FERNANDINA BEACH - Back in the late 1800's, Fernandina Beach was known as the "Newport of the South," a popular destination for Northerners. The rich vacationed in the area and brought all their rich friends. They ate well and stayed in some nice places including the Florida House Inn, the state's oldest surviving hotel and a landmark legend and that still operates today.
The Floirda House Inn was built in 1857 by David Yulee, the founder of the Florida Railway company. He used it as a boarding house for his railroad workers. "He housed his workers here, fed them here and had them drink here, so he knew they would get to work the next day," said innkeeper Marshall Sands. Now, the 17 room bed and breakfast caters to guests and tourists.
"We read about this house. It's got a lot of historic value in it," said guest Marion Mione-Dunn .
An English Style pub is inside. The hotel's original bar outside along with a landscaped garden and courtyard. The eight flags the city has been under fly out front. The wraparound porches lead to beautifully decorated themed rooms some of which are named after their famous guests like Cuban revolutionist Jose Marti'. A picture of Marti' hangs on the room's wall.
In the late 1800's notable Northerners enjoyed the hotel's hospitality. The Carnegies, Rockefellers and Morgans would travel from Cumberland Island for the hotel's famous Sunday dinners. "Plenty of other big names like Mary Pickford and Laurel and Hardy stayed here. There were a lot of movie stars because Jacksonville was a hot spot for movies before Hollywood even existed," said Sands.
A number of people have owned the hotel over the years. The latest, Ernie Saltmarsh, who bought the Florida House almost three years ago in a foreclosure and then restored it. "I always had a love of the building and when the opportunity came available I had to jump," said Saltmarsh.
Some people ask if a building more than 150 years old would have a ghost or two floating around it. The owner and employees say yes. Legend has it the ghost of a little boy runs around the dining room and rearranges the furniture and silverware when no one's looking. Room start around $140 a night and that includes a full breakfast.
First Coast News