Downtown Jacksonville has a shortage of hotels. It’s an issue that has existed for decades and even resulted in national ridicule for the city when it hosted the Super Bowl in 2005.
But there was a time, several years ago, when downtown Jax boasted over two dozen hotels. It was back in the heyday of the area, when theaters, restaurants, and streetcars lined its streets rather than empty buildings and skyscrapers.
Most of those hotels were demolished long ago. The rest have either been adapted for another use or continue to sit unused.
We’ve chosen a handful of these historic hotels to highlight; this is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a good sampling of the type of hotels that once graced downtown Jax.
Billed as the “Wonder Hotel of the South,” Hotel George Washington opened in 1926 on the corner of Adams and Julia streets.
The 15-story, 300-room luxury hotel was commissioned by Robert Kloeppel, who owned multiple hotels in Florida. Designed by local architecture firm Marsh and Saxelbye, the hotel’s most iconic feature was its large neon-lighted signage. Each room featured a bathtub, steam heating, and a radio. Its main dining room was capable of seating up to 600; it also featured a coffee shop and drug store. An adjacent parking garage rounded out its original list of amenities.
In the early ‘40s, a 2,000-seat auditorium was added to the hotel, making it a popular venue for musical performances. It also became a hotspot for the rich and affluent when passing through downtown Jax, making it the “place to be” for those in search of glitz and glamour.
The hotel outlasted its main competition, the nearby Hotel Roosevelt, but it failed to survive the rapid downturn of downtown Jax in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Kloeppel sold the hotel in 1963, and ten years later, the building was demolished. The property upon which it once sat is currently a vacant lot but is set to be redeveloped as JEA’s new headquarters building.