There are certain things in St Augustine that a free to residents. The Lightner is one of those, it’s free to explore on Sundays. You may have seen our photos of it from the outside during the Nights of Lights at Christmas time.
It’s one of my favorite displays during the Nights of Lights. When you see the Lightner from the outside, with it’s towers and red tiled roof, you may get the impression it’s as elegant on the inside as the Ponce de Leon (now Flagler College). The truth is, the inside is quite different. It’s made of concrete and has gray walls rather than colorful tiles. It’s Spanish architecture and Italian design is more functional than attractive.
Built in 1888 by railroad tycoon Henry Flagler, it was called the Alcazar Hotel. there’s a skylight for natural lighting, and it has 3 floors. Going from the outside in, the courtyard had tennis and croquet. Today, it has a lovely fountain with coy in it.
The three floors consisted of the hotel, Russian style baths (steam) and Turkish dry heat (saunas), a casino complete with an archery range and bowling alley, as well as a massage room and gym, a ballroom (top floor), and the world’s largest (at the time) cold indoor pool fed by an artisan well. It was 120 feet long and 50 feet wide. Today, the pool is a restaurant/dining room. The advertisements for the pool and saunas claimed to have health benefits for everything from gout to arthritis.
After the Great Depression, the Hotel Alcazar closed in 1931. It sat vacant until 1947, when Otto Lightner turned it into a museum. Lightner was known as the “King of Hobbies” and a wealthy newspaper editor. His entombment and marker is on the grounds outside the museum.
Lightner’s museum is known as the “Collection of Collections”. There’s everything from exquisite art and uncomfortable furniture to taxidermy and a dinosaur egg!
There’s lots of glass, crystal, artifacts and statues on all three floors, including things from Native American to Chinese and from Russian to African.
There was even a statue that could be a symbol of 2020, with a little girl holding up (what looks like) a toilet paper roll to look through it.
Please enjoy the many photos of these unique antiques. There were so many, I’m not sure we even got pictures of them all, but here are the highlights from outside and in. Feel free to click on each one to see it in detail: