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Newport of the South

Henry Morrison Flagler, who, with John D. Rockefeller, founded the Standard Oil Company, first visited the tiny town of St. Augustine in 1885 while honeymooning with his second wife. His choice proved to be very fortunate for the city. During the trip Flagler decided to make St. Augustine "the Newport of the South": a winter resort for wealthy northern industrialists. And to get his select clientele to Florida, he built the luxurious Florida East Coast Railway, which eventually stretched from New York all the way to the Florida Keys, with St. Augustine conveniently located just 24 hours from New York by rail.

To incorporate the city's Spanish heritage, Flagler chose Spanish Renaissance Revival as his architectural theme. He created the St. Augustine Golf Club and the St. Augustine Yacht Club, so there would be leisure activities to enjoy in the warm climate, and he built the city's hospital, churches, city hall, and winter residences.

The most visible manifestations of Flagler's dream, however, were the spectacular hotels with castlelike towers, turrets, and red-tile roofs. His most opulent hotel resort, the Ponce de León, is now part of the four-year liberal-arts college that bears his name. Another flagship resort, the Alcazar, is now the Lightner Museum. The Casa Monica Hotel is again functioning as a luxury resort, more than a century after Flagler purchased it from its original owner. Despite the wrath of multiple hurricanes, many of the hotels and railroad routes Flagler built and developed are still in use today.

Updated: 2013-10-10

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