At best, the European empires who vied for centuries over control of the Western Hemisphere considered Florida a convenient military outpost for protecting shipping lanes to and from the old world. Misquotes, yellow fever, swamps and wars are never good for real estate sales. European empires and American statehood did little for Florida’s economy. It took Henry Flagler – John D. Rockefeller’s partner in Standard Oil – to create an American Riviera and the state’s first golden age. His entrepreneurial expertise built the Florida East Coast Railroad, a plethora of elegant hotels, the cities of Miami and Palm Beach and revived the oldest city in North America, St. Augustine. From the late 1800’s through 1929, Florida basked in both its sunlight and the glint of a golden age in tourism.
More wars, the Great Depression and jet aircraft diverted attention and Florida’s luster suffered from the 1960’s to the end of the century. Yet the 21st century has witnessed a renaissance in interest in America’s sub-tropical real estate and it’s 20th century golden age.
The arts are flourishing with the revival of resort destinations such as the gulf coast’s St. Petersburg. The venerable Morean Arts Center (1917) has built a new facility just to feature America’s preeminent glass artist, Dale Chihuly.
500 years ago (1513) Don Ponce de Leon fruitlessly searched for the legendary fountain of youth and discovered Florida instead. A lot of history and visitors have followed and they all needed a bed. The building that is now St. Augustine’s renowned St. Francis Inn was built while the city was still part of the Spanish empire – 1791. Yet Joe and Margaret Finnegan have never seen Lily even though they have owned St. Augustine’s historic St. Frances Inn for nearly three decades. Of course, Lily’s not a guest…
An attentive and friendly staff of 14 oversee the many details that can make a guest of the St. Francis Inn forget they’re also visiting one of America’s great historic destinations, St. Augustine, Fl.
Bistro de Leon is a husband and wife team matched in their senses, love of food and making people comfortable.
City walks has tours featuring St. Augustine pubs, ghosts, chocolate and mayhem that should cover anything of importance in the first 500 years.
The first thing you notice when you walk into Meehan’s Irish Pub and Seafood House are the autographed Jameson whiskey bottles that line the rafters of the bar.
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