Tuesday, June 24, 2008

St. Augustine, Florida - Part Nine


Continuing our look at the historic city of St. Augustine, Florida, this is Castle Warden. One of the most popular attractions in the old city, it is the home of the nation's first Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum.
The unusual Moorish Revival castle was built in 1887 as a winter home by William G. Warden, a business partner of John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flagler. Prominent in business and community affairs in St. Augustine, Warden's castle became a hub of winter activity in the city and remained in the hands of his family until the 1930s.
It was remodeled in 1941 and converted into a grand hotel that hosted many prominent visitors. Famed novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and her husband, owner of the hotel, kept a penthouse apartment on the top floor. She is famed for contributions to Florida literature that included The Yearling, Cross Creek and South Moon Under. (Read comments to see more about this).
Another prominent visitor to the hotel was the famed newspaper writer Robert S. Ripley, noted for his popular Believe It or Not! items that featured unusual facts and ran in newspapers around the world. Ripley tried to buy the castle, but was turned down.
After his death in 1949, however, his estate managed to obtain title to the landmark and the nation's first Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum opened here in 1950, giving the castle an usual role in American pop culture.
To read more about St. Augustine and Castle Warden, please visit http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/ and look for the St. Augustine heading.

2 comments:

Moultrie Creek said...

Marjorie Rawlings wasn't a visitor to Castle Warden, she was the owner's wife. Norton Baskin owned the hotel - which opened on December 7, 1941 - and the penthouse apartment was theirs. Marjorie also owned a house on Crescent Beach in addition to her home at Cross Creek.

A stamp honoring Marjorie was recently unveiled at the St. Augustine Ripley's museum.

Dale said...

Thank you for the addition. That is fascinating. The house at Cross Creek (near Gainesville) is a fascinating stop as well.

Is the Crescent Beach house still standing?