Friday, August 27, 2010

Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida

IMG_6148  IMG_6145

Flagler College is a four year liberal arts college in St. Augustine, Florida. The focal point of the campus is the Ponce de Leon Hall where the female dormitories and dining hall are located. The history of this astounding college begins when the college started out as a luxury hotel built in 1888 by Henry Morrison Flagler.

Henry was an industrialist, oil magnate, and railroad pioneer. He started his early career as a store clerk where he learned how to be a business man. In 1868 at age 37, he joined forces with John Rockefeller to form the Standard Oil company and gained his fortune. In 1877, Henry traveled to Florida because the winter climate was better for his wife. In 1881, his wife died of what was believed to be tuberculosis. 

With Henry Flagler’s fortune and a newly formulated vision, he set out to begin the design of his first luxury, winter hotel on Florida’s east coast. He hired architects John Carrere and Thomas Hastings to assist him in this expedition. In 1885 the construction was ready to begin. Craftsmen were hired for the interior design and intricate work. Elaborate materials were used in construction such as, imported marble, Tiffany glass, and 24 carrot gold leaf for the painted details.

All the latest technical advances were included to make this luxury hotel top notch in the upper class society. It had its own telegram room and The Edison Electric Company powered the building with steam heat and 4,000 electric lights. Flagler’s hotel became one of the nation’s first electrified buildings! Just this one detail was enough to peak the interest of paying individuals.

Henry Flagler died in 1913, but his legacy continued as Florida grew into a prosperous state. His grandson, Lawrence Lewis Jr. had a vision to create a private liberal arts college on the grounds of the hotel. In 1967 the hotel’s doors were closed, but in 1968 the doors reopened as Flagler College.


Above is the Ponce de Leon Hall which is now the focal point of the campus. When the hotel was originally built, it had 3 themes which stood out. The first theme was Spanish through the use of terra cotta roofing from Spain and lion statues. Second was the religious theme and third was the use of aquatic objects such as mermaids and sea shells.

The centerpiece of the courtyard is a fountain which functions as a sundial. Frogs surround the fountain along with four turtles to represent the seasons. Another important detail at the hotel was how to bring clean water into the hotel. This was solved by the use of sulfur water that was pumped from 7 miles out of the city and into the hotel. It must of taken a lot of water to supply the 350 rooms which each shared a bathroom!


When entering the lobby, prepare to be left breathless. Looking up to the ceiling you can see why when your gaze lingers to the details painted with 24 carrot gold leaf. Take time to glance underneath your feet and you will discover hand laid African mosaic flooring. The flooring is almost perfect accept for the one piece that was moved by Henry Flagler who believe that only God could display perfection.


In the dining hall Tiffany glass is displayed and the ceiling is ornately decorated with painting which were stenciled on. The dining hall is used by Flagler College for events and other occasions.


In the ballroom take time to look up and you will see the balcony overhead which was used for the orchestra.


Along the various hall and stairways, you can see more Tiffany glasswork. With such luxury, you can only imagine the price of staying at such a hotel when it was first opened. During the day it was up to $90 dollars a night. Today that would be the equivalent of a quarter of a million dollars to stay for three months. The payment also had to be paid in full for the whole winter season in cash when they checked in. The women were sent to the Grand Hall (which was the women’s lounge) because it was believed that if women saw money they would go blind! For that reason the men did all transactions behind stained glass.


Our tour ended with the Grand Hall. The light shades of blue and white give the room an elegant feel. The ceiling is decorated with Italian plaster and the main attraction of the room is a series of 18 Australian crystal chandeliers worth $1 million each! Back in the day when the hotel was still open, this room was where the ladies would have socialized.

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: Flagler College is best enjoyed with a tour guide. You can learn more about the college at their website.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eduardo Acosta of CR Visits “Elizabeth’s Secret Garden”

Mr. Acosta is the author of the Hope book. He stopped by “Elizabeth’s Secret Garden” to give us a private review of his story Hope. Hope is about a turtle who endures hardship as its environment in the thermal convection dome off of Costa Rica's shoreline is being destroyed by over fishing and pollution. Even with this destruction, there is still Hope who continues to survive. This Spanish book is a great example of the environmental issues we continue to struggle with today, but all we have to do is take action to correct the problem.

HOPE website: 

IMG_6919 ed 1

I have enjoyed going on tours of Mr. Acosta’s Jatropha plantation in Costa Rica so we invited him for a visit of my secret garden.

My visit to Mr. Acosta’s farm in Costa Rica:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the United States in St. Augustine, Florida. Its construction began in 1672 by the Spanish. It was completed twenty-three years later in 1695. It was put together with a stone called coquina. This Spanish word translates to mean “little shells”. The coquina was a sturdy material for forts during this time because it absorbed much of the impact caused by cannon shells and allowed little harm to the fort’s wall.

 IMG_6124 IMG_6134

The fort was built to protect and defend Spain’s claim of Florida in the New World. The fort was a stronghold in battle, but this did not stop the United States from acquiring the fort after the signing of the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819. In the hands of America the fort served as a military prison and the name was changed to Fort Marion. In 1924 the fort was designated a National Monument. Then in 1933 it was transferred to the National Park service from the war department. In honor of the two and half centuries of Spanish heritage the fort’s name was changed back to Castillo de San Marcos.


The first picture to the left is the royal coat of arms of Spain. In the stone are engravings of castles and lions which serve as a symbol of the kingdoms and castles of Castillo and Leon. This stone was installed in 1762 on the detached entrance fortification, but in 1958 it was removed and placed indoors. In its place a replica now stands proudly.

In the photo to the left, you can see the hardware and materials that would have been used to build a fort during the construction of St. Augustine. The hardware was simply iron shaped into nails. They could be made into a variety of sizes. The materials used to build the fort were readily available resources collected on the beaches. The concrete flooring underneath the gun deck was composed by mixing crushed coquina with lime mortar, oyster shells, sand, and water. Oyster shells were burned to make lime. The mortar was a mixture of lime plus added sand.


To the left is the barracks added when the British gained control of the fort after the French and Indian War. The bunks were built to sleep four. Two on top and two below. In modern days, we sleep like royalty on our king sized beds, but this was not the case during the early days of America.

The fort also sustained a chapel inside its walls which you can see in the photo to the right. Mass was conducted by a priest for the Spanish soldiers. This was an important addition to the Spanish way of life.

IMG_6129 IMG_6133

To finish off the tour, I climbed the steps to reach the second story of the fort. On this story, I was able to get a closer look at the cannons that functioned as defense against incoming enemies. It also provided a wonderful view of the bay and the entire St. Augustine. Below you can watch the Youtube video of my tour at Castillo de San Marcos.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review of “Elizabeth’s Secret Garden” A Study of Butterflies in North America

book pic

“Elizabeth’s Secret Garden” A Study of Butterflies in North America, describes the life cycles of 10 species of North American butterflies including the Monarch, Queen, Cloudless Sulphur, White Peacock, and more. The book takes readers on several tours of butterfly gardens and conservatories in Florida. It also explains how to raise butterflies using inexpensive, readily found supplies. The photos in Elizabeth’s book are from her own personal photo collection. The book includes detailed  descriptions of butterflies, host plants, common butterfly diseases and predators. To adapt the book for the classroom or homeschoolers, 10  pages for children have been included. The discovery pages include, color in photo, questions, facts such as range, and host plant of the butterfly. Overall the book has 55 pages.

 I hope you enjoy this sneak peek of Elizabeth’s new book! You can purchase a download at the following link. 


Colorful pages describe ten different species of butterflies taking you through the journey from the egg all the way to the chrysalis. Learn more about butterfly host plants and how you can start your own butterfly garden with or without a yard! You will get to see Elizabeth’s very own butterfly garden on wheels and learn how to make your own portable butterfly pavilion.


page from book 

Detective Joshua 1 Experience facts, fun, and mystery as Detective Joshua explores the world of butterflies. Detailed photographs portray the information He discovers.                                                                           

Coloring page

IMG_2186 Kids can join Artist Andrea on each discovery page and color in multiple butterflies. Elizabeth’s downloadable book makes printing off discovery pages easy for use in schools or at home.

 You can purchase a download of “Elizabeth’s Secret Garden” A Study of Butterflies in North America, at the following link for $4.99.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Touring the Historical City of St. Augustine, Florida


Above are the Old City Gates of St. Augustine, Florida.

St. Augustine, Florida is the oldest city in the continental United States. Juan Ponce de Leon was the first Spanish explorer to discover Florida’s coast in 1513. He claimed the land for Spain and called it La Florida, which means “Land of the Flowers”. Territorial disputes occurred between the Spanish, French, and English making fort construction and protection necessary. St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Pedro Menendez under contract to King Phillip of Spain.

IMG_6115 Schoolhouse sign

The oldest wood schoolhouse in the USA dates back to 18th century. It is located inside the Old City Gates in St. Augustine, Florida. The schoolhouse was constructed of red cedar and cypress which were fastened together by using wooden pegs and handmade nails. The schoolhouse has two stories. The second floor is where the schoolmaster and his family would have lived.


This 19th century watermill illustrates what a running watermill would have looked like during the colonial period. The water wheel was used to power the mechanical process of grinding flour, lumber, or in textile production. The continuous movement of the watermill generates the electrical power. The force of the water is what drives the blades of the wheel, which rotates the axle, and then drives the mill’s machinery. The water used to power the mill can be diverted from a river or mill pond.


The St. Augustine Lighthouse was built from 1871 to 1874. It stands 165 feet above sea level on the north end of Anastasia Island. The St. Augustine Lighthouse Museum was opened full time to the the public in 1994. It is visited annually by over 180,000 people! The original lighthouse built in 1824 crumbled into the ocean on 1880. The current lighthouse in St. Augustine replaced the fallen structure.


When traveling in St. Augustine, many options for transportation are available. Mopeds and small vehicles can be rented. Carriages pulled by horse are a luxurious option for couples. We decided the walking tour was our cheapest option as well as great exercise. The St. Augustine Old Town Trolley gives tours of historic St. Augustine and shares history along the way . Whatever the mode of transportation, visitors become part of history when touring St. Augustine.