Casa Monica Resort & Spa
In May 1887, Henry Flagler - railroad pioneer, hotel magnate and co-founder of Standard Oil - sold a parcel of land in St. Augustine, Florida to Bostonian amateur architect, Franklin W. Smith. On New Year’s Day 1888, Smith opened the historic Casa Monica Hotel. Four months later, Henry Flagler purchased Casa Monica and "all fixtures, furnishings, silver, hardware, linen, bedding, parlor, hall, dining room, and kitchen furnishings and all other chattels," for $325,000 and changed the name of the hotel to Cordova. The hotel flourished under Flagler’s management.
In 1902, a bridge was built between Cordova and the nearby Alcazar (which is now the Lightner Museum) and the historic hotel changed its name to Alcazar Annex. One year later, the two became one hotel, advertised as the “enlarged and redecorated” Alcazar. Henry Flagler abandoned the property when the stock market fell. It officially closed in 1932, and in 1945 the bridge was torn down.
In February of 1962, St. Johns County Commission purchased the Cordova for $250,000 to use it as a county courthouse. On May 29, 1968 the Courthouse opened and stayed active until the late 1970s. Then in the mid 1990s, Richard C. Kessler of the Kessler Enterprise, Inc. of Orlando purchased the St. Johns County Courthouse with intent to return the building to a luxurious hotel in Florida.
The historic Casa Monica Hotel opened its doors on December 10, 1999; two years later the king and queen of Spain visited, confirming that the property had graduated into the realm of the country’s best boutique hotels.
Today the Casa Monica Resort & Spa operates as part of the Kessler Collection, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, and is the only hotel in St. Augustine to be given AAA's Four-Diamond award.
Guest Historian Series
Read more about the history of Casa Monica Resort & Spa, as told by Historic Hotels of America 2014 and 2015 Historian of the Year Stanley Turkel. Excerpt is taken from his latest book Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (AuthorHouse 2013).