St. Augustine, as we all know, is not only the first ‘settled’ city in the United States, but it is also one of the most beautiful. The history is so rich that millions of visitors head to St. Augustine each year to delve into the past. From the ‘miracle’ of the Fountain of Youth to the Lighthouse, beaches, shops, archaeological sites – everything is offered. Not only that, but if you are interested in dining on the best cuisine while watching the sunset and listening for the ghosts that have walked these shores, before laying your head down and resting in the most vivid and stunningly gorgeous house in the world, St. Augustine is the place and the Westcott House is that unforgettable wonder.
It was in 1885 that a man named Henry Flagler ‘appeared’ in St. Augustine bringing with him the beginning of a true golden era for the city. Flagler saw what the rest of us see now – a city that has the richest history, most unique ambiance and unmatched beauty. However, he also saw the fact that St. Augustine could be a popular winter resort and playground for extremely rich Northerners. As a co-founder of the Standard Oil Company with J.D. Rockefeller, Flagler immediately put his vast fortune to work. A lot like Carnegie did with the world of education and the building of libraries, Flagler used his funds to construct two lavish hotels that would allow the city to accommodate the millionaire travelers. His Florida East Coast Railway gave them an easy link between The Big Apple, where they all resided, and St Augustine; he even built a two-story depot to receive his arrivals in style.
However, the wealthy establishments that Flagler built would end up playing second fiddle when various wealthy residents and creative minds built their own homes in St. Augustine. And one, The Westcott House, is truly the most amazing of them all. Built for Dr. John Westcott in the late 1880’s, this is THE example of stunning Victorian architecture that tempts visitors from across the globe by combining history, a romantic setting that overlooks the beautiful Matanzas Bay and the unforgettable Bridge of Lions, and offers utter elegance, where visitors are treated as if they, too, are a Rockefeller on a journey into Paradise.
Joy and Andrew Warren are the owners and operators of the Bayfront Westcott House, which is now a Bed & Breakfast that, once you visit, is impossible not to return again and again and again. Views of the historic lighthouse, sunrises that glisten on the sailboats in the harbor and, frankly, pampering to the maximum is delivered.
We were lucky enough to be able to sit down with Andrew Warren and get a feel for this incredible property and the sheer ‘magic’ that not only is rooted in our country’s history, but also has become an elegant staple of our present-day world.
How many years have you been here?
Joy and I have been here for three years and we truly love it. This is a beautiful spot. One of the things that our visitors love the most is our porches. There is a small dining room in the Inn itself, but people gravitate to the porches to enjoy the never-ending scenery.
I agree. We have our breakfast out there in the mornings and it is like waking up in Paradise.
We do serve our breakfasts in the morning and almost all the visitors love to sit out there. We also have a ‘social time’ in the evenings from 5:30 to 7:00 P.M., and on Mondays and Wednesdays we have storytellers come in, which is a great deal of fun for the guests. Depending on the weather we will hold the events indoors or congregate on those porches and just enjoy the evening.
So how did you come to St. Augustine?
Well, we were living in Texas for about five years, and prior to that we were Southern Californians for twenty-five years. In Texas we were a part of the hotel/restaurant industry, big scale stuff, and we decided that we’d like to get into something smaller that we could run for ourselves for a change.
We first looked in Santa Barbara, and then a variety of places for just the right location: South of Fredericksburg, San Antonio, Florida, and more. We ended up with a realtor here based in St. Augustine, who showed us several inns in town for sale. I have to say the Westcott was absolutely love at first sight – location, location, location. Right on the bay, the views, the elegance – this had it all.
The service is also unbelievably outstanding.
Well, that’s what we try to do. We want to make our guests feel absolutely pampered while they’re with us. So anything you want – ask and you shall receive!
Now, can you tell us a bit about the background of the Westcott House?
Dr. Westcott actually moved to St. Augustine in 1858, and became a prominent citizen who was very interested in transportation and politics. The St. Johns Railroad, actually, that spans from the San Sebastian River to Tocoi, was one of Dr. Westcott’s first accomplishments. Not to mention his involvement in the development of the Intracoastal Waterway that links the St. Johns River to Miami.
And the renovations you’ve done have only added to the spectacular architecture and landscape.
Oh, yes, the Westcott House has been completely renovated, but the décor truly fits, taking guests back in time to the rich St. Augustine history. Each guest room is exquisitely furnished with American and European antiques, and the old carriage house has been completely updated. In fact, four new suites were actually built for the Super Bowl in 2006.
All the rooms are spacious with large Jacuzzi-type double showers, flat screens, plush seating areas and the balconies are definitely showstoppers. At least half the rooms have private balconies and some even offer sitting areas on the balcony…the views are stunning.
And the outside of the Westcott offers just as much beauty as the inside.
The main porches on the side of the house are large patio gardens, and the front porches are always hosting guests looking out at the bay, relaxing…just living the dream for a while.
I also love the ease of this location. I mean, you can simply park out back of the Westcott when you get here and never have to set foot in the car again until you leave.
That’s right. We try to make people feel at home and St. Augustine is truly filled with everything. By staying at the Westcott you can get to almost everything by simply taking a leisurely stroll. We give out maps of the city that show everything from the best restaurants to all the attractions. And one of the most entertaining ways to travel is to take the green trolley’s. You can get a pass for the week – get on and off to go eat, shop, see some sites, head to the many festivals that are always going on here – or, simply stay on the trolley and take an exploration through the past.
It’s interesting you mention the festivals. We just attended Rhythm and Ribs this past week
The annual Rhythm & Ribs Festival is just one of the amazing events in St. Augustine. All the time, even during the week, a lot of stuff goes on here to keep visitors entertained. Add to that the St. George Street shops and the nightlife, where there are a great many happy hours with live music available, and you are certainly never bored.
So…hop the trolley in the morning – go to the Fountain of Youth to get the shot of energy you need and then head out for the day?
I have to ask, usually when it comes to the history of older structures people claim ghosts. Any spirits to be had at the Westcott?
There have been some minor sightings of a woman on the second floor balcony wearing a white dress (shocking, I know. LOL.) And her name is supposedly, Elizabeth. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
I have to say, though, Dr. Westcott was certainly a diverse person – postman, engineer, doctor – he seemed to have a hand in a little bit of everything.
That’s true. I have to say this house has changed a great deal since it was built in the 1880s. The original house was only the front part of the house that you see now, and then the back part was added in the 70’s, with the last part – the old carriage house – renovated in 2006.
When Joy and I first purchased the Westcott, it looked very much like a ‘Key West’ building – painted in that pinkish color you see everywhere. Going through city records, we found that the original color was actually a special white with blue accents – so we took the house back to its original colors. I think it stands out so much from the other buildings, particularly when you’re out on the water.
I have to agree. I was out in a motor boat yesterday and the Westcott definitely stands out from everything else. Even in the evenings just walking the streets, the house has a great deal of character and charm. And the sign with the Blue Heron out front is extremely cool.
We actually just did that sign about six months ago. It’s not our logo but we actually have a blue heron that resides on the property for a couple months out of the year; nests in the tree outside the patio here, so it’s his home that he comes back to. We had our local ‘sign man’ create it for us.
Well, it adds even more class. I have to say elegance does seem to surround the Westcott, unlike some chain hotel or tourist trap, so to speak.
We very much wanted the Westcott to depict the local area – the true history that should not be forgotten in St. Augustine. We recently redid the garden area right off the patio and put in a water fountain, some small statues – and the noise from the water now offers a very soothing ambience for enjoying your breakfast time.
And, again, elegance is what all our rooms are based on. All of the rooms are different, furnished in various antiques and are truly immaculate.
I have to say, if someone wants a neat adventure they could honestly come to the Westcott for two weeks and stay in a different room every night.
True. There are sixteen rooms that are completely unique. Kings, queens, with those private balconies offering views of the bay. The Westcott offers a very intimate and romantic experience, as well, for people who just want to get away and enjoy their lives. No small children or pets come to the Westcott so it is amazingly quiet, and being that we are removed from the center of town and closer to the residential district, the neighborhood is very peaceful.
Before we wrap things up, I really need to mention the exquisite breakfast you serve here. I mean, the food is unbelievable. Everything we’ve had during our stay has been exceptional. This is definitely, based on everything from presentation to taste, ‘5 star’ dining.
I think a lot of that comes from Joy and I having a background in the food and beverage service. And I love bacon, a total breakfast guy. (LOL)
Everything we make is fresh – nothing frozen. Only the freshest fruit is served and dishes that range from Eggs Benedict to baked French toast with fresh berries, frittatas, bacon and egg casserole with yogurt – there’s a total variation every day. And, of course, we also have the ‘go to’s’ with a full selection of pastries, muffins, etc.
We want everything about the Westcott to be unique. We don’t just serve breakfast at 9:00 AM like other hotels where everyone has to run down at the same time for their meal. We offer a choice; guests can tell us when they’d like to eat between 8:00 and 10:00, and they also have the option to order breakfast in bed.
We also do a lot of packages: a romantic rendezvous, adventure packages where people can go out on Eco Tours, and see other sites. We also offer the birthday bonanza, which is all about you!
Massages are even offered, so the Westcott is really limitless when it comes to ‘special treatment’ – it’s not just a room…it’s a true experience.
That, folks, is an understatement. The Westcott House is truly an amazing place rooted in an unforgettable location. It is also one of the most truly romantic places in all the world. The peace and solitude of a world that has been around for a good, long time, is also a world that is being discovered day by day and becoming known as ‘Paradise on Earth.’
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Paradise, there is no other choice. The Westcott House is perfection personified!
For more information, go to:
146 Avenida Menendez
St. Augustine, FL 32084
Fax: (904) 819-0596