Lightner Museum

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Sun 12 Feb 2012 23:07
The Lightner Museum
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The Lightner Museum is full of antiquities, mostly American Victorian, housed within a historic hotel building in downtown St. Augustine. The building, in a Spanish Renaissance Revival style, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


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The museum occupies three floors of the former Hotel Alcazar, commissioned by Henry M. Flagler and built in 1887 to appeal to wealthy tourists who traveled here on his railroad.  Architects Carrère and Hastings, designed the hotel as well as the Ponce de León Hotel across the street (now part of Flagler College) in the Spanish Renaissance style. Both buildings are notable as being among the earliest examples of poured concrete buildings in the world. These architects later designed the New York Public Library and the U.S. Senate office building. Originally the bed of Maria Sanchez Creek, Henry Flagler bought a farm north of town and had his crews dig it up and move the earth downtown. The farm was the site of the first Fort Mose, the pioneer free black settlement dating back to 1738. The hotel boasted a steam room, massage parlour, gymnasium and sulfur baths, as well as the world's largest indoor swimming pool. After years as an elegant winter resort for wealthy patrons, the hotel closed in 1932. In 1946, Chicago publisher Otto C. Lightner purchased the building to house his extensive collection of Victoriana. He opened the museum in 1948 and later donated it to the city of St. Augustine. The Museum is housed in the former health facilities of the hotel, the spa and Turkish bath, as well as its three-storey ballroom.

The building is an attraction in itself.


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The courtyard complete with stone bridge over the fishpond



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To the right as we entered the courtyard there was a pretty little chapel available for weddings  
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The Ground Floor: Houses a Victorian village, with shop fronts representing emporia selling period wares; a Victorian Science and Industry Room displays shells, rocks, minerals and Native American artifacts in beautiful turn-of-the-20th-century cases, as well as stuffed birds and a small Egyptian mummy. X-rays convinced experts that this was a 4-6 year old child who died of a brief infectious disease. Dated 500 B.C.. This “tomb” was created in 1973 by a local artist and volunteers who copied ancient hieroglyphics for the wall paintings. The limestone blocks, once a part of the fencing around Otto Lightner’s home in Chicago, were brought to St Augustine in the late 1940’s. Model steam engines, elaborate examples of Victorian glassblowing, golden elephant bearing the world on its back and a shrunken head. Shrunken heads were the prizes of battle of the Jivaro Indians. Stripped from the skull the entire skin was boiled until it was reduced to about one-third of its original size. Then heated stones were repeatedly rolled around inside the skin to continue the shrinking process. Finally the head was hung over a fire to be smoked and dried. The Music Room, filled with mechanised musical instruments, player pianos, reproducing pianos, orchestrions, dating from the 1870’s through to the 1920’s. 


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The First Floor: Has examples of cut glass, Victorian art glass and stained glass work of Louis Comfort Tiffany's studio.



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The Second Floor: The ballroom's upper balcony exhibits paintings, sculpture and furniture including a grande escritoire created for Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland, Dutch in the French tradition, unknown cabinet maker in the period 1806-1810.



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Louis XV Style Bureau Rognon. Mahogany and satinwood marquetry, rosewood cross banding and ormolu mounts. France circa 1860. Clock by L. Marti 1899.


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Recamier Lounge. Egyptian revival in the manner of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, mahogany-carved, inlaid, stained and painted. Reproduction velvet upholstery circa 1870-1880. The painting above is called Arab Encampment. Oil on canvas by the French artist Victor Pierre Huguet dated 1870. Winged Victory is by the Frenchman Jean Leon Gerome in gilt bronze dated late 19th century.


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