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chin, and even covering their faces, lest they should inhale the keen and frosty air.
Such chronic invalids, who have been all their lives taking care of their health, come to Florida and find that it takes care of itself. The consumptive and the asthmatic throw off their wrappings, and have a new sense of freedom, since they are not afraid of nature's best medicine, the pure air of heaven. They do not have to “catch their breath”; to gasp for it ; but take a long, deep inhalation, which causes their lungs to expand as never before. Such breathing is a luxury that makes life worth living. I find the atmosphere so exhilarating, that I can never get enough of it. When I am walking along the bay, or riding through the woods, in some lonely spot where I shall not be observed, I“open my mouth wide,” according to the Bible direction, to drink in the heavenly air.
But to get the benefit of all this, one must have a habitation. When I was on the desert, on the way
to Mount Sinai, I lived in terts, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but you can hardly live in a tent in Florida. Even in the pine woods
must have a roof over your head, if it be only a log cabin. The old-fashioned Southern houses were roomy and comfortable, and their long and wide verandas furnished a cool retreat in the heat of the day. In still hotter climates, as in India, this is the chief thing to be regarded. In the Indian bungalow, it may almost be said that the main idea is to have a veranda with a house thrown in, the domestic arrangements and the sleeping apartments being mere attachments to the great lounging place, where men sit all day long, and far into the night, smoking and talking, and where the real life of the people goes on.
The first hotels in the South were merely enlargements of the old houses on the plantations. Some of those in St. Augustine were modelled on this plan, and answered
the purpose of the travelling public very well, until they were succeeded by one so unique and so magnificent, as to deserve a detailed description.
Connoisseurs of fine architecture are not apt to look for models in hotels, but in churches and cathedrals ; in palaces and stately mansions. The city of New York abounds in hotels, but it has not one that is worth looking at for its architecture. “ The Windsor,” if it stood out in the country, beside a stream of water, would be taken for a paper mill or a cotton factory. Or it might be some public institution, whose needs required that which was useful rather than ornamental ; as its stories are all just alike, with just so many windows, of just the same size, as if they opened into the small rooms intended for the wards of an asylum. There is some excuse for this in a crowded city, where the largest buildings must be put on a line with the street, to utilize every foot of space, for there is not room to have a great central court. This must be reserved for a situation less crowded, where there is more elbow-room. It is also more suited to a climate warmer than that of the North-conditions which seem to meet in this old Spanish town of St. Augustine. And so it came to pass quite naturally that a gentleman of New York, who had been here often enough to appreciate the place, and see its possibilities, should have a mind to build a Hotel after his own fancy, that should meet all requirements, and be a welcome retreat for those who, fleeing from the severe Winters of the North, should seek a place of health and of rest. He saw that the Spanish style of architecture was best adapted to a warm climate : and having the good fortune to engage an architect who entered with spirit into the design, despatched him to Spain, to study the best specimens of Spanish architecture in Toledo, Cordova, Seville, and Granada. The result has been a structure
THE PONCE DE LEON.
quite unique in this country, and the like of which I have not seen anywhere.
Having ample space, there was no need to crowd anything ; so that the building, instead of being one huge mass, could be thrown into pavilions, grouped round a great court, with its fountain and flowers ; with projecting balconies (which, if not crowded with Spanish senoritas, are none the less charming with American ladies); and belfry-like towers, rising at the angles, with open arches, from which one can overlook the town, and look far out to
and that are hung at night with many-colored lights, which shed their varied rays upon the enchanted scene.
Such is the general plan. But of course, in a building of such extent, there is no end of details, which have to be worked out with the utmost care. Now I do not profess to know much about architecture ; but, like a good many others, I know just enough to find fault. Without technical knowledge, I have an instinct of proportion and of harmony, which detects what is not in accord with them, even when it may be difficult to point out just where the fault lies. If I
go into a new church, and it be too long for its width, or the ceiling be too high or too low, I “feel it in my bones.” So in the decoration of a room, or the furnishing of it, if there be a want of harmony of color, my flesh begins to creep before I can tell precisely what is the matter. In this way I have gone about the Ponce de Leon, not with a measuring line in my hand, but trusting solely to my eye, and I have not been able to detect a single fault. "The height and the length and the breadth of it,” are not "equal," but they are in perfect proportion. As an editor, true to his calling, I have been a little disappointed that I could not find something to criticize ; but I give it up. Nor have I found any glaring color which offends my taste. On the walls and ceilings
THE PONCE DE LEON.
and even in the furnishing, in carpets and curtains and upholstery, everything is subdued to that soft and quiet tone which is most pleasing and grateful to the eye.
Nor is there in the whole structure a single piece of cheap work, where unsound places are covered up with lath and plaster. This is a great deal to say in these days (when huge buildings tumble down with their own weight, and others show cracks in the walls), that here is a structure of immense size and cost, every cubic foot of which is solid from the foundation to the capstone.
The erection of such a building is not only a notable event in the way of art, but reflects the greatest credit upon those who designed it, and the powerful friend who stood behind them, and furnished the munitions of war. It shows genius as well as skill in the young architects who wrought upon it for three years, and who by this work alone must take rank with the most promising of the architects of our country. I am proud to say that one of them is the son of my friend for more than thirty years, the Rev. Dr. Hastings, President of the Union Theological Seminary of New York.
But with all their genius, they could have produced nothing so perfect if they had been hampered or restricted by the desire for economy on the part of the owner. There are many who begin with great designs, but, like the man in the Gospel, " are not able to finish," or they get frightened at the magnitude of their own undertakings, and suddenly begin to take in sail, to cut down the estimates, and to cheapen everything. If he who undertook to build the Ponce de Leon had been of that temper, it would have soon come to grief, for when money is going out at a fearful rate, most men who have put their hand to the plough not only “look back," but look very black also. Not so with its projector. On the contrary, I hear that during the
THE MAN WHO
ONLY SIGNED THE CHECKS." 47
of the work, if he ever made a criticism, it was to express a fear that this or that was not good enough, or rich enough, or handsome enough. Instead of holding in the architects, he gave them free rein, and spurred them on to do their
best. And who is he that has stood behind this great undertaking from the first, never flinching even when the cost mounted up into the millions ? It is a gentleman who writes a part of his name as I write mine (though unfortunately I cannot complete the signature), Mr. Henry M. Flagler of New York, who, having conceived the project, had the nerve to carry it through; and who, instead of taking the honor to himself, rates his part very lightly, giving all the credit to the architects, saying modestly that he “only signed the checks ! ” This was a mere trifle. Only somehow we find that, however elaborate may be the design, and however vast the preparations, but for this little matter of “signing the checks," the wheels will not
But indeed in this statement he does not do justice to himself. For if he did not draw the plans, he had the taste to know a good thing when he saw it, and, having faith in his architects, to give them carte blanche to carry out the magnificent design. Out of this combination of means, genius, and will, came the structure which fitly bears the name of the old Spanish navigator who first set foot upon these shores.
But a single building is by no means the limit of this benefaction. The Ponce de Leon has two large annexes, in two massive piles, with Spanish names—the Cordova and the Alcazar. In the rear of the latter rises a dome which might be the roof of a mosque, and which has under it what may be found in the outer courts of St. Sophia, and of all the great mosques of the Moslem world, viz: plentiful means of ablution, for here is arranged a