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