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Staying at the Ormond
New Year's Day is a holiday in itself, but New Year's Day 1888 was especially sweet for
Ormond Beach. That's because it was opening day for the grand Ormond Hotel, a grand resort
for wealthy Northerners looking to escape the chilly winters back home.
The name “Ormond” had been associated with the area since James and Emanuel Ormond had settled a 2,000-acre plantation called “Damietta” in the area during the late Spanish colonial era. In the 1870s, a group of men from New Britain, Connecticut arrived to seek a place for establishing a colony of workers from their business, the Corbin Lock Company. At first they named the area after their hometown, but they decided to change the name to something more reminiscient of local history. The first post office named Ormond appeared in 1880, and by 1886 the settlement was a stop along the new St. Johns Halifax Railroad.
The hotel did not perform well in its first two years, but its location and potential lured the interest (and money) of developer Henry Flagler. He bought the hotel in 1890 and began a major expansion project that added three wings, a swimming pool, a casino, a pavilion and a pier extending out over the Halifax River. The hotel quickly became one of the star attractions along Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway.
Excerpt of a map of the Florida East Coast Railway system featuring Ormond and the Ormond Hotel, 1917
Like Flagler's other hotels, the Ormond was a playground for those with enough money to enjoy it. Activities included horseback riding, wooded excursion paths, bicycling (which was then still quite new), sailing and fishing. When the automobile arrived on the scene, the Ormond gained a new favorite activity: driving and racing along the packed sands of the nearby beach.
The Ormond enjoyed considerable popularity during the heyday of the Flagler hotels, playing host at various times to the Rockefellers, the Astors, the Vanderbilts and a number of other famous personalities. John D. Rockefeller liked the place so much he bought the house across the street in 1917 and spent the winters there until his death in 1937.
The hotel changed hands several times in the second half of the twentieth century. On November 24, 1980 the structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It was destroyed in 1992 to make way for condominiums, but the original 21-foot wooden cupola is now displayed in Fortunato Park near the Halifax River.