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Artist Conception of Hotel Casa Monica (Cordova Hotel) As It Appeared in 1888
CASA MONICA REMEMBERED
,,.AS ONE OF ST. AUGUSTINE'S
FIRST LUXURY RESORT HOTELS
The Casa Monica Hotel, at the corner of King and Cordova
Streets, has been much in the news of late, but few now of the
beginning and early-day glory of this building which through the
years has captured the eye of admirers of architectural beauty.
Casa Monica? That is the original name of the present Cor-.
dova Building (Cordova Hotel). Present research does not reveal
the exact date when the Casa Monica became the Cordova, but it
is believed to have gained its new name when the late Henry M.
Flagler took over the building which became one of a list of resort
hotels he planned for Florida.
An 1887 publication refers to-
it as The Casa Monica, sched- yea, who visited St. Augustine
uled for opening in January of in 1936, stated. that her father
1888. However, a program an- "came to St. Augustine about
nouncing the hotel's opening has five years before the construc-
.the wording "The Cordova Ho- tion of the Ponce de Leon was
tel" stamped over The Casa started; that he subsequently
Monica. It remains the property designed and built his hotel at
of the Florida East Coast Hotel the same time the Ponce de Leon
Company, a member of the was under construction ...'" The
Flabooklet titled "Florida The properties were later, acquired
A booklet titled "Florida, The by Flagler, and at one time was
American Riviera, and St. Au- annexed to the Alcazar Hotel
pigustin e the Winter NewportCa with a bridge-like arrangement
printed in 1887, said "The Casa which passed over Cordova
Moitca would.be at home in any Street, connecting the two hos-
of tie cities, of Spain, like those telries.
huge castles which dominated Through the years some phy-
neighborhoods in feudal times. sical changes have been made to
Its impression of strength and the outside, but basically it re-
massiveness increases as the eye mains the same strong edifice
ascends the lofty towers, from visioned by its creator. The
Base to battlements." The de- majority of today's passersby
scription further states that the are unawareof the luxuries of
building defies normal elements past years whe wealthy guests
of fire and storm and that only occupied the 200 -rooms of the
dynamite could destroy its mas- imposing structure. Only a tour
sive masonry construction, through the building would con-
The Casa Monica, or Cordova vince one of the grandeur and
Hotel,was the product of Frank- possibilities of today's subject
lin Smith who was described as of "The St. Augustine Picture."
a dreamer, but also an archi- Many long-time residents and
tect and a practical man. Cer- present day visitors, however,
tainly he had an eye for the can recall many gay days at-
beautiful and left such a pleas- tached to The Cordova, as it has
ant mark upon our city. Mr. been more popularly known
Smith said the structure he, through the years.
wanted must be "imperishable One printed account further
by fire or decay; impervious to describes the building thusly:
moisture and independent of ex- "The ornamentation of the front
ternal repairs... Mrs. Nina Dur- facade consists of tiles, im-
ported from Valencia, set in
panels with brilliant effect.
SThese Spanish tiles also decor-
ate stone balconies which light-
en each wing in their upper stor-
/ ies. The lower range of windows
is charmingly set off by Angelo
balconies, after those of Seville,
Spain. Such balconies were
originally designed by Michael
Angelo and named by him,
'kneeling balconies' because of
the protruding base. This was
said to enable the faithful to
kneel during religious proces-
sions of his day."
Upon entering the archway of
the "Puerto de Sol," carriage
entrance from King Street and
now the location of Drake's
ready-to-wear store, gu e s ts
found themselves in an open
court. Orange trees, and their
perfumed blossoms, and other
Florida plantings here helped to
greet the visitor to Florida and
There were many other fea-
tures of The Cordova which were
favorites in its hey-day and one
of these was the "Sala de Sol,"
or sun parlor, 108 feet long. This
gallery, paved with tiles, was
glass-roored by thi- doigner to
let in direct sunshine so
sought for by those coming to
Florida for their health. A hall,
decorated in Saracenis style, for
amusements and entertainment
among the guests, was another
popular. gathering spot. Or-
chestral music and excellent
cuisine added to the popularity
of the resort hotel.
The Cordova's first name, The
Casa Monica, is said to have
been approximately so called in
honor of the canonized mother of
St. Augustine Casa being
Spanish for house.
The building remains a monu-
ment to a man almost forgotten.
It has been unused as a hotel
since the spring of 1932, al-
though it has faithfully served
as locations for a number of
prominent business firms. We,
here at the National, feel a
particular fondness for the
Cordova Building as our bank
occupied the downstairs King
and Cordova corner location
when we first opened for busi-
ness on August 15, 1919. Again
in 1954-55 period we occupied a
location in the same building, on
the Cordova Street side, while
complete remodelling and ex-
pansion. of our Cathedral Street
home was underway.
The Cordova is a building
NATIONAL BANKING INSTITUTE
The St. Augustine Picture is published' for
your 'reading interest
-B y ... ....
which is a handsome landmark what restored and that it will
in the Plaza area, its beauty again become an important and
continues to grow on us, but for useful facility to our community.
years its vacancy has presented Its beauty harmonizes charm-
questions from visitors. Those ingly with the many old and oth-
who remember have hopes that er interesting features in The
its former glory will be some- St. Augustine Picture.
Carriage Entrance from King St.
Sala Del Sol (Sun Parlor)
Member Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.