Many Floridians enjoy old landmarks that have stood for many years, often not changing very much. After all, Florida is constantly changing, developing, and growing. So, in the time of strip malls and chain restaurants, visiting a place that looks the same as it did over 100 years ago is arguably a treat for many Floridians. The Palace Saloon in Fernandina Beach is an example of one such landmark.
How the Palace Saloon Began and Catered to the Wealthy: Although many would think that the oldest bar in Florida would be located in St. Augustine, the building where the bar sits was built in Fernandina Beach in 1878 and began as a men's shoe store. According to The Coastal, in 1903, businessman Louis G. Hirth bought the building and transformed it into an upscale bar complete with intricate, hand-carved wooden furnishings fit for the wealthy clientele and ship captains who would frequent it. In fact, according to Fodor's Travel, the bar entertained the Rockefellers and Carnegies at the turn of the 20th century.
The Palace Saloon Survived Prohibition and a Fire, and Allegedly Has a Ghost: According to Visit Florida, the bar was the last American tavern to close during Prohibition since it still sold its wares until the last minute before Prohibition took effect. The bar survived by serving ice cream until restrictions were lifted.
In 1999, a fire damaging the interior of the building required the bar to close for repairs. But it eventually reopened and began to do business again.
It's said that the bar has had an extra patron over the years - a former bartender named Charlie who is said to be the resident ghost. Charlie served as a bartender for the saloon for over 50 years. People have felt cold chills and seen shadows in the shape of human forms.
The Saloon Today: The bar today is more of a place for locals and tourists to visit rather than a gathering hole for the rich. However, the saloon still has many of its elegant features, including inlaid mosaic floors, embossed tin ceilings, hand-carved fixtures, gas lamps, and wall murals.
TripAdvisor reviews are mostly good, at around 4.5 out of 5 stars, but some patrons noted that there isn't a kitchen. Many mentioned the pirate's punch.
Additional Old Bars in Florida: The Palace seems to have taken the title for Florida's oldest continuous bar, but there are other old bars in the state. According to The Daily Meal, the following bars also fit the bill:
- The Green Parrot Bar in Key West, founded in 1890
- Tobacco Road in Miami founded in 1912
- Downtowner Saloon in Fort Lauderdale, founded in 1925
- Pete's Bar in Neptune Beach, founded in 1930
- Odom's Bar & Package in Century, founded in 1932
- Sloppy Joe's Bar in Key West, founded in 1933
- Elbo Room in Fort Lauderdale, founded in 1938