Editor’s note: One of our popular features in The St. Augustine Record returns today as Kimeko McCoy writes her first Where History Lives.If you have ideas for others, please email [email protected] or [email protected]
What used to be a little boiler room that held electricity for a house near the Ponce de Leon Hotel, now helps to keep fluidity in Flagler College student life.
Today, Palm Cottage sits comfortably on Valencia Street right beside Wiley Hall. Inside, there is a quaint coquina fireplace, a small kitchen and two rooms that serve as offices to Flagler College’s Counseling Center staff members.
Years ago, Palm Cottage looked a lot different.
Cottage for electricity
Before it was what it is today, Palm Cottage served as a small electric plant for 6 Valencia Street, or what is now Wiley Hall.
Thomas Graham, Ph.D., Flagler College professor and author of “Mr. Flagler’s St. Augustine,” said the Wiley was originally built in 1898 for Dr. Freemont Smith, who was the hotel’s physician.
Electricity sources were stand alone cottages for homes in those days so it sat a little ways from the house to do its job.
Of course, most people during this time did not have the money to afford electricity in their homes; sources of power were reserved for those of a more affluent nature.
Because Ponce de Leon Hotel was owned by the affluent Mr. Flagler, Wiley Hall was of a more extravagant quality and could afford the power unit.
Essentially, the cottage was a small one-story unit with rusticated coquina material on its exterior.
A year later in 1899, the house and its electricity plant was sold to a man that many in St. Augustine are familiar with, Albert Lewis.
Lewis, for those that may not know, was a man of many names in the city of St. Augustine including the title, Ice King and The Father of Good Roads.
Sheila Greenleaf, a resident of St. Augustine who spearheaded the project of getting the Albert Lewis trough named after Lewis, spent time researching Lewis and found a great deal of information about his involvement and charity to the city.
Lewis was a winter resident from the east coast after he bought Wiley Hall from Ponce de Leon Hotel owner and friend, Henry Flagler.
Greenleaf said Lewis was a benefactor for the community and beautified a lot of the roadways, which is why Lewis Speedway was named after him. Lewis also had a helping hand in creating Lewis Field as well as the horse trough that stands today.
As for Lewis’ use of Wiley Hall, which was dubbed Casa Armarylla during his time there, was for his family to stay during the winter months.
Greenleaf also said that Lewis was fascinated with Palm Trees which are notorious to the state of Florida. Lewis incorporated this fascination into a lot of his beautification as well as his home.
Because of it, he used palm trees to create columns on the cottage that stood as the power source for his home.
Although Lewis and his family were the first to own the property on Valencia Street, they were not the only owners.
Soon after, Mrs. Fredrick Francis, Louise Wise Lewis moved onto the property. This tenant, much like Lewis, was no ordinary tenant. Louise Wise Lewis was the niece and fortune heiress of Henry Flagler.
Wise Lewis occupied the establishment for about a year, from 1936-1937, according to the building’s master site file.
In 1945, the building was inhabited by Bernadine Bailey, a young adult writer.
The building exchanged hands a few more times to Mr. and Mrs. E.V. Overby, Lawrence Lewis, Jr., and was finally donated for good to Flagler College in 1982.
Flagler College Guest House
When Wiley Hall and Palm Cottage were donated in 1982, Flagler College was utilizing it as a place to house visitors that came to the college’s campus.
At this time, Wiley Hall and Palm Cottage were their own separate entities.
Wiley Hall served as the admissions office since the time that it was donated to the college back in 1982. Palm Cottage, on the other hand, was a lot smaller and served as a small guest cottage for Flagler College visitors.
Additions were made, like a kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms, since the time the cottage was used as a boiler room, allowing people to come and stay in a cozy home for their visit.
Palm Cottage Counseling Center
In 2006, Palm Cottage became known as what it is today — the Counseling Center for the students at Flagler College.
Mary Tinlin of Flagler College’s counseling department acquired the building for the counseling center back in the fall of 2006, said Glenn Goldberg, the Counseling Center’s director.
Around June, renovations were being made to the building for its use later that year.
Today, Palm Cottage has its own purpose and houses the Counseling Center which provides a range of services ranging from simple to complex.
Goldberg said that over 20 percent of the students that graduated in 2013 used the counseling center at one time or another for its many offered services.
Palm Cottage, although expanded and modernized, still resembles what it did years ago with coquina the Palm Tree trunk columns.
It houses the offices of Goldberg, Tinlin and more, a kitchen and fireplace as well as a student waiting area.
The charming little building is a well-kept secret, Goldberg said.