By WARREN RESEN firstname.lastname@example.org
Member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association
The Grand Old Lady of Jacksonville Beach sits on a dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. She has been there since early in the last century silently watching the ebb and flow of world events.
Casa Marina has had many lives since its opening in 1925 as the newest, most innovative hotel of its time. The hotel’s fortunes rose and fell with the tide of events until now it is the Grand Dame of Jacksonville Beach, a beacon for guests wanting a touch of old world elegance and for brides wanting a unique wedding experience.
To visit Casa Marina is to return to the privileged world of yesteryear when the hotel and Jacksonville Beach was a destination for the privileged. Every tourist postcard of the day glowingly promoted Jacksonville Beach as the “worlds finest beach.”
The grand opening of Casa Marina was on June 6, 1925, the day the town of San Pablo River was renamed Jacksonville Beach. And what an opening it was reported to have been, “200 guests dined and danced in the grand salon,” while those less fortunate celebrated in the streets and on the beach outside the walls of this Spanish-Mediterranean designed building.
Those were heady days. Jacksonville was a movie town before Hollywood and movie stars of the day flocked here. For the rich and famous, this was a tropical playground and “the” place to be seen.
Casa Marina belongs to the age before cookie cutter hotel/motel guest rooms. Here, rooms and parlor suites are uniquely decorated. Floors are of dark polished wood as is the accent trim throughout the building. Public areas feature warm pecky cypress paneling and the chrome accents of modern day inns is conscious by its absence.
Since it’s beginnings as an elegant hotel, Casa Marina has had many incarnations. During World War II, the U.S. government appropriated Casa Marina for military housing. A succession of owners followed who remodeled the hotel into an apartment building, restaurant and assorted businesses. Then in 1991 it was lovingly restored to its original grandeur and modern conveniences were added. The latest work was completed in 2004, bringing it up to its present state of elegance and comfort. As the old Ann Murray song says, “Everything old is new again.”
The atmosphere of Casa Marina is one of quiet refinement, except during those nights when live music is featured in the outdoor ocean patio. Then the old gal rocks, probably keeping the resident ghosts awake. Yes, a hotel with this much history does have its resident ghost stories.
Casa Marina’s signature feature today is its weddings. There are an average of three per week and the all inclusive packages are a blessing for brides who come from around the world to celebrate this most memorable of events at a one-of-a-kind location.
Wedding photos show the old world charm and warmth of Casa Marina instead of the sterile surroundings so common in “regular” hotels and banquet halls. Another dimension making this a memorable occasion are the beach weddings with photos of bride and groom on the white sand beach with the blue Atlantic Ocean in the background.
The Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant offers 23 stunning bedrooms and parlor suites individually decorated to represent the distinctive and changing eras of its rich history. The Penthouse Lounge enjoys its own notoriety with a stunning views of the Florida coastline and the nearby 1,300 foot Jacksonville Beach ocean pier.
Recognized in 2005 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the Historic Hotels of America, the Casa Marina is a constant in a constantly changing landscape.