The St Augustine, Florida City Hall and Lightner Museum is located in the former Hotel Alcaza, a grand building. St Augustine is the oldest city in the USA. The building was closed and encased in an enormous tent for fumigating. Rathaus is the German term for City Hall, which seems appropriate for this occasion.
The hotel was commissioned by Henry Flagler, to appeal to wealthy tourists who traveled south for the winter on his railroad, the Florida East Coast Railway. It was designed by New York City architects Carrère and Hastings, in the Spanish Renaissance Revival style. The firm also designed the Ponce de León Hotel across the street, now part of the campus of Flagler College. Both structures are notable for being among the earliest examples of poured concrete buildings in the world. These architects later designed the New York Public Library in New York City and the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.
The hotel had a steam room, massage parlor, sulfur baths, gymnasium, a three-storey ballroom, and the world's largest indoor swimming pool; however, after years as an elegant winter resort for wealthy patrons, the hotel closed in 1932. After purchasing the building to house his extensive collection of Victorian Era pieces in 1947, Chicago publisher Otto C. Lightner turned it over to the city of St. Augustine.
The building is an attraction in itself, centering on an open courtyard with palm trees and a stone arch bridge over a fishpond.
The museum occupies three floors of the former Hotel Alcazar and is housed in the former health facilities of the hotel, including the spa and the Turkish bath, in addition to its three-storey ballroom.
The first floor of the museum houses a Victorian village, with shop fronts representing emporia selling period wares; a Victorian Science and Industry Room displays shells, rocks, minerals, and Native American artifacts in beautiful Gilded Age cases, as well as stuffed birds, a small Egyptian mummy, a model steam engine, elaborate examples of Victorian glassblowing, a golden elephant bearing the world on its back, and a shrunken head. Moreover, the first floor contains a music room, filled with mechanized musical instruments—including player pianos, reproducing pianos, orchestrions, and others—dating from the 1870s through the 1920s.
The second floor contains examples of cut glass, Victorian art glass and stained glass work from Louis Comfort Tiffany's studio. The third floor, in the ballroom's upper balcony, exhibits paintings, sculptures, and furniture, including a grande escritoire created for Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother and King of Holland between 1806 and 1810. The Ballroom Gallery has oil paintings by Paul Trouillebert(Cleopatra & the Dying Messenger), Léon Comerre (Maid of Honor), and Albert Bierstadt (In the Yosemite). It also has sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux and Randolph Rogers.