Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Floridan Had Cooled Rooms, Big-Game Trophies

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Floridan Had Cooled Rooms, Big-Game Trophies

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland

Dear Call Box: My grandfather was Gustav Muller, who was a city commissioner around 1900. He was also a businessman who owned the Floridan Hotel and had other businesses in Jacksonville. What can you tell me about the hotel?

B.M., Jacksonville

Dear B.M.: The roof-top sign letting a city known for its humidity know that its rooms were "Air Conditioned" glowed in the night sky like a neon beacon.

The Floridan Hotel was a downtown landmark, not only for its sign, but for its age and staying power.

It was known as the Hotel Burbridge when it opened on Dec. 29, 1911, at West Forsyth and Clay streets.

William Burbridge had commissioned Henry Klutho to design the seven-story hotel, which had 175 guest rooms and a lobby decorated with hunting trophies from Alaska and Africa. His brother Ben Burbridge, owner of a Jacksonville real estate company and a famed game hunter, supplied the trophies, The Florida Times-Union reported. He also delivered the first gorilla to Europe at the Antwerp Zoo.

Armed with a motion picture camera on one hunt, he photographed and produced the first film of gorillas in the wilderness called "The Gorilla Hunt." It was popular fare in 1926.

Here's how the Times-Union described the Burbridge at its grand opening:

"From the moment one enters into the broad swinging doors leading into the main lobby, a sense of great beauty and charm is presented. To the left, one sees a broad space, luxuriantly fitted with massive leather chairs... To the right is the desk and hotel office... a broad, white-marble counter supporting mahogany and plate glass windows and frames, while the general furnishings of the office harmonize in detail with the outer arrangement."

An early postcard listed its rates as $2 a day with bath and $1.50 with running water. Access to its rooms was via hand-cranked elevators. Some were furnished with spool beds, carved dresser bases and hat racks.

In the early days, guests were cooled by ceiling fans. There were giant end-of-hall outside fans in addition to those in rooms. The rooms once were equipped with louvered doors, permitting the solid doors to be opened for ventilation. …

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