Building Description Valparaiso Inn, Valparaiso Florida

James E. Plew's Valparaiso Inn, designed by Walker D. Willis of Pensacola, was constructed in 1923-24. According to a Pensacola Journal article published shortly after the Inn opened, the building "was painted Satsuma yellow with green borders and a red roof, making a happy color scheme …" The $125,000 hotel had formal and informal dining rooms, a ballroom (connected to the kitchen by elevator service so that it could be used for banquets), a roof garden accessible from the ballroom, and a modern kitchen "… equipped with an oil range, charcoal broilers, and electric toasters, warmers, and numerous electrical devices that go with the modern hotel. The cold storage plant is divided into compartments for meat, vegetables, game and poultry products and there is still another ice box for fish. Ice water for the entire hotel also runs through the refrigerating plant." The rooms, many of which had private bath and shower facilities and ample closet space, rented for about $25-$35 per week. According to an undated newspaper article, "the interior of the hotel is two-toned walnut, now so much in use, with hardwood floors, oak having been used for this purpose, and the furniture and lights were purchased with a view to harmonizing with the interior decorative scheme." Plew purchased many of the light fixtures and much of the furniture for the Inn in Chicago. The owner hosted an opening party for the Inn in August, 1924.

The building exterior has not been altered significantly since it was completed in 1924. The exterior color scheme is now white stucco with black trim. Shed dormers on the roof of the central building were removed at an unknown date; otherwise, the roofline is unchanged. The open air roof garden on the southwest wing is no longer extant. Photographs show that the first level galleries with simple arches have been altered at least twice: first, they were enclosed with screens; later, jalousie windows were added in order to provide extra living space when the Inn was converted to apartments. A second stairway and exit door were added on the southwest wing (third bay from the end on the water side) at an unspecified time. Striped canvas awnings have also been removed.

In the late 1950's (after A. L. Harrell purchased the Inn in 1957), the Inn was converted to apartments, and the owners altered the interior significantly. The large main lobby area was partitioned to form several smaller rooms, inexpensive wood panelling was added to many rooms, and the interior space was broken up into efficiency and one bedroom units. The stairways were enclosed, but not altered, and still retain their original wrought iron handrails.

A fire in the winter of 1976 caused minor damage to the northwest corner of the third floor roof. This has not affected the structural soundness of the building. However, prior to repair, some minor rain damage affected the plaster in the stairwell under this area of the roof.