Lake City Reporter: The Legend Behind the famous Blanche Hotel

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A reservation calendar at the Blance Office Center is marked with receptions, meetings and weddings.

The original glass tile echoes in the empty lobby as visitors walk through to enter Tucker’s Fine Dining or climb the staircase leading to offices.

Yet, more went on in the building at 212 North Marion Avenue when it was the famed Blanche Hotel in the early to mid 1990s.

The reservations made it that time weren’t just for receptions, but were for visitors passing through like Al Capone.

In its prime, the hotel was the social center of Lake City in its prime.

Gov. Fred P. Cone like it so much he decided to live there at one time.

The grand hotel took up one entire city block; today the area is broken into business and offices spaces.

It is home to the oldest elevator in Florida.

The tiny closet-like elevator is not longer in use, but it reportedly still works.

Occupants had to manually stop the elevator at the floor they wanted.

Will Brown built the hotel in 1902 and named it after his 4-year-old daughter, Blanche.

Early promotional brochures boasted about the hotel’s 14-foot ceilings.

On Oct. 3, 1919, N.G. Wade of Jacksonville purchased the Blanche Hotel for $35, 000.

The hotel’s location made it popular because travelers on the U.S. 441 could stop in on their way to Chicago or Miami.

The hotel used to have a swimming pool and barns for horses and buggies.

It also had an adjoining garage that accommodated about 40 Model -T cars.

The hotel had three floors and all but the third are open today.

Gangster Al Capone was said to stay in the hotel on his way to and from Miami.

Some say he had a mistress in the area, but there is no documentation of this, just local lore.

The hotel was also rumored to be a place of gambling, wild parties and prostitution, but there is also no documentation of this.

According to a tourism booklet produced by the chamber of commerce in the 1920s, first class rooms with meals ran for $2.50 a night and rooms with private baths ran $3 to $4.

Weekly rates ranged from $14 to $22.

The booklet contains pictures of the hotel and stated that it had 52 rooms at that time.

On August 21, 1925, 100 rooms were added.

In 1925, the south wing was added and the following year the north wing was added as well.

The hotel closed in 1967 and went through several revitalization projects later.

Employees over the years reported ghost sightings in the hotel.

One story was about a woman who worked in an office in the hotel.

Every morning she would go into her office and find her stapler standing straight up.

She would set it down before leaving work and the next morning it would be vertical again.

Another story was about an employee who would come to work and find that someone had gone through her desk drawers the night before.

Yet, she was the only one who had access to the desk.

Other stories include female employees feeling fingers touching them while they worked and sightings of soldiers walking in the halls.

Robert Chasteen, owner of Chasteen’s Downtown, remembers the Blanche before it closed.

He has watched the storefronts change over the years.

“At one time, Belk’s was located across from the hotel and Dr. Harry Howell had his office down here and delivered all the babies including me,” he said.

He pointed out where old businesses once lined the neighborhood around the hotel.

“There was the Columbia Theatre, Bruce’s clothing store, JC Penney’s, Cox Furniture Co., and DuBose and Cox,” he said.

He recalls eating lunch downtown each Sunday after church.

“DuBose and Cox Furniture had the first microwave,” he said.

“I can remember a demonstration in the late 1950s and early 1960s.”

–Ashley Cisneros
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.

By | 2005-04-24T21:30:31+00:00 April 24th, 2005|Categories: Blog, News, Samples|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

About the Author:

Ashley Cisneros Mejia is a journalist, entrepreneur and marketer. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later as an editor at Florida Trend business magazine. Ashley has worked as a professional freelance writer since 2009, as a technical writer, marketing manager, and public relations practitioner. She also founded two digital marketing agencies in Orlando. Named one of Orlando’s 40 Under 40 and honored by the Women’s Executive Council of Orlando for achievements in media and communications, Ashley earned a B.S. in Journalism and an M.S. in Entrepreneurship at the University of Florida.

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