The Lost Skyscrapers of Jacksonville

February 9, 2016 12 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a look back at the six downtown highrises (10 stories and above) that no longer exist.

3. George Washington Hotel - 13 floors

On November 11, 1925, Robert Kloeppel announced his intentions to construct the city's largest and most magnificent hotel at the northwest corner of Adams and Julia Streets. 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.

The George Washington Hotel during the 1920s. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

The $1.5 million George Washington Hotel was designed by the Marsh & Saxelbye architectural firm and officially opened December 15, 1926.  Standing 13 stories tall, it was said to be the nation's first, 100% airconditioned hotel and each of its 350 rooms came with a radio loudspeaker and headphones. The hotel also installed the first neon rooftop sign in the city and its line up of street level businesses included a steakhouse, a cocktail lounge, drug store and barber shop. In addition, its large auditorium made it the hub of Jacksonville's convention and meeting scene prior to the 1960s.

John Lennon of the Beatles during a press conference at the George Washington Hotel in Jacksonville. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

In 1961, Robert Kloeppel died leaving his son, Robert Kloeppel, Jr. in charge of the hotel empire he had established. In 1963, Robert Kloeppel, Jr. sold hotel to William H. (Big Bill) Johnston. Johnston, owner of Jacksonville's dog tracks and Chicagoland's Sportsman's Park, had ties with the Al Capone mob. Johnston had taken control over the tracks after the former owner, Edward J. O'Hare, was murdered in a Chicago gangland shooting 1939. O'Hare was the father of Medal of Honor recipient Butch O'Hare, for whom Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is named. During Johnston's tenure as the owner of the George Washington, it was downtown Jacksonville's only five star hotel.

The George Washington Hotel site today is one of the most underutilized plots of land in downtown.

Unfortunately, the George Washington would not last forever.  Johnston sold the hotel in 1969 and it closed for good in 1971. After two years of being vacant, the closed hotel was demolished in 1973 for a surface parking lot.

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