Friday, May 13, 2016

Lightner Museum in St. Augustine: Rockin' the Gilded Age and Dressing Downton

The Lightner Museum in St. Augustine was once the Alcazar Hotel

Where can one find a museum that once was a Gilded Age luxury hotel, currently filled with an enormous collection of treasures from the past and soon to host a Downton Abbey exhibit?

If the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine came to mind, you would be amazingly correct!

This Florida landmark is right across from Flager College which was also once a Gilded Age resort, both the creation of Henry Morrison Flager, wealthy industrialist and co-founder of Standard Oil, with John D. Rockefeller.

Dressing Downton event coming to the Lightner Museum in 2017

The college was home to the Ponce de Leon Hotel while the Lightner Museum began as the Alcazar, built to house the overflow of its sister resort  across the street and was just slightly more "economical". Keep in mind, its appeal was still to the 19th century one-percenters , so not quite the Motel 6 type of economy.

Alcazar was reborn as the Lightner Museum in the 1940's and is a showplace to an almost unfathomable collection of furniture, art, china, glassware and curiosities from around the world - all of which once belonged to Otto Lightner. Lightner was a newspaper editor and publisher who held on to his wealth during the Depression and scooped up estate furnishings that were being sold cheaply after the stock market crash. He felt everyone should have a hobby and his was collecting.

Steam room - pretty much how it looked when it was the Alcazar

The museum is actually the back half of the Alcazar:  the casino, which we learned did not refer to gambling, but to entertainment. This is where the ballroom, baths and swimming pool were located and you can still see remenants of its former purpose in certain areas.

It is beautifully restored and every room is filled with so many lovely and unusual objects, it's almost overwhelming. Many of the items are from the Gilded Age where more was more was more. And,  yet, there's still there's more.

Every beautiful room is filled with collections. 

There is cut glass, Tiffany lamps, marble sculptures, ornate furniture and Wedgwood and that's just on the second and third floors. The first floor displays a variety of miscellany from antique typewriters to rocks and minerals. All interesting, but my favorites were on the upper levels.

Rockin' collection - I think my brother-in-law would like this.

View of the casino.

A malachite urn from the Russian Czar, circa 1830

Cut glass and crystal in colors, shapes and sizes

In the Wedgwood collection, there is  a 19th century potpourri jar. These jars would be filled with rose petals to cover orders inside the home. This was before Febreze.

Wedgwood potpouri jar, before there was Febreze

 Among the over-the-top furnishings for the rich and famous, there was a servant's chair which was literally over the top with its upholstered hood. These butler's (or porter's) chairs were found in entry halls of English manor homes and then adopted by the Gilded Age crowd. It was a practical perch for the head butler who could watch family and staff coming and going while being protected from drafts. This will be featured in the upcoming Downton Abbey exhibit.

A chair for Carson?

Dragonfly Tiffany lamp, Alcazar Motel 6, we'll keep the light on for you

Desk with 200 drawers, believed to belong to Napoleon's brother

Empire style clock by artist Thormire, circa 1830-ish

Renaissance revival grand piano, 1878

Chris in lobby, checking out the art.

Otter Lightner and his urn.
This museum has so many things, there is something sure to interest everyone whether your interested in 19th century furnishings or rocks and minerals.

And, what a perfect place for a "Dressing Downton" exhibit. This event is scheduled for October, 2017 to January, 2018. Crystal, paintings and clocks for Granthams and that over-the-top chair that's just perfect for Carson.

Lady Mary & Lady Edith look perfectly at home and Carson looks for his perfect chair

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