Historic Casa Monica Hotel

Soon after completing the hotel in 1888, Franklin W. Smith ran into financial difficulties and sold it, including all fixtures, furnishings, linen, and all other chattel, for $325,000, to oil and railroad tycoon Henry Flagler. 

Casa Monica 2 copy.jpgBuilt in the Moorish Revival and Spanish Baroque Revival architectural style, Flager, upon purchasing the hotel, renamed the Casa Monica the Cordova Hotel.

Flagler, a founder, with John D. Rockefeller, of the Standard Oil Company, already owned two hotels in St. Augustine, the Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) and the Hotel Alcazar (now City Hall and the Lightner Museum). From 1888 to 1902, the hotel featured parties, balls, fairs and charity events.

In 1902, a short bridge was constructed over Cordova Street that connected the second floors of the Cordova Hotel and the Hotel Alcazar. At the completion of the bridge, the Cordova Hotel was again renamed, this time to Alcazar Annex. In 1903, the Alcazar and Alcazar Annex were considered one hotel and advertised as "enlarged and redecorated." In 1932, the conjoined parts of the hotel were closed due to the Great Depression. In 1945, the bridge between the Annex portion and the Alcazar Hotel was removed.

In February 1962, St. Johns County Commission voted to purchase the former Casa Monica Hotel for $250,000 for use as the St. Johns County Courthouse.

In 1964 the lobby of the then-vacant hotel was used to house police dogs that were used against civil rights demonstrators during the mass campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Robert Hayling, see St. Augustine movement.

The renovation by the county took over six years to complete, and was finally dedicated as a courthouse in May 1968. It filled that role until the 1990s, housing government offices and archives as well as courtrooms. A notable feature of the courthouse were murals by the artist Hugo Ohlms, whose distinctive work was also featured in the nearby Catholic Cathedral and at the Ponce de Leon Motor Lodge. The Ohlms murals were removed when the building was remodeled into its second incarnation as a hotel. Also removed were the stained glass scales of justice that had been in the quatrefoil window over the main door.

Bridging the Past and the Present