Flagler gets ready to celebrate 125 Years of the Hotel Ponce de Leon

By Katherine Lutz | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Jan. 12, 2013 will mark the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Hotel Ponce de Leon, which is today the centerpiece of Flagler College. The Ponce today houses women’s dorms, the college dining hall and administrative offices. It is also a National Historic Landmark.

On Jan. 12, the college will mark the occasion with a “opening” of the Ponce just as Henry Flagler did in 1888.

Opening day will begin at 9:30 a.m. with Flagler President William T. Abare introducing Henry Flagler. The Flagler re-enactor will open up the gates to the public as the original Flagler did at the beginning of each season.

For many, this was the only time they would ever set foot in the hotel. The ceremony will continue with trumpets and an orchestra playing outside while people in period clothing wander throughout the building and the dining hall.

“We want to make it seem like the hotel is opening again and really connect people to what it must have been like as a hotel,” said Laura Stevenson, director of Flagler’s College Relations Office.

The opening day won’t end the 125th anniversary celebrations. Events will take place throughout 2013. This will include special tours with new information that has recently been discovered about the hotel, a lecture series done by various historians as well as professors and the reconstruction of the Solarium on the fourth floor of the Ponce.

The Solarium reconstruction might be the most exciting part of the events taking place in the 125th year. The Solarium has been boarded up for the last 30 years because of safety concerns.

“I’m realty excited for the solarium to be finished, because that is going to be the capstone of the college restoration. To see the Ponce fully restored after all these years is going to be phenomenal,” said Stevenson.

Stevenson said something the 125th committee has reinforced is their wish for student involvement. They are currently putting together a team of student ambassadors who will work all 125th Anniversary events. Amanuel Fiseha, a junior, has taken on the position of head event coordinating student ambassador.

“Getting to be a part of St. Augustine’s history and getting to witness the Hotel Ponce de Leon in its former glory and showing people the former beauty of the hotel as it was when it was in its heyday is what I’m most excited about,” Fiseha said. “Everything about opening day is going to portray the Hotel Ponce de Leon in 1888.”

Stevenson and Fiseha both stress that this event is not only for the community and tourists, but also for students. They are currently in the works of formulating ideas of ways to get the students involved.

For more information and anniversary events, visit www.ponce125.com.

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