The Historic Casa Marina Hotel
The Casa Marina Hotel is a radiantly refined grand ‘lady’ and still turning heads! Ever since it opened its doors onto the Jacksonville beaches in 1925, when every postcard of the era announced ‘world’s finest beach’, the Casa Marina has remained an alluring landmark of Florida history. There have been many forgotten moments in the vast drama of the 1920’s, but the mystery of the Casa Marina is that she must have seen it all.
Jacksonville Beach was originally known as the town of “Ruby” (circa 1884) named by W.E. Scull, a railroad surveyor with the Jacksonville and Atlantic Railway Company, for his daughter. By 1885, the railroad and depot were completed and ‘Ruby’ was transformed into a tent city as crowds of beachgoers arrived with tents in which to live. By then the town was renamed Pablo Beach, after the San Pablo River (now part of the Intracoastal Waterway), a name it kept for nearly 30 years, before settling in as Jacksonville Beach in 1925.
The Grand Opening of the Casa Marina on Saturday, June 6, 1925 was the height of Florida’s first land boom. That same day the town was renamed Jacksonville Beach, while 200 guests dined and danced in the grand ‘salon’. Its construction and Spanish-Mediterranean design brought a ‘first’ to the beach…a fireproof building composed of stucco, concrete, tile and an automatic sprinkler system.
The 1920’s in Jacksonville were ‘hot’. The Jacksonville train terminal opened in 1919 and everybody who was anybody came southward to Florida: from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, John D. Rockefeller, and President Harry S. Truman and F.D.R. claims that these celebrities including, Jean Harlow and Al Capone, were guests at the hotel in its early years. The movie industry boomed in Jacksonville long before Hollywood and the ‘greats’ like Chaplin and Pickford made appearances.
The Casa Marina was two stories tall and had 60 rooms. Jacksonville Beach was the most alluring tourist town in NE Florida: its boardwalk, dance casinos, dining, amusement rides and wide beaches were known throughout America.
During the War Years of World War II, the U.S. government appropriated the Casa Marina for military housing. A succession of owners followed who were passionate about restoring and remodeling the Casa Marina into private residences and an assortment of businesses…a tearoom, clothing store, 37-room apartment building and restaurant.
The ‘grand lady’ finally took a well-deserved rest and closed until 1991. By this time, a veranda and 3rd-story penthouse had been added to the original structure. Today celebrating nearly a century of romance, the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant offers 23 stunning bedrooms and parlor suites individually decorated to represent the distinctive and changing eras of its rich history. The Rooftop enjoys its own notoriety, with one of the most stunning views of the Florida coastline.
The Casa Marina brings a feeling of classic glamour to Jacksonville Beach, a sultry blend of history, natural beauty and sophisticated culture. One can still conjure up images of the ‘ghosts’ of the beach, the sounds of families and lovers laughing and a lineup of Model ‘T’ Fords as they enjoyed the best that life could imagine!
Recognized in 2005 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the Historic Hotels of America, the Casa Marina is ‘a building worth saving and history is in our hands’.