Relive America’s Gilded Age at the Lightner Museum!

Located within walking distance of Flagler College and the Historic District of downtown St. Augustine, the Lightner Museum houses one of the finest collections of art and historical exhibits from America’s Gilded Age during the 19th-century.

Commissioned by railroad tycoon Henry Flagler and designed by renowned New York City architects Carrere and Hastings, the Lightner Museum first began as the elite Hotel Alcazar, where thousands of wealthy tourists flocked each winter. Hotel Alcazar drew tourists with its Spanish Renaissance Revival architecture, the world’s largest indoor swimming pool for the time, its three-story grand ballroom, and the remarkable health and recreational facilities available (including a steam room, massage parlor, sulfur baths, gymnasium, bowling alley, tennis courts, archery ranges, and even a bicycle academy). In spite of these lavish amenities, the hotel closed down in 1932.

In 1947, however, Chicago publisher Otto C. Lightner purchased the hotel to showcase his vast collection of Victorian Era pieces, eventually turning over the building to the city of St. Augustine, where it has remained the Lightner Museum in his honor to this day. Featuring an extensive, eclectic collection that ranges from fine art to Gilded Age oddities, the Lightner Museum gives tourists unique insight into both St. Augustine’s and America’s pasts.

What to Expect When You Visit

Visitors to the Lightner Museum can purchase general admission tickets online or at the front desk of the lobby. These tickets allow you to wander freely throughout the museum throughout the duration of the day and to come and go as you please. Prices are as follows:

  • $10.00 for adults
  • $6.00 for active members of the military
  • $5.00 for college students and people aged twelve to eighteen years-old
  • Free for children under twelve years-old

Visitors with membership cards to other museums may also qualify for a discount. Unlike some museums, the Lightner Museum allows and even encourages photography of the exhibits, so don’t forget to bring your camera!

The first floor of the Lightner Museum holds a Victorian village, a Victorian Science and Industry Room, and a music room. The village contains shop fronts displaying wares from the period, while the Science and Industry room is comprised of Gilded Age cases with Native American artifacts, stuffed birds, Victorian glassblowing, a shrunken head, an Egyptian mummy, and a model steam engine. The music room is filled with mechanized instruments, including orchestrions, player pianos, and reproducing pianos dating from the 1870’s through the 1920’s.

The museum’s second floor has exhibits on glass, including cut glass, Victorian-era, and work from Louis Comfort Tiffany’s studio. The third floor is housed in the ballroom’s upper balcony and encompasses paintings, sculptures, and furniture, while the Ballroom Gallery showcases oil paintings and additional sculptures.

For those interested in incorporating the glamour and mystery of the Gilded Age into their special occasions, the Lightner Museum provides a number of options for hosting weddings and other events. Beginning at the price of $2,500.00, you can have up to 250 people in the Front Lobby, while $5,000.00 will allow you to have up to 400 people in the Ballroom Gallery. Finally, if you’re prepared to spend the big bucks for your wedding, you can rent out the Historic Pool and Mezzanine for up to 400 people for a cool $10,000.00.

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Image By Daderot at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,