The San Carlos Hotel in Florida - demolished 1993

San Carlos Hotel, Pensacola Florida
Date added: October 31, 2022 Categories: Florida Hotel

The Pensacola Hotel Company, organized by J. M. Muldon, Sr., F. F. Bingham, George B. and Charles H. Hervey, P. K. Younge, John E: Stillman, H. L. Covington, F.C. Brent, T. A. Jennings, A. A. Fisher, Henry Hyer, Max Bear, W. S. Keyser, Sol Cahn, William Knowles, and John Merritt, constructed the building at the height of the "building boom" in Pensacola that lasted from 1906 to 1910. The San Carlos and the "building boom" reflected the optimism in progress, commercial growth, and prosperity that saturated Pensacola at the turn of the century. One visitor in Pensacola in about 1916 commented, "The taxi cab took us along a neat boulevard to an overgrown hotel on Palafox Street. It is known as the San Carlos and has a slightly Waldorfian manner, going in rather too extravagantly for marble pillars, palms, gold and gilt, steam heat, page boys, telephone girls, lounges, cigar stands, express elevators, and sky-scraper proportions. It did not seem possible that there could be a great enough floating population in Pensacola to warrant the magnificence of the hotel. It was built, we were told during Pensacola's boom....when the inhabitants of the little 'deep water city' were shouting themselves hoarse about her-miraculous growth and equally miraculous future. At that time superlatives ceased to be conversational olives and got to be the bread and butter of daily speech. A 'reasonable amount' of hotel wouldn't do for a city that was destined to be a 'largest port', a naval station, a manufacturing centre and a fashionable resort all rolled into one. So the towering San Carlos rose above Pensacola like a lonely mountain peak in the centre of a desert, a target for windstorms, and a symbol of the future."

The San Carlos Hotel, constructed at a cost of $500,000 and standing seven stories high, opened on February 1, 1910, the first day of Mardi Gras. Encouragement for its construction came from both community and commercial interests. Hotel resources in Pensacola at that time were inadequate and the need for a "luxury" hotel that would make a favorable impression on businessmen and tourists, with the hope that they would return and invest in Pensacola, was needed. The hotel also provided a gathering place for the area's social elite, for dinner, for Mardi Gras balls, and for musical entertainment.

The San Carlos, with its robust Spanish Renaissance-inspired detailing, e.g. keystone consoles, decorative ironwork, balconies, heavy bracketed cornice, arcaded fenestration, loggias and its elegantly appointed interiors satisfied both the business and social expectations of the community.

W. L. Stoddard, a New York architect whose many notable designs included the New Royal Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C., the Hotel Tybee near Savannah, Georgia, and the Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta, designed the San Carlos. The C. H. Turner Construction Company was awarded the contract for the hotel construction by the Pensacola Hotel Company. The Pensacola Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in raising the necessary capital.

The Hervey Hotel Co. had made an offer, whereby if the Chamber of Commerce could raise $150,000 by subscription and $200,000 by the sale of bonds, the Hervey Hotel Company would assume the lease. The Chamber of Commerce raised a great amount through subscription from their members as well as through the sale of a large number of $100 and $200 bonds to the general public. Charles Hervey agreed to lease the hotel at the rate of 6% per year of the cost of the site and building for 15 years (5% per year in the event of the passage of prohibition). The Hervey Hotel Company assumed the lease and placed $100,000 worth of furniture and furnishings into the hotel, well over the $50,000 required in their agreement. Hervey operated the hotel until 1919 when the lease was assumed by the Newcomb Hotel Co.

In 1922-23, W. B. Harbeson, hotelier, lumberman, financier, and railroad executive, bought out the lease and a controlling share of the capital stock in the Pensacola Hotel Company. Throughout this period, prominent Pensacolians William Fisher and Max Bear served as president of the Hotel Company. Harberson modernized the structure and made the decision to add 246 rooms at a cost of $1,000,000. He employed Algernon Blair of Montgomery, Alabama, as a contractor for the addition, and Walker Willis of Pensacola and Emil Weil, of New Orleans, Louisiana, were the architects. The Southeastern Hotel Journal and much of the San Carlos literature at this time advertised the hotel as having over 500 rooms and being the "second largest fireproof hotel in the Southland," but the 500 room figure was never reached.

Harbeson appointed L. Conner Hagler, his son-in-law, as manager. Hagler was instrumental in attracting conventions to meet at the San Carlos. In 1936, Hagler persuaded the New York Giants professional baseball team to train in Pensacola and use the hotel as their headquarters. Over the years, the managers attempted to keep the hotel competitive in the growing tourist industry. Some of the notable names on the guest register include Alf Landon, Weldell Wilkie, Tyrone Power, Johnny Carson, Henry Jackson, and other prominent celebrities and politicians.

The hotel in its later years attracted many permanent residents as a result of the hotel's endeavor to combat the decline in transient traffic. It housed elderly residents in sixty apartments that were converted from 200 rooms. Approximately 135 rooms remained to serve the tourist community.

The hotel was demolished in February 1993.

Building Description

The San Carlos Hotel occupies a lot on the northwest corner of the intersection of Palafox and Garden Streets. As originally designed, the hotel was to be an eight-story concrete and tile masonry building with 157 rooms; however, the Mediterranean Revival style building was actually built with seven stories and with considerably less detailing than originally conceived.

Two major additions were made to the San Carlos between 1922 and 1927 which virtually doubled the capacity of the hotel with 246 additional rooms. The east (Palafox Street) facade was extended north by 5 bays repeating the fenestration of the upper stories of the original building. The west (Garden Street) addition repeated a second ventilation shaft as used above the original entrance on this side. The first story of each addition incorporated individual storefronts in contrast to the arcaded fenestration of the original building.

Both entrances on the south and east facades retain their marquees, however, the massive metal brackets offering visual support have been removed. The first, second, and seventh stories are delineated with molded belt courses of cast stone. The seventh-story fenestration is further delineated with masonry balustrades and is well-shaded by a deeply projecting pent roof originally covered with clay tile. The pent roof, supported on large wooden brackets, was originally interrupted on the east facade by two high-relief masonry cartouches in the bays between the projecting bay windows. These cartouches have also been removed and today the pent roof is continuous along the east and south facades. The second-story loggia above the east entrance has been enclosed with a glazed partition. Similar alterations have affected the south facade. Projecting masonry balconies on the third and seventh stories have been removed along with the segmental pediment above the entrance.

The pebble-dash wall surfaces and cast stone detailing remain the basic exterior fabric of this masonry building. Some of the detailing, masonry balconies, and keystone consoles, wrought iron railings, metal brackets and tile roofings have been removed over the years while others, the panels with geometric designs in the bay windows and the second story belt course have been covered or removed.

The interior features a 2-story central lobby with an art glass dome approximately 25 feet in diameter. The lobby walls are sheathed in Alabama marble and a marble staircase with a wrought iron railing provides access to the mezzanine. Additional public facilities including sales shops, hotel offices, a barbershop, and meeting rooms are accessible from the lobby. The large dining room (32' X 98'), which includes a musicians' gallery, is located off the promenade to the north of the lobby. Guest rooms are located on the second through seventh floors.

Most of the alterations to the San Carlos occurred in 1957-1958 when the building was modernized, air-conditioned, .re-painted and corridor ceilings lowered. Extensive descriptions of the interiors of the hotel when completed in 1910 were published in the Pensacola Journal, January 13, 23, 29, 30, 1910. and February 1, 1910. Further discussion of the interiors after the additions of 1927 were published in the Southeastern Hotel Journal, June 1927.