Completed in 1888 and named the Alcazar, this was the second of Henry Flagler’s magnificent Gilded Age hotels. During its heyday, the Alcazar was known for its indoor entertainment and recreational facilities including a massive swimming pool, steam rooms and massage parlor, bowling, archery range, tennis courts and much more. Like so many great hotels, the Alcazar fell victim to the economic collapse brought about by the Great Depression.
Purchased in 1947 by wealthy publisher and collector Otto Lightner, the hotel became the home for his extensive “collection of collections.” Today, these artifacts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries reflect how luxury and beauty were defined in the Gilded Age.
When is the Lightner Museum open?
The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days).
How much are tickets to visit the Lightner Museum?
General admission tickets are: Adults: $17; Seniors (65+) and College Students: $14; Military and Youth (12-17): $10. Tickets are available online or at the door.
How long does it take to explore the museum?
This is a large museum occupying five floors, as well as galleries. Even casual visitors should plan on one to two hours to get an overview of the exhibits. Visitors with specific interests may need additional time. This museum has collections that will appeal to everyone, no matter what your interest.
Are there on-site dining options?
The Café Alcazar features great food served in an atmosphere that complements the museum’s Gilded Age flair. Plus, the location is unforgettable – the now dry bottom of what was once the world’s largest indoor swimming pool!
If you're looking for lighter fare, you'll find an assortment of sandwiches and salads at Reflections Bistro, located in the courtyard of the Lightner Museum.
What are some top things to see at the museum?
Lightner’s original Museum of Hobbies is a tribute to the hobby of collecting – collecting just about anything. Here you’ll find collections ranging from everyday items like match boxes, cigar wrappers and music boxes to some of the world’s most impressive furniture, paintings and sculptures. Some favorites include:
Glass and China
Here is one of the world’s greatest displays of various types of glass and china including famous lines like Wedgwood, Staffordshire, Meissen and others plus early American glass from Sandwich, New Jersey and Pittsburgh. Examples of Tiffany’s world famous stained glass and lamps are also on display.
The broad scope of Lightner’s personal collection is represented by the stuffed remains of a lion once owned by Winston Churchill. (If you look in the corner of this same room, you’ll also find an actual Egyptian mummy.)
The Russian Steam Room
The Alcazar possessed everything needed to pamper its wealthy clientele – including steam and massage rooms. Now part of the Lightner, this steam room features the marble benches on which captains of industry once sweated, as well as the devices used to improve their physical health (some look more like medieval torture implements.)
From the top galleries of the museum, look far below to what was once an amazing indoor swimming pool. Above, the hotel’s ceiling could be opened to the stars. (A rumored tradition of the Alcazar is that on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight, a man dressed in top hat and tails would dive from this perch into the pool below.)
Illuminate: Lightner Museum’s Stained Glass Rediscovered
In the Mezzanine above the pool, this permanent exhibit includes 12 restored windows in addition to the distinguished Tiffany lamp with a dragonfly motif. While some of the windows in this collection were made by Tiffany Studios, this exhibit brings to light lesser-known manufacturers that worked synonymously with Tiffany during the late 1880s such as Willet Stained Glass and Rudy Brothers Glass Studio, both from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Lightner exterior
Prior to entering the museum or after exiting, gaze upward from the courtyard or street and check out the red tile roofs, massive towers and terra cotta fixtures. Designed to give it the Moorish style of its namesake, it looks like a structure from the Arabian Nights or Disney’s Aladdin. (Those intricate fixtures are actually chimneys.)
Two new exhibitions and the new Rose Garden open to the public!
Rose Garden: The reimagined Rose Garden located on the south side of the Lightner reopened in November 2021. Once again, visitors are invited to explore this beautiful and inspiring garden.
Through March 2022
Faces of the Alcazar: A recent discovery in the former staff quarters at the Alcazar was responsible for this new and unique exhibition. To decorate their rooms, staff members clipped photos from turn-of-the-century movie magazines and pasted them to the walls. By using large format photography, Tom Schifanella has documented these crumbling clippings to create a haunting display of the dreams and aspirations of the long-forgotten women who served the wealthy and powerful guests of the Alcazar.
Through September 2022
Picturing a Nation: American Art From the Lightner Collection. This new re-installation of paintings and sculptures from the Lightner collection provides a vibrant look at America, both nationally and from a St. Augustine perspective, through late 19th century and early 20th century art.
Opening Spring 2022
War and Pieces, a monumental contemporary craft installation that presents Dutch artist Bouke de Vries’s interpretation of an eighteenth-century tablescape. A former conservator of art objects, de Vries breathes new life into traditional materials, creating provocative works of art that blend historic porcelain with modern plastic elements.
Contemporary Chronicles of St. Augustine explores the urban fabric of St. Augustine through large-format photographs, hand drawn maps, and interactive photographic flip books. The project seeks to define St. Augustine through the residential streets and neighborhoods that have long been inhabited by the people that help support the city as a premier tourist destination. Through interactive sequential images, visitors to the exhibition will uncover the overlooked aspects of everyday life in America’s oldest city.