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Abandoned Jacksonville: The Ambassador Hotel

The Ambassador Hotel originally opened in 1924 as 310 West Church Street Apartments, the first upscale apartments in downtown Jacksonville. It was designed by Hentz, Reid and Adler, one of Atlanta's most prominent architectural firms. This $300,000, six-story brick and limestone Georgian Revival style building was built in an 'H' pattern that gives every room a large window view while still being able to house 50 apartments and about 110 residents.

Published November 9, 2011 in History      28 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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History



In 1944, it was converted into a hotel and renamed the Three-Ten Hotel.  Over the next decade, the building saw little change besides the many short-lived names adorning the front and side. Only three years later, in 1947, the Three-Ten Hotel was renamed yet again to Hotel Southland only to be changed again in 1949 to The Griner Hotel.  On May 2, 1950, Senator George Smathers occupied a room at the Griner.  This was the night Smathers defeated Senator Claude Pepper for nomination to the United States Senate.  That would would live on to be known and marketed as the Senator George Smathers Suite.  In 1955, the Griner would be renamed to the Ambassador Hotel.

In 1983, it was added to the National Register of Historic Buildings, but it was already on a downward spiral of dilapidation, with code enforcement on the owners back and multiple drug busts and raids scarring its name. In 1997 the residents received notice that the building no longer complied with code and that it would have to be fixed in order to remain open. Every single room had a sticker with the date of condemnation on it and the still legible ones read 7-11-97 and 11-13-97. In 1998, the entire building was condemned and closed up.

Residents and police said most of the people living in the Ambassador came from homes that were condemned or demolished in the adjacent LaVilla neighborhood as part of a revitalization project. Some of those homes were condemned following similar raids by a hit team of police and city officials, who seek to close drug houses.
Florida Times Union - June 13, 1997

Let's take a look inside this abandoned, 87-year-old downtown landmark.

































Redevelopment Plans In Limbo?

In 2005, plans were announced to remodel The Ambassador Hotel, but were put on hold, along with the nearby courthouse plans.



In 2009, plans were released to change the hotel into The Ambassador Lofts which would consist of 50 apartments and some retail space. The plans estimated an $8 million dollar price tag, half of which the owner had hoped for city or government help in the form of grants and low-interest loans. At that time, the hope was for the project to be completed in 2010/11.  As 2012 closes in, the building remains a silent anchor on one of downtown's most forgotten streets.


Photos by nomeus via www.flurbex.com

Article by Ennis Davis.







28 Comments

Bridges

November 09, 2011, 07:26:37 AM
I've thought this would be a great investment and renovation for offices.  Seems like it could be comparable to the Blackstone Building.  Law offices/clerical/Riley Reporting right there in the middle of the Federal and county courthouse. 

Is that even possible or does it have to be strictly housing?

comncense

November 09, 2011, 08:40:46 AM
...sad

jaxlore

November 09, 2011, 08:50:09 AM
man what a space, we shall see what happens here.

Tacachale

November 09, 2011, 09:06:30 AM
From looking at the pictures, it seems like it $8 million might be a low estimate to fix that place up.

Perhaps there will be a shred of hope when the Courthouse finally opens.

fsujax

November 09, 2011, 09:11:11 AM
I wish I were a billionaire! I would single handly invest it all in our Downtown. One can dream!

JUGrad

November 09, 2011, 10:00:28 AM
The photo of the stairwell looks straight out of one of those ghost hunter shows...  a little haunted maybe? LOL

duvaldude08

November 09, 2011, 10:24:37 AM
^^Yeah did anyone else cacth that image in the stairwell photot?? That looks creep. That was not a reflection.

stephendare

November 09, 2011, 10:28:47 AM

Tacachale

November 09, 2011, 10:57:16 AM
^Double Exposure: Making creepy buildings even creepier since 1839!

Timkin

November 09, 2011, 11:01:46 AM
I was going to post about this "entity" on the stair case.. Perhaps a ghost from PS#4 that got bored there ,and decided to fly across town to the Ambassador.

The building is creepy alright.. but on the outside it is attractive and certainly has possibility.  Wonder if it will ever happen ?

Great article !!

duvaldude08

November 09, 2011, 11:15:46 AM
The Ambassador definitely is in good structural shape, even if the inside looks like trash.

Timkin

November 09, 2011, 12:06:49 PM
It looks pretty straight.   There was another thread about this building, where some poster insisted the building either could not or would not ever be saved.  I would like to know, if there is  legitimate reason , why.

This building looks no different than any other vacated neglected building... EXCEPT that it does not seem to be covered in Graffiti ...I guess the owner or someone does a little better job of securing it?

I-10east

November 09, 2011, 12:18:04 PM
...sad

I was thinking the same thing. I hate to be Debbie Downer, but I'll be VERY surprised if there's any hope left concerning the Ambassador's future.

downtownjag

November 09, 2011, 12:19:08 PM
It's a gorgeous building, I'm sure it will be saved.  I believe the parking lot adjacent to it is owned by ESC as well which would make the whole project easier.  I believe the asking on it right now is $4 million.

nomeus

November 09, 2011, 02:32:10 PM
^Double Exposure: Making creepy buildings even creepier since 1839!

thats not a double exposure on the stairs. i took that shot as my friend was walking up the stairs during a long exposure.

nice work ennis!
Modify message

Tacachale

November 09, 2011, 03:23:23 PM
^Double Exposure: Making creepy buildings even creepier since 1839!

thats not a double exposure on the stairs. i took that shot as my friend was walking up the stairs during a long exposure.

nice work ennis!
Modify message
I stand corrected.

Accept no substitutes for your spooky photography needs, long exposure has the history you can trust!

urbaknight

November 10, 2011, 02:22:26 PM
It needs to be apartments, not offices. there are plenty of places already fitted to serve as offices. We need people living Downtown and it would be easier because the framework is already there as apartments.

Jack

November 10, 2011, 05:30:32 PM
It's proximity to the new Courthouse could make it an attractive office location long before it will support lofts/apartments.

Timkin

November 10, 2011, 09:21:54 PM
It needs to be apartments, not offices. there are plenty of places already fitted to serve as offices. We need people living Downtown and it would be easier because the framework is already there as apartments.

I would completely agree with this post.  We have tons of vacant office space..  Apartments / Condos / Lofts are a fit for that.  If downtown was in better economic condition and had more to attract major numbers, I would even go as far as to say it could / should be a Hotel again.

I will just be happy if it is spared and  a purpose identified.

Noone

November 11, 2011, 04:55:23 AM
It needs to be apartments, not offices. there are plenty of places already fitted to serve as offices. We need people living Downtown and it would be easier because the framework is already there as apartments.
+1
Did the Ambassador receive $1 or $2,000,000 in Historic Preservation Trust Fund money?

thelakelander

November 11, 2011, 06:12:08 AM
No.  It has not received a dime from the trust fund.

Noone

November 11, 2011, 06:49:16 AM
Then it went to the Kuhn properties? Just recall a period of time when the Old Fuller Warren Bidge was an issue and then councilwoman Glorious Johnson mentioning that money was in the fund and that it could have been another potential funding source in addition to others funds. FIND another source.

Thanks for the clarification. Thought the windows were paid from that fund.

thelakelander

November 11, 2011, 06:51:54 AM
^I think you're talking about the Barnett Bank Building at Laura and Adams.

Timkin

November 11, 2011, 03:25:28 PM
Yes.. Kuhn was developing the Laura Trio, right Lake?  Was there ANY renovation done there? if there was I do not see it.

definitely nothing on the Ambassador looks updated.

thelakelander

November 11, 2011, 04:16:57 PM
They did gut the buildings into shells in preparation for redevelopment. A new roof was also put on the Marble Bank.

johncb

September 16, 2012, 05:32:55 PM
Timkin,I am that poster you were refering to.And how do I know it is cost prohibitive to save? I was the manager there for several years,and know every inch of that building. You can see from the picture of the basement,the water level on that tank,well,that water was that high for YEARS.Theres not one peice of machinery that is functional,not even the freight or passenger elevator.When the passenger elevator started acting up,we had a company come look at it,just to fix it was half a million,and that wouldnt even gaurantee the city would pass it.The windows were put in in 90 I think,and that was done by the former owners when they sold it.There are structural issues,foundation issues, infrastructure issues,sewage issues,the list is endless.Id love to see it as it was,but I know it would take millions upon millions of dollars,and Jax will never ever be that forward thinking.

BackinJax05

September 16, 2012, 05:45:34 PM


If you look closely, and long enough, you'll see the virgin Mary ;D

Timkin

September 16, 2012, 11:15:08 PM
Timkin,I am that poster you were refering to.And how do I know it is cost prohibitive to save? I was the manager there for several years,and know every inch of that building. You can see from the picture of the basement,the water level on that tank,well,that water was that high for YEARS.Theres not one peice of machinery that is functional,not even the freight or passenger elevator.When the passenger elevator started acting up,we had a company come look at it,just to fix it was half a million,and that wouldnt even gaurantee the city would pass it.The windows were put in in 90 I think,and that was done by the former owners when they sold it.There are structural issues,foundation issues, infrastructure issues,sewage issues,the list is endless.Id love to see it as it was,but I know it would take millions upon millions of dollars,and Jax will never ever be that forward thinking.

I appreciate you posting a reply on the building's situation.  Your very last sentence is profound, and unfortunately , the truth.

Jacksonville will never be that forward thinking.  Certainly not with the government currently in place, nor economics being what they are.

As to the Structural soundness of the building,  That would have to be proven to me. 

In any event, I think the building will be demolished.   No money or prospects to save it.   Heck if we can't save a tiny little bank building , the Ambassador doesn't have a chance.
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