The newest hotel in St. Augustine is a throwback to the Gilded Age.
Three ornate Victorian turrets top a mansard roof at the Renaissance St. Augustine hotel. Multiple porches wrap around the sprawling three-story structure, which is painted in as many pastel colors as you’ll find in the local ice cream parlor.
This popular seaside town on Florida’s northeast Atlantic Coast is the oldest continuously populated city in the U.S. and thus takes its history seriously. Founded by Spanish explorers in 1565, it sports old-world charm and a wealth of architectural styles from its past, including a Spanish colonial fort as well as elegant examples of Moorish revival, Southern plantation-style, and British colonial architecture.
The striking hotel sprawls over several city blocks on a busy street connecting key tourist attractions. The historical fort Castillo de San Marco, the cobblestone streets of the “Ancient City” and the tourist offices are within walking distance. Nearby beaches are just a 15-minute drive away.
While Patel’s group was responsible for the hotel’s exterior, designers from Marriott’s Renaissance group provided the interior with a modern twist. White columns, soaring gold ceilings, a marble staircase and minimalist gray furnishings project an ultracontemporary tone.
Whimsical design touches include a foyer chandelier of dangling glass disks and a seating nook with a bench shaped like a clothespin. About the only hint of history inside is a black-and-white painting of the old city at the top of the stairs.
Guestrooms, which include two suites with fireplaces and private entrances, boast soothing colors and luxury Frette bedding. Sliding doors covered in pop art conceal 55-inch LCD TVs. Other furnishings are sparse, with cubbies instead of dressers and lounging couches in place of chairs and desks. Several rooms also have balconies.
Bathrooms feature walk-in showers with dual shower heads, raised sinks, plush towels and Aveda bath products.
Castillo Craft Bar + Kitchen, the hotel’s full-service restaurant and bar, is named after the city’s famous fort. I spent a pleasant evening in the bar, which specializes in local craft beer and cocktails, watching a bartender fix smoked Old Fashioned drinks warmed with woodchips lit by a small blow torch.
The restaurant’s innovative comfort food includes spicy chicken wings, crispy Brussels sprouts, a stacked caprice salad and my favorite, mussels served with sweet potato fries.
Though primarily aimed at leisure travelers, the hotel has 9,000 square feet of meetings space that can accommodate business gatherings as well as weddings. There is also a fitness area and a small pool, which is scheduled to open in December.
Room rates at the Renaissance St. Augustine begin at $259 on weeknights and $445 on weekends.
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