Leon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Flagler's Gilded Age Palace

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Road Scholar Trip To St. Augustine Part 3

Day 3: Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

After breakfast, this day began with Dr. Ann Masters interpreting the voices and people of old St. Augustine by her poetry and her talk "Floridanos, Minorcans and Cattle Whip Crackers". She described each group and how they lived lives in such close proximity that they knew each other and their ways. She revealed and then dispelled their cultural myths finishing with the cultural drift found through their marriages. Their lives overlapped to become the heritage roots of St. Augustine today.

Next, we boarded a tour bus for the Fountain of Youth. Not the Harry Potter version. This one is an archeological park located on the original site of the Nation’s oldest city and the area first explored by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513.

On our arrival, we met Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles - known today as James Bullock - who was our walking-tour guide. Bullock is known in Florida for his talk called "Many Flags/Many Colors". As Menendez, he told us about his life and his experiences. 

Menéndez's crew sighted land on August 28th, 1565, the feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo. That was 55 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, and 42 years before Jamestown. They landed shortly after founding the settlement they named San Agustín (Saint Augustine) in the former Timucua village of Seloy. The location of the settlement was chosen for its defensibility and proximity to the freshwater artesian spring, The Fountain of Youth. 

If you're in the SCA and looking for a persona connected to the New World you could be a Menéndez's crewmember or a person from San Agustin. Life would be hard for your persona and you probably wouldn't be noble but you'd explore and learn about our early history.

To begin our visit we learned about the water and we each drank from Ponce de Leon's still flowing Fountain

We passed by many exhibits including this Timucuan village where we again saw Aimee Nichols who earlier gave us our first talk on "St. Augustine Before the Europeans' Arrival"

 "This place marks the site of an ancient Indian village called Seloy in the sixteenth century. Archeologists believe after making excavations on the ground that Indians had lived on this site for centuries before Ponce de Leon landed in this vicinity in 1513" as the plaque says.

At every turn, we saw peafowl, both colorful and white. I was fortunate to find this one showing off in full array.

Black Smith Exhibit

We continued our walk along beautifully tended paths to see other exhibits.

Giant clay "barrels" used to collect rain.

Although - except for the gift shop -this is where we ended the tour. It is where a chapter of New World history began. 

After the Fountain of Youth, we had the afternoon on our own. We could stay in the park or take the tour bus back to the historic district. I chose to take the bus to find a local coffee shop and eat a ginger cake or two and sip smooth coffee.

I then wound my way to the Villa Zorayda house and museum built by Franklin Smith in 1883 as a winter residence. It was designed as a 1/10th scale portion of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, a Moorish castle.

This tour was separate from the Road Scholar offerings and was guided by a recorder you wore. While you're not supposed to take pictures I broke the rule to show you I was there. Be sure to look at this Zoryada Museum link for more awesome photos. The place is a treasure trove of Smith's unique collecting interests.

I then went for a tasting-tour of Whetstone Chocolates of St. Augustine.  It was more than eating chocolate. You learned the difference between chocolate types and how they are grown and made. You also discover how they pick out and combine the flavor and texture influencers. Trade secrets were revealed if you listened carefully

And yes this tour also ended in the gift shop where I bought what is suppose to be "gifts" for my family. Maybe.

I met the bus at 4:00 PM at Constitution Plaza for a ride back to the hotel. I know many on the tour were staying in the area to see the tail end of the Nights of Lights winter light display. 

Me on the beach in January
Omaha weather is 20 degrees colder.

I chose to go to the beach instead because I grew up with a similar light shows around Kansas City's Country Club Plaza. Nothing is more memorable than a night-ride around the Plaza as giant snowflakes fall through the uncountable twinkling lights onto your tongue.

I finished my tour-day with a scrumptious Pink Beetle burger with sprouts and avocado slices at Obi's Fillin' StationI'm a sucker for both sprouts and avocados. Their crispy fries were also the tastiest you can find.

The evening was lights out early for me with more to follow tomorrow.

More to follow. Ta, ta for now.

Related Prior Posts:
Road Scholar Trip To St. Augustine Parts 1 and 2.

Related External Sites:
Ponce de Leon's First Voyage to Florida  
Timeline Of Significant Events At The Fountain Of Youth Archaeological Park
Floridanos, Menorcans, Cattle-Whip Crackers: Poetry of St. Augustine - -ouTube video

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Road Scholar Trip To St. Augustine Continued

Day 2: Tuesday, January 15, 2019 

After breakfast at our hotel the guest speaker, Ken Barrett, helped us learn about fort Castillo de San Marcos and the eras it served. After boarding a tour bus he then led the group around the fort's outside. 

I opted out because we couldn't go inside the fort due to the government's continued shut-down. Instead, three of us enjoyed delightful conversation and coffee with Ruth our tour leader. 

We also had time to browse nearby streets before we met everyone for lunch at MoJo's Old City BBQ. MoJos is known in northern Florida for its blues music, local art, and its in-house smoked meats. It didn't disappoint!

After lunch, we had free time to walk around St. George St. 

In addition to the many shops along the way, I found St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine. A jewel box of delight.


And Vestments within glass cases.

Then we gathered for another house tour. This time of the Pena-Peck House and garden.

The tour ended in its gift shop owned by the Women's Exchange. Their members give the docent tours and sell their handmade crafts to support the Peña-Peck House Museum, to give women handcrafters a place to sell their creations, and to provide scholarships for deserving women returning to school for new careers.

After the Pena-Peck House tour, the bus picked us up and took us back to our hotel for rest and dinner. 

In the evening Dr. Roger Smith talked to us about the British Period of St. Augustine history. He revealed fascinating stories about Florida’s significant Revolutionary War contributions and interesting historical details from his book series that includes  “The 14th Colony: George Washington’s Planned Invasions of East Florida” and “Hope of Freedom: Southern Blacks and the American Revolution.”

Another busy day but thankfully more relaxed. This day changed forever my American history viewpoint. That was done by Dr. Smith's engaging history talk.

Related Prior Post:
Road Scholar Trip To St. Augustine And Photos - Part 1

Related External Website:
List of the oldest buildings in Florida
British Period of St. Augustine History