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.
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.