Monday, March 26, 2012

Lightner Museum

Around the square in downtown St. Augustine are some lovely old buildings in the Spanish/Moorish style.  Originally these were hotels...


Built for the really wealthy at the turn of the last century.


If there had been reality TV shows from 1900 to 1929 these hotels might have provided a perfect setting.

 
The Alcazar hotel was the scene for the wealthy young people of the day but after the crash of '29 it fell into disarray and finally closed.  Millionaire Otto Lightner purchased it for only $150,000 (the hotel had cost several million to build in 1888).  Lightner had this enormous collection of 'stuff' that he had purchased at various 'desperation estate sales' (you might say he was the original 'Picker') and he needed a place big enough to store it and maybe show the stuff off.
 

The Lightner Museum

There was so much stuff I didn't know where to start...4 floors filled up with....


Oodles of leaded glass..

Giant urns...

and Egyptian sculpture.  Literally something for everyone.

 
I thought this was the most amazing thing of all.  Do you see where the restaurant is now set up?  That was originally under 10 feet of water!  That whole floor!  It was the first indoor pool in the US and remained the largest for many years.  No wonder this was such a party place for the wealthy young people of the day.  When it first opened there was a barrier that stretched across the center separating the boys from the girls.  But that didn't last long.  And on the floor above at either end were two complete bands--each band taking turns playing dance music while people danced on the smooth hardwood floors around the room.  That sounds like so much fun that I wish Mr. Lightner had held a big garage sale for his stuff and reopened the hotel instead.


But, alas, we would not have had this fascinating collection of toasters to gaze at....


or a room full of crystal.  Heaven forbid, where would he display his 5000 sets of salt & pepper shakers?

Room upon room of antique furniture....


roosters on the piano....


and a real stuffed lion.


There was a huge room full of calliopes, phonographs and player pianos...

 
 And, finally, this clock,  as I went out the door.
 I had seen hundreds of beer steins,  jewelry made from human hair, carved glass eggs, and a room full of dolls.  When I left town I  bought a sandwich and a coke
and drove to the beach for a quiet hour of contemplation.  I was not thinking about all that 'stuff' I had seen--instead I could hear the music playing in that old hotel and could hear the laughter and the splashing of dozens of carefree young people playing in that pool--just before they lost it all in the crash.

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