Downtown: The Hotels of an era gone by
In the early 20th century, downtown was Florida?s premier urban center. The Silent Film industry was booming, jazz and blues joints lined Ashley, the Jacksonville Terminal was the destination point to over 100 passenger trains a day, and Forsyth Street was the home to a large theater district.
Published August 18, 2006 in History - MetroJacksonville.com
There was so much activity that it even had its own red light district along Houston Street. With so many people in the city and no malls or expressways to disperse them, many grand hotels sprang up to serve those wishing to visit the area. Today, Metro Jacksonville takes a moment to share some photographs and brief descriptions of some of the city’s most famous hotels from yesteryear.
GEORGE WASHINGTON HOTEL
Located on the corner of Adams & Julia and constructed in 1925, the Hotel George Washington was the epicenter of the city’s cultural activities for nearly 50 years. In its heyday, the hotel housed a steak house, cocktail lounge, dance hall, barber shop, and a Rexell drugstore.
Famous guests included Charles Lindberg and the Beatles. The hotel eventually fell on hard times as the city’s growth shifted to the suburbs. It finally closed in 1971 and was torn down two years later. Today the site is the southeast corner of what will eventually become the new County Courthouse.
Located on the corner of Forsyth and Clay Streets, this hotel constructed in 1910 was demolished in 1981. For years the site was nothing more than a poorly maintained surface parking lot. Its now home to the new courthouse garage, currently under construction.
Constructed in 1909, this Klutho masterpiece was destroyed in 1974, in favor of a surface parking lot. Today, the site (as well as the old Heard Tower location) is the home of Bank of America.
The Hotel Mason (also called the Mayflower at one point) was located on the NW corner of Bay and Julia Streets. The 12 story structure was constructed in 1912 and demolished in 1978. The site is now the home of the BellSouth Tower.
The Carling was constructed in 1925. The 13 story structure was the only tall hotel to be constructed in the middle of a block, instead of a corner. Its also was the site of a fire that killed 22 guests in town for the Gator Bowl back in 1963. It was recently renovated by Vestcor into an apartment tower.
The Windle Hotel was located next to the Lynch Building (11 East) and old city hall. During its era, Forsyth was the home of a large theater district and known as “The Great White Way”. In the mid 20th century, the Windle and old city hall were demolished and replaced by Taylor Hardwick’s modern Haydon Burns Library.
The Hotel Aragon was located on the corner of Forsyth and Julia Streets. This is now the location of the BellSouth Tower.
Overlooking Hemming Park, the Windsor Hotel was one of Jacksonville’s grand attractions in the early 1900s. Eventually, by the 1960s, the Robert Meyer Hotel, JCPenney, and Woolworths occupied this location. Today it’s the site of the new Federal Courthouse.
ROBERT MEYER HOTEL
Before the Hyatt, there was the Robert Meyer. The 215ft building was Florida’s largest hotel, with 563 rooms when it opened in 1959, in the middle of a bustling downtown. Despite the promise, it shut down in 1977 before it reopened for a short time as the Holiday Inn City Center. Vacant since 1982, it was imploded in 1998, in preparation for the new Federal Courthouse.
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