Home‎ > ‎History‎ > ‎

Jacksonville's Hotels

    While Jacksonville, with her busy railways, steamboats, ocean port and extensive mercantile establishments finds her chiefest source of pride and satisfaction in being the Commercial Metropolis, it is as a cosmopolitan Winter City that she is most widely known.  In fact, Jacksonville is the chief winter resort of the United States.  Beginning years before the war as a health resort for the nervous and consumptive, Jacksonville has become a fashionable place of refuge from the inclemencies of Northern winters, and this result is due, first, to the attractions and benefits of the climate, and secondly, to the capacity, elegance and extent of Jacksonville's hotels.  There are other causes, but these are the principal ones.  It is fancy to be duly considered, in estimating the value of Jacksonville as a home, that during several months of the year it is thronged with people from all parts of America and Europe -- chiefly wealthy people, but including persons of nearly every degree, from Austrian Princes, English Dukes and American Presidents, to the sturdy mechanic and strolling artist.  It is impossible that society in such a town can become provincial or exclusive.  There are in Jacksonville twenty-five hotels, several of which rank with the fashionable first-clas hotels of the country, and innumerable boarding houses.  The valuation of hotel property is given at $894,200.  The number of tourists registering at the hotels during the season of 1893-4 is given as 102,730.  There was a slight increase in 1894-5.  Up to ten years ago Jacksonville was the only hotel town in the State.  Here and there throughout the State, at wide intervals, could be found a hotel of some pretensions, but first-class accommodations were difficult to find outside of this City.  During the past ten years, however, hotels have sprung up by scores, until they ave come to be found in every part of the State.  Some of these, too, are amongst the largest and most magnificent in the world.  Notwithstanding this fact, Jacksonville has continued to hold her own as the chief winter resort and the leading hotel City of the South.  Tourists come and go; they visit other portions of the State, but they make Jacksonville headquarters.  It is the gateway of the State, and probably not less than nine-tenths of the people who visit Florida annually spend a portion of their time in Jacksonville, many of them the entire season.


    The most widely known, as well as the largest, of these hotels is the St. James, J. R. Campbell, proprietor.  It is the pioneer fashionable tourists' hotel of Florida.  It was built in 1868, opened January 1, 1869, and has been variously remodeled and enlarged, until now it occupies, with its grounds, an entire block, surrounded by four of the public streets, and can accommodate five hundred guests.  It is, in the open season, a little village under a single roof.  Within its spacious corridors are telegraph, ticket, and baggage-checking offices; curiosity, news, book, picture, cigar and flower stands; with barber shop, billiard room, wine room, bath rooms, reading room, passenger elevator, steam heat, laundry, electric lights, sumptuous parlors, private supper rooms, spacious verandas, a band and orchestra of musicians, and plenty of agreeable society.  There are thousands of persons in various parts of this broad land who visit Florida every season with never a thought of seeking accommodation elsewhere than at the favorite St. James, and the house is nearly always filled to its capacity during a greater part of the season.  It requires no mean executive ability to conduct an establishment where from three hundred to five hundred persons are housed under one roof.  To provide all the comforts and conveniences demanded by such a throng in this respect, Mr. Campbell has been pre-eminently successful.  He seems to have a peculiar genius for the business, and the entire machinery employed in the conduct of this vast establishment works as smoothly as the fine mechanism of a Corliss engine.  There is never a jar, nor any friction; no pause in the regular routine of the service where all ordinary wants of the guest are to be supplied within the walls of the hotel.  The St. James is the center of attraction for hte young people of Jacksonville, and every evening the immense and handsome parlors are visited by many of the townspeople to enjoy the concerts and occasionally indulge in some of the mazy [sic?] waltzes which are sure to be included in the programs.  Saturday evenings the young people enjoy a gala time.  The society set turns out en masse and the hours are devoted to an impromptu hop.  "The Patriarchs," which is the swell dancing club of the City, have their regular hops and germans at the St. James during the season, and in this respect the hotel is immensely popular.  For social pleasures, for home comforts, and for general unrestrained enjoyment, the St. James has no superior in this State -- or elsewhere. 


    The Placide is all that its name implies, and more.  It is a tranquil, easy and pleasant place of sojourn.  The building was erected in 1893, by Mr. P. Tischler, at a cost of about $60,000.  About six years previously he had built one of the handsomest structures in the City, on the same site, in every respect a modern hotel, five stories high.  This was destroyed in the disastrous fire of 1891, and the present building was then erected.  The Placide is a three-story building, arranged so that additions can be made with small trouble and an elevator put in.  In finish, the hotel is very complete and artistic.  The furniture came direct from the factory and was manufactured to order; the same is true of the silver service.  The Placide sits one block and a half from Bay Street, on the corner of Main and Adams, on the line of the Main Street electric cars.  It is opposite the Seminole Club house, within view of the river, two blocks from the hew Post Office, one block from the new City Hall and market and just about the centre of business.  There are sixty-two rooms, with accommodations for about one hundred and twenty-five persons.  It has its own artesian well; is supplied with hot and cold water, electric lights and bells, and every modern improvement that characterizes a first-class hotel.  Mrs. N. L. Ward, proprietor of the Placide, has been in the hotel business for many years and thoroughly understands it.  She knows the wants of guests and it is her pride and pleasure to supply them, hence the Placide has come to be a very popular hotel with travelers and tourists.  It is open all the year, and many of the townspeople stop there during the summer season and many others who make the St. James their home in winter.  Mrs. Ward is fortunate in having as her chief assistant Mr. James Daly, a thorough hotel man, and a most polite and obliging gentleman. 


    As an all-the-year hotel, the new Duval ranks among the first of the State and has few equals.  The location is most convenient, being in the heart of the business centre.  It stands on the corner of Hogan and Forsyth Streets, on the electric car line, just across the street from the new Post Office in the Government Building, and one block from Bay Street.  The New Duval is a one-hundred room, four-story building, rebuilt in 1893.  It has an elevator, steam heat, electric lights, electric bells, hot and cold ater and a laundry.  The rooms are spacious and elegantly furnished with new furniture throughout.  The Old Duval Hotel was burned in 1892, and the new building erected the next year especially for Dodge & Cullens.  They occupied it December 12, 1893.  Formerly they had the Tremont, and when it was destroyed by fire in 1891 they took the Hotel Togni, which they conducted until the new Placide wa built, when they took charge of it.  Mr. F. T. Cllens, who has charge of the business department of the New Duval, came to Jacksonville in 1880 from his home in Georgia, where he wa born in 1861.  He became a clerk for Mrs. A. R. Dodge, in the Tremont Hotel, since which time he has been continually in the business, and has thoroughly mastered it in every detail.  In 1886 he acruied an interest in the business, and on the first of January, 1891, was admitted to a full partnership.  He is an affable and courteous gentleman, who makes scores of friends for himself and the hotel as well.  Mrs. A. R. Dodge has been in the hotel business for nearly thirty years, and there remains little for her to learn about it.  She is a cultured and refined Christian lady, who takes much interest in charitable work.  Dodge & Cullens have always been successful in every hotel they have conducted, and their name alone is sufficient advertisement to attract a house full of guests.  The New Duval is not only headquarters for commercial men, but statesmen, politicians and prominent men from all over the State make it their stopping place when they come to town.  During the six months ending April 30, the New Duval accommodated upwards of 8,000 guests.  The hotel is practically filled winter and summer, many tourists spending the winter there.  Their register shows from 15,000 to 18,000 visitors a year.  The chief clerk of the New Duval is Mr. M. L. Howard, a nephew of the great soldier, General O. O. Hoard.  He has had large experience in some of the biggest hotels in the country, notably:  Raymond & Whitcomb's "Harvard," at Chicago, during the World's Fair.


    The Hotel Carleton is an elegant four-story brick structure, containing 105 rooms.  It was built in 1876, at a cost of $125,000, and was first opened for business on November 20th of that year.  The hotel stands on the corner of Bay and Market, two of the principal streets, within a block of the Court House, the Yacht Club House, and the Jacksonville Ferry.  In 1894 the property was acquired by Mr. John M. Diven, son of General A. S. Diven, of Elmira, N. Y., who has a beautiful winter home in South Jacksonville.  Mr. Diven immediately began a thorough renovation of the house, which embraced every part, from the roof to the basement, at a cost of $25,000.  New carpets, new furniture and fixtures, and new plumbing, were supplied throughout.  It is one of the most handsomely furnished hotels in the State, supplied with elevator, electric bells, lights and annunciators.  Bay Street electric cars pas by the doors.  The hotel overlooks the river, and has the benefit of the fresh air and sea breezes, where they are greatly enjoyed from the broad piazzas, which extend half around the hotel.  This renders it one of the pleasantest hotels in the City during the summer months.  It is open all the year. 


    The Everett is the largest hotel in Jacksonville, having accommodations for seven hundred guests.  It was built about twenty years ago, and has been frequently enlarged and improved since.  It is six stories high, surmounted by a great clock tower, the dial of which is illuminated at night.  The hotel belongs to Mr. Nathaniel Webster.  It will open in September, under the management of Mr. G. W. MacAvoy.


    The Windsor was built in 1875, by F. H. Orvis, but it has since been greatly enlarged, and has accommodations now for four hundred and fifty guests.  It sits opposite the City Park, and a block from the Park Opera House.  It is only open in winter, and is a popular tourist hotel.


    The Grand View as erected in 1883, and has since been enlarged to triple its former capacity.  It is built of wood, in the Gothic style of architecture, with spacious veranda, from which an extended view of St. Johns River can be had.  It aims to give the same accommodations to its guests that other fashionable hotels do, and at a less price, and has all the modern conveniences.  This house is open from December to May each year.  Mr. Smith has Chiswick Inn, at Littleton, N. H., during the summer season.


    Hotel Oxford, situated directly opposite the St. James Hotel, City Park, and Park Opera House, in the highest part of the City; erected in 1883.  Is three stories in height, surrounded with spacious verandas.  It is elegantly furnished, and conducted by Mr. Campbell as an annex to the St. James.

    Other hotels of lesser importance are:  The Travelers, St. Johns, Acme, The Roseland, Tremont (formerly Togni), Glenada, Warner House, Smith's Apartment House, Bettilinis, etc.  There is no lack of accommodation for persons of all conditions.

Brown, S. Paul
The book of Jacksonville:  a history
Poughkeepsie, N.Y.:  A.V. Haight, printer and bookbinder, 1895, pp. 114-120