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Florida Diaries: Travelers' Accounts of their Visits: The Raymentons in St. Augustine

Drawing on the holdings of the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History this website features excerpts from diaries and memoirs of visits to Florida, 1870-1930

Lodgings and Sights

So delightful did St. Augustine seem to us that we could not find it in our hearts to be content with but two days within its gates. -- Hewstone Raymenton, January 17, 1916

     

Staying at the Ponce de Leon Hotel

The Ponce de Leon charming as it is, was no place for “poor folk” -- Hewstone Raymenton

Upon arriving we went to the Hotel Ponce de Leon, one of the best and most artistic hotels in the world. Three sides face on a pleasant court, embellished with a fountain and brilliant with poinsettas and white and [olive?] camelias. The hotel which was finished in 1889 is remarkably artistic for the period, on the exterior, although the interior reflects somewhat the taste, or lack of it, of that time. The main rotunda is well decorated with frescos and the dining room, one of the largest I have ever been in, is likewise decorated. Our room is very large and comfortable, with a bath nearly as large as most hotel bed-rooms. Our windows open on the court and it is a genuine pleasure to sit before them and look at the beautiful Spanish architecture of the building, and listen to the splashing of the fountain.

The meals served here are exceptionally fine. Our dinner, selected from a large menu, may serve as an example. Oriental fruit cocktail, almonds, olives, celery, clear green turtle soup, diamond back terrapin, Guinea fowl with guava jelly, appropriate vegetables, heart of lettuce salad, café parfait and coffee. Every evening an excellent orchestra plays after dinner in the rotunda.

The Lighthouse and Alligator Farm

   

Soon after crossing the toll bridge we came into sight of the sea.  At about the same time we passed close to the lighthouse which forms such a landmark when viewed from the city.  It is painted in a manner to resemble a stick of black and white peppermint candy . . . At this place there is an alligator farm much like the one we saw at Los Angeles.  There may not be so many alligators here but there are more of the large sized specimens.  One old monster is said to be fully four hundred years old and there are several others not much younger.  There are, in addition, several huge leather back turtles and cages of numerous different animals and birds.  In one room is a collection of reptiles including an iguana and two gila monsters.  One diamondback rattlesnake was so excited by the keeper that he rattled loudly for fully five minutes. 

Most curious of all is a spring of water, the fumes arising from which can be ignited.  When allowed to rise through a pipe a fierce flame could be got but, strange to say, there seemed to be no burning qualities in it.  The water itself did not have an unpleasant taste.

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