Petit St Vincent

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My morning coffee and blogging lead me to Petit St Vincent

island patio, interior design

A Private Island for Private People.  Well I’m a designer, I’ll make my own version, and I won’t have to travel all day to get there.

Racher Interior Design, Patio

Ta-Da!  I’m calling it Petit St Patio, A City Patio for City People.  Come on over, but don’t forget your jacket!

The Former Alcazar Hotel

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Lightner Museum was originally built as the Alcazar Hotel in 1887.  It was constructed across the street from the Ponce de Leon and displays the same Spanish Renaissance style, was built by the same architects (Carrere and Hastings), and commissioned by the same Henry M. Flagler.  The Alcazar was built a less luxurious hotel for those who could not afford to stay at the Ponce de Leon.  Despite its designation as a more economical hotel, the architecture and interiors were spectacular.The Alcazar boasted a steam room, massage parlor, gymnasium, and sulfur baths, as well as the world’s largest indoor swimming pool.  The Alcazar also housed a large casino and 2 floor open mezzanine ballroom.  Many of the Ponce de Leon guests would spend their time socializing with the crowds that were drawn to the entertaining atmosphere of the Alcazar.Otto C. Lightner purchased the hotel to house his extensive collection of Victoriana in 1946, opening it as a museum 2 years later.  3 floors of the hotel house the museums glass, art, sculpture and furniture collections.The world’s once “largest indoor pool” was located in the lower level of the hotel, and could be viewed from the 2 stories of ballroom mezzanines above.  The pool has since been converted into a restaurant and collection of antique shops.The museum architecture, collections, and shops were a site to see.  There were just so many things to look at it was hard to take it all in.

Throughout the historical town, the architecture, the craftsmanship, the detailing, the artwork, the light fixtures, the carpets and all the spectacular shops were well worth it.  I would definitely recommend making the trip to St Augustine Florida.

Ponce de Leon Hotel

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Flagler College was originally built as hotel catering to New York’s high society. The hotel was only open during the winter, and guests were required book their room for the entire season. The trip from New York took 35 hours by rail. Guests traveled in plush Pullman Palace rail cars, considered a pleasurable mode of transportation.

The Ponce de Leon hotel and its interiors were completed in 2 years and the 1888 winter season was the hotel’s grand opening.

The Spanish Renaissance style of The Ponce de Leon was responsible for significantly influencing Florida’s architecture. A low pitched roof, red barrel tile, and arches above doors and windows are typical references to the style, seen on many homes and buildings throughout Florida.

The Ponce de Leon hotel was the first major poured in place concrete structure in the United States and one of the first buildings to have electricity. Just to think that electricity was cutting edge, makes the light fixtures seem all the more impressive. For many of the guests it was the first time they experienced electric lighting, and the hotel staff had to continually remind the guests to turn on their room lights.

It is astounding to believe at the turn of the century such spectacular buildings and interiors could be completed in just 2 years.  Especially when you consider all of the hand painted ceilings, terra cotta relief decorating the walls, architectural details & trim, mosaic floor tiling, stain glass windows and every unique chandelier and light fixture throughout the hotel.

I thoroughly enjoyed touring the college and was blown away by the attention to, and complexity of, detail. Whether it is your preferred style or not, I think you will agree, one can’t help but be impressed.

Child of the Sun Campus

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

As a Frank Lloyd Wright fan I found myself very interested in learning about the architecture of the college.  During my tour I learned many intriguing stories and design principles.  I hope you find them as interesting as I did.  Florida southern college in Lakeland Florida is built on a hill within an orange grove, with a lake at the bottom of the hill.  It is the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture on one site.

Frank Lloyd Wright envisioned an 18 building “Child of the Sun” campus, where buildings grow out from the sand and into the light.  The buildings connected by a series of covered walkways weaving in and out provide the structure for the complex.  From 1938 – 1958, 12 of the 18 buildings were built along with 1.5 miles of covered walkways referred to as the esplanades.

All the structures were designed on a grid creating mathematical rhythms throughout the site. The architecture is low and human in scale with emphasis on the horizontal.  A deliberate focus was placed on not blocking the view of the lake and not dominating the landscape.  The long low buildings exemplify Frank Lloyd Wright organic architecture.

The design for the esplanade supports are stylized orange trees placed 18 feet apart, similar to the spacing for planting orange trees.  All spacing and distances are divisible by 3 or 9.  The low roof line on the esplanade is to keep you moving and to make the interiors of the buildings feel grander upon entering.

Wright used materials that were common to the area, generally referred to as vernacular architecture.  Those materials included textile blocks, sand, seashells & glass.  Wright also used copper because he liked the green colour it would turn naturally. Student’s urine was collected and used to turn the copper green immediately so Wright did not have to wait years for this to occur naturally.

Wright was very innovative and experimental with his design work, as a result some details did not turnout as planned.  The water fountain was built years before the technology to make it work was available.  The textile blocks were not water tight or secure.  Wright attempted to design the buildings to not need air conditioning. He did not use air conditioning units or handrails because they were not aesthetically pleasing.  Currently at the college, there are flights of stairs you are not allowed to go up because there are no handrails.  There are also many flights of stairs throughout the college where handrails had to be added.

Originally the college saw the buildings and esplanades as a challenge with regard to upkeep.  Within the last 20 years they have come to see what a piece of art the college campus is.  The college is currently fundraising to restore many of the changes that have been made to the buildings throughout the college.  They are also considering building the reflecting ponds and other details Wright designed.  Due to budget constraints at the time of construction some of Wright’s designs were never completed.

Later this week, amongst organizing receipts for income tax, I plan to blog about my visit to St. Augustine.  While there I visited the once renowned Ponce de Leon and Alcazar Hotels, now known as Flagler College and the Lightner Museum.

College Vacation

Monday, March 14, 2011

Since I always have the best of intentions, while away on holidays, I planned to blog.  I visited Flagler College in St. Augustine and Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida.  No I’m not thinking about going back to college or looking for much younger men.  I went to experience the architecture and interior design of many inspiring designers from the past.


Flagler College originally opened in 1887 as an upscale hotel known as the Ponce de Leon for elite New Yorkers traveling by rail to Florida to spend their winter.  The Ponce de Leon carries with it many well known names, and not just the impressive names on the guest list either.  The hotel was dreamed up by Standard Oil co-founder Henry M. Flagler who worked with New York architects John Carrere and Thomas Hastings (the architects responsible for the New York Public Library 1897-1911).  Thomas Edison a friend of Flagler’s helped with the electrical.  Bernard Maybeck a prominent architect in the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 20th century, and Louis C. Tiffany (the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany and Company) were also involved.  Louis Tiffany designed stained glass windows and lamps, glass mosaics, blown glass, ceramics, and metalwork.  Emmanuel Louis Masqueray (supervisor for the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis),George W. Maynard (well known artist), and Virgilio Tojetti (well known artist) were also part of the fun and fancy. 

The college tour I took of the converted campus was spectacular I can’t imagine going to class in such an inspiring environment with so many famous influences.

If an exquisite turn of the century hotel, brought to life by many masters of their time, turned college doesn’t impress you.  There is always Frank Lloyd Wright’s Child of the Sun campus, where buildings grow out from the sand and into the light.  Florida Southern College is home to the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings on one site.  There were a total of 12 structures built, between 1938 and 1958 out of an original 18 buildings planned.  Unlike the Ponce de Leon, Florida Southern College was not built by the rich.  In fact the students built a great deal of the campus in exchange for a free education at a private college.  Due to financial restraints some buildings, structure details and landscaping were never completed.


The collaboration on the Ponce de Leon’s design, construction and interiors make it difficult for any single person to solely gain recognition. 

This however cannot be said for the boundlessly unconventional Frank Lloyd Wright.  For who is more outrageous than he, designing to the last detail every aspect of a project right down to the furniture, door knobs and hand rails (or lack their of).  Both of these Colleges are spectacular in their own right, with many unique features and interesting stories to tell.

These are just a few of my college vacation pictures I hope to have more up soon.  I’m currently working on my taxes and other things that tend to fall by the wayside after a lengthy and refreshing excursion.