In this guest article, Leif Sodergren of Gothenburg, Sweden shares the memories of Jacksonville's long lost Seminole Hotel, the place to be seen in downtown in 1913.
When my twenty-two year old grandmother Olga Jonsson (Dawson) visited her parents in Jacksonville in 1913, she sometimes wrote to her Swedish husband Folke on the stationery of the Seminole Hotel. The family was often there and Olga wrote that it was a nice place to "go and write letters." Jacksonville at this time did not have many ten-story buildings and this was probably a very popular place to eat or just "be seen." (For more about pretty Olga, the young girl from Jacksonville who married the handsome Swede Folke, in Paris 1909.)
The Dawsons, interested in property development, were impressed by Henry John Klutho, the architect, who had finished the magnificent St. James Building the year before. His other buildings, like the Klutho Apartments and Marocco temple, were also very interesting.
Henry John Klutho came from the East coast when Jacksonville had almost burned to the ground in 1901 (Grandmother Olga told us grandchildren how they had to flee the city during a fire and buried the family silver in the garden before they left). Klutho saw the fire as a great opportunity.
The hotel with many decorations inspired by the Florida Seminole Indians.
Here on the roofed balcony over the portico, one had the perfect view of who was coming or going to the hotel.
The perfect place for Olga and her young friends to enjoy themselves or "be seen" (to "hang out and chill," as they say these days).
Olga's father William Dawson owned the land that the hotel was built on. The lease was for 99 years and many years later, in 1969, when Olga was 79, she had to travel to Florida (her last of many trips in her lifetime) to try to sell the building that had become the family responsibility. I seem to remember that Grandmother Olga said that it would have been too costly for the hotel to add costly fire escapes, so the building was handed over to the property owners, Olga and her siblings--ironic, considering that when this hotel was built, it was advertised as "absolutely fireproof."
Next Page: More images of downtown Jacksonville's Seminole Hotel