After hearing about the history of St. Augustine, the debate has been settled: St. Augustine is, in fact, the oldest city in the United States. This city on the Northeast Coast of Florida has incredible Spanish Colonial architecture, and their college is particularly impressive.
Flagler College is one of the most beautiful colleges I’ve ever seen – if I went to school there, I would always be distracted by the beautiful buildings, design and scenery. Even their dining hall is majestic! The college also has the most extensive collection of stained glass in the world, and you can’t keep your eyes off it.
The college features the architectural heritage of the former Hotel Ponce de Leon and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. In 1888, railroad magnate Henry M. Flagler built the Ponce, which is now known as one of the most striking examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture.
When Flagler College was converted from a hotel into a college, it started as an all women’s university. Now, this four-year private institution features students of all genders interested in liberal arts with 2500 students enrolled every year. The cost of tuition is 30K a year, which may seem steep, but in regards to private institutions, it is less expensive than others.
The Historic Tour of Flagler College
As we embark on our historical tour of Flagler College, we are led by two students who attend the college themselves. We can tell how passionate they are about their school and they do a fantastic job of telling us about the history.
We first visit the remarkable courtyard, which highlights the former hotel’s signature Spanish Renaissance architecture. We then move to the grand lobby where we gaze up into a 68-foot domed ceiling, marvelling at the eight ornate oak caryatids hand carved with robed women, each one unique.
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We then step into the dining room as mentioned earlier, featuring 79 Louis Comfort Tiffany Stained Glass windows. If you’re a student or visitor here, how could your lunch experience be any more luxurious as light streams onto the beautiful hand-painted murals on the walls and ceiling?
Our last stop is the Flagler Room (formerly the Women’s Grand Parlour), another dramatic room with handcrafted Austrian crystal chandeliers. Not only are the chandeliers mesmerizing, but there is a clock containing the largest piece of intact white onyx in the western hemisphere! The room also includes the original hotel furniture and art, and some personal photos and possessions of Henry Flagler and his family.
The Heart of St. Augustine
If you’re ever lucky enough to visit St. Augustine, I have to insist that you must visit Flagler College. You get a sense of the Spanish Colonial architecture that St. Augustine is known for, and you’ll be envious of all the students that get to go there and see those sites every single day.
Booking a Tour
Since they can only accommodate 60 people per tour, Historic Tours of Flagler College are selling out every day, and it is recommended to purchase your tickets the day before the tour. Tickets are not available online or through reservations – you can only buy tickets at Flagler College’s gift shop (74 King Street).
Tours depart at 10 am and 2 pm daily from the main lobby (Rotunda) of the College. Since Flagler is a college first and foremost, tours are subject to cancellations. For more information, check out their calendar.