Thomas Graham


St. Augustine is unusual among most American cities in that it possesses a distinct local atmosphere and character. Largely this charm stems from its Spanish heritage— the narrow streets overarched with balconies, its moss-covered coquina rock walls, and its ancient historic monuments such as the Castillo de San Marcos. But many of the buildings and homes of the city reflect the spirit of a more recent age, that of Victorian America before the turn of the century, when St. Augustine was the winter home of affluent Northerners. The most prominent Victorian buildings are three magnificent structures surrounding a central plaza which reproduce the architectural spirit of old Europe. These were once the Cordova Hotel, the Alcazar Hotel, and, preeminent among the three, the Hotel Ponce de Leon. Together they give St. Augustine a central focus different from any other city, and they represent solid proof that preserving the past is not incompatible with modern urban life.