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Lost Jacksonville: The George Washington Hotel

On November 11, 1925, the same month Charles Ponzi's days of selling area swampland to real estate investors were coming to an end, Robert Kloeppel announced his intentions to construct the largest and most magnificent hotel in Jacksonville. Kloeppel, who owned the Flagler Hotel near the train station at the time, had arrived in Jacksonville from Germany two decades earlier broke and penniless.

Published January 18, 2013 in History      23 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article



During Johnston's tenure as the owner of the George Washington, it was downtown Jacksonville's only five star hotel. In September 1964 on the heals of Hurricane Dora, the Beatles appeared at the George Washington for a press conference.  In town for perform at the Gator Bowl, they had refused to accept the Jacksonville booking until they received assurance that the audience would not be segregated by race.




Big Bill Johnston sold the hotel in 1969. After Johnston's departure, one by one, the businesses inside the ground floor went out of business. The hotel was closed in 1971 and torn down in 1973 for a surface parking lot. 40 years later, what was once "The Wonder Hotel of the South" still sits underutilized and virtually abandoned.


Article by Ennis Davis


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23 Comments

Noone

January 18, 2013, 04:09:56 AM
Thanks again for the history.

vicupstate

January 18, 2013, 05:24:12 AM
Never knew The Beatles had ever performed in Jax.  A real shame that the building was lost. 

Charles Hunter

January 18, 2013, 06:30:08 AM
Interesting article.  I remember (dimly) going with my parents to events at the GW.
Just a minor nit - unless it was an antique car convention, I don't think the exterior picture at the beginning of the article is from 1960.

thelakelander

January 18, 2013, 07:18:02 AM
Thanks, for catching that.

I-10east

January 18, 2013, 07:56:17 AM
Where exactly was the footprint of the GWH (which surface lot)? The virtual address is listed 200 Julia St. Because I've seen GWH's wiki, and even a MJ article saying that this hotel is now the site of the Federal Courthouse which was actually the Robert Meyer Hotel.

mbwright

January 18, 2013, 08:23:54 AM
Sad.  Such grandeur lost.

thelakelander

January 18, 2013, 08:28:06 AM
Where exactly was the footprint of the GWH (which surface lot)? The virtual address is listed 200 Julia St. Because I've seen GWH's wiki, and even a MJ article saying that this hotel is now the site of the Federal Courthouse which was actually the Robert Meyer Hotel.

The GW was located at the NW corner of Julia and Adams Streets.  It's the block what all the courthouse trailers on it.


It's the paved parking lot bounded by Adams, Julia, Monroe, and Pearl Streets.

thelakelander

January 18, 2013, 08:38:02 AM
Here is the intersection of Clay and Adams on Armistice Day in 1946.  The GW is the tallest building in the background.  The tall building further back is the Carling.  Every building before the GW in this image has been torn down one-by-one over time, eventually becoming the new courthouse's green space.


Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/65092

I-10east

January 18, 2013, 09:17:12 AM
^^^Thanks for the info Lake.

Dapperdan

January 18, 2013, 01:56:23 PM
Why was it torn down to begin with? Were there maitenance issues? I guess in 1973 the building would have been about 48 years old. I assume up until this point it had been taken care of.

stephendare

January 18, 2013, 01:57:13 PM
Why was it torn down to begin with? Were there maitenance issues? I guess in 1973 the building would have been about 48 years old. I assume up until this point it had been taken care of.

Schadenfreude.

BackinJax05

January 18, 2013, 02:57:59 PM
My mom graduated from Andrew Jackson High School at the Hotel George Washington in 1952. Sad, now. Both the HGW and mom are gone.

ben says

January 18, 2013, 07:52:34 PM
Great history, but borderline unbearable to look at the pictures/take it all in.

Brian Buchanan

January 19, 2013, 12:10:18 AM
of course because the redneck hillbillie-bible thumpers who run this town dont know s87t!!! and cant appreciate anthing. except making sure gay people dont have equal rights...to which first baptist churh gives a standing ovation!!!

BIG CHEESE 723

January 19, 2013, 01:18:26 AM
VICUPSTATE  The Beatles were definitely here!  Performed in the old Gator Bowl.  This was right after Hurricane Dora.  The only reason I got to go see them is because they were giving away dry ice somewhere nearby and we still had no electricity.  My daddy dropped me off on is way to pick up the ice.  It was blowing a gale that night.  The Beatles were in the north end and I was in the southeast section.  All I could really see was their hair blowing like crazy in the wind.
The GW was one of many hotels and other buildings that I would gaze across the river at night.  My daddy used to go shrimping at the end of Holmesdale Rd. in SS.  I loved to sit and watch all those lights glowing downtown.  The GW and a lot of others had lights blazing out their name on the rooftops.

Timkin

January 20, 2013, 01:14:20 PM
Just one of many amazing buildings razed to make way for a blighted empty lot. Along with all that razing went many of the downtown destinations.

Some would call this progress.   ::)

BackinJax05

January 20, 2013, 09:03:14 PM
^^ Yes, but at least it wasnt allowed to deteriorate away like the Bostwick, Ambassador Hotel, Laura Street Trio + old Barnett across the street.

I still say the HGW, Robert Meyer, and Seminole could have been recyled into newer hotels or condos. (Same could be said for the Floridan & Heard National Bank)

BIG CHEESE 723

January 20, 2013, 10:23:23 PM
amen! 

thelakelander

January 20, 2013, 10:40:49 PM
^^ Yes, but at least it wasnt allowed to deteriorate away like the Bostwick, Ambassador Hotel, Laura Street Trio + old Barnett across the street.

How many years did the Carling, YMCA, and St. James stand empty before being renovated?  If allowed to remain standing instead of immediately being torn down after closing, the GW would have probably been renovated by now, given its history and significance.

BackinJax05

January 20, 2013, 10:50:12 PM
^^ Yes, but at least it wasnt allowed to deteriorate away like the Bostwick, Ambassador Hotel, Laura Street Trio + old Barnett across the street.

How many years did the Carling, YMCA, and St. James stand empty before being renovated?  If allowed to remain standing instead of immediately being torn down after closing, the GW would have probably been renovated by now, given its history and significance.

I know. I was being sarcastic. Guess I should have said so.  :)

thelakelander

January 20, 2013, 10:59:06 PM
lol, my bad.

BackinJax05

January 21, 2013, 12:56:48 AM
lol, my bad.

 :) :)

L.P. Hovercraft

February 11, 2014, 04:36:48 PM
Bump...

Here's a bit more about the Beatles' visit to Jacksonville in '64 from Philly reporter Larry Kane:

Quote
Press guy Derek Taylor arranged for me to come to a room where the guys were hanging out, and for a change, I had some news for them. My station in Miami had advised me that the management of the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., where they would be playing Sept. 11, 1964, stated firmly that the stadium would be segregated, which was standard at some locations in those days.

As I entered the room, I told the band's manager, Brian Epstein, and the boys about the Jacksonville concert. Paul got up from the sofa and defiantly said, "We are not going to play there." John was even more blunt. He said, "No f- chance of that happening." Ringo and George agreed. Brian stood in silence in the corner of the room, but he knew very well his Fabs would never relent.

http://articles.philly.com/2014-02-10/news/47171476_1_band-concert-jacksonville
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