Windsor Hotel at the center of Jacksonville’s role as a famous tourist resort
The Windsor Hotel, Jacksonville’s elegant Grand Dame hotel, burned down in the Great Fire of 1901. But its story did not end there.
The three-story wooden structure, which faced Hemming Park, debuted in 1875 when Jacksonville was a Mecca for wealthy tourists. Its guest rooms were on the two upper floors while the first floor was occupied by offices, living rooms, dining rooms and large sleeping apartments. It was enlarged in the early 1880s and several times in the following years.
In the 1870s and 1880s, Jacksonville drew 50,000 to 73,000 winter visitors each year, and the Windsor, St. James and Carlton House hosted them, according to a 1950 Times-Union story. The Windsor has also opened to soldiers awaiting orders in Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Several organizations held their first meetings in the hotel‘s community halls and on its expansive colonnade. They included the Women’s Club of Jacksonville in 1895, the Jacksonville Rotary Club in 1912, and the Kappa Kappa Gamma Alumni Association in 1942.
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The Windsor was destroyed in the 1901 fire and was the only one of the large decorated hotels to have burnt down to be rebuilt. Owners Abbie Dodge and Frank Cullen have erected a new hotel of brick, stone and steel in “a magnificent Spanish Renaissance style to cover the entire block between Hogan, Monroe, Duval and Julia streets,” the Times reported. Union in 1966. Mahogany woodwork, large columns and red tiled roof.
When it was completed in 1902, it played host to royalty, presidents and celebrities.
A brochure published by the Windsor touted its unusual architecture, cozy nooks, dining room with balcony, solarium, and lobby with leather chairs, calling it one of the best hotels in Florida. He also cites the building’s delightfully informal character, but says that “only a stay at the Windsor can bring you a realization of the pleasure of a winter in sunny Florida. Our service is as perfect as it gets.”
In a postcard view, an American flag is seen flying from its highest point.
The rebuilt Windsor lasted 48 years before bowing to the Wrecker’s Ball in 1950. The Times-Union said it had exceeded its usefulness and was losing money. During the demolition, an underground room filled with illegal whiskey was discovered.
In its later years it had been the permanent residence of about 60 people, many of them retired. The Times-Union commemorated Windsor as “one of the last tangible testimonies of a time when the city was a famous tourist resort”.
Its dismantling sparked rumors that had been circulating for months that Macy’s was building a department store on the site. (That didn’t happen, and rumors continued to circulate that the New York chain was opening a store in Jacksonville.)
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The property was used as a parking lot for five years until JC Penney and Woolworth built stores at 320 N. Hogan St. in 1955. The stores shared a common wall where one could walk from one to the other. other. Penney’s and Woolworth’s closed in the mid-1980s.
Meanwhile, the Robert Meyer hotel, inaugurated in 1959, occupied the part of the block facing rue Julia. The Robert Meyer has a marble lobby, 563 rooms, restaurants, a jewelry store and an outdoor swimming pool. It went bankrupt in 1977, reopened as the Holiday Inn City Center in 1980, and closed permanently in 1982 due to a lack of activity. It imploded in February 1998.
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Bryan Simpson’s United States Courthouse, which opened in early 2003, now occupies the block.