Before Farragut Hall housed boarding students, the building housed hotel guests from around the world.
The Significance of the Jungle Country Club Hotel
The 1925 Jungle Country Club Hotel is significant for its association with the development of tourism in St. Petersburg during the 1920s. Built during the city’s golden era of hotels, the hotel reflects the changing character of the city’s lodging industry from small boarding homes such as those built in the 1910s to the larger sized hotels built during the Florida Land Boom Era. One of ten large hotels built in St. Petersburg during the Florida Boom Era, the Jungle Country Club Hotel was unique in that it was the first of three hotels constructed on the western portion of the Pinellas peninsula. This setting allowed the hotel to offer a variety of recreational activities like golf, tennis, and horseback riding that were not readily available at downtown hotels.
Mediterranean Revival Style Architecture
The hotel was designed by New York architect Henry Taylor in the Mediterranean Revival style of architecture. Taylor also designed the Vinoy Park Hotel, St. Mary’s Church, the Florida Theater (now demolished), and the Jungle Prado (now known as Jungle Prada). The two- and three-story structure forms a rectangular block around a central courtyard. Two canted wings project from the west facade, opening like arms to Boca Ciega Bay. These wings, three stories in height, spring from asymmetrical towers, the north tower being most prominent. The building was constructed of steel and hollow clay tile with the exterior walls finished in a textured stucco. The roof is covered with a multi-chromatic random mixture of red, brown and beige barrel clay roofing tiles. Fountains glistened in a central courtyard and were tiled in terracotta. The first and second floors boasted ornate, wood-trimmed open lounges. French doors prevailed throughout the hotel. The main entry to the hotel faced south onto 5th Avenue and is identified through a two-story sopraporta, which features classical detailing capped by four urns.
In 1923, developer Walter P. Fuller purchased his father’s interests in the Allen Fuller Corporation, which was founded in 1919, and began extensive development in the Jungle Area on the shores of Boca Ciega Bay. Fuller’s developments include the Jungle Country Club Hotel, the Jungle Prada, several downtown structures and a multitude of residential lots throughout the city.
“a developer who lost as many fortunes as he made; an author, editor, historian, raconteur, politician, and wit. One of his great lines was ‘the first bootlegger I ever met was me.’ And it was true.”
The Jungle Club Hotel housed many wealthy, northern tourists, boasting names like Babe Ruth, Jimmy Walker, and Jack Dempsey, as well as several quiet men who ran Al Capone’s gambling ship off the gulf. During World War II, many of the hotels in St. Petersburg saw a sharp decrease in tourism. To supplement the lack of tourism, most of the large hotels leased themselves out to the U.S. Army Air Corps. The Jungle Country Club was no exception, and in 1942 the building began housing Air Corps trainees.
Becoming Admiral Farragut Academy
In 1944, a $300,000 contract was signed insuring the transfer of the luxurious Jungle Club Hotel to Admiral Farragut Academy, which was then an all-boys military boarding school. The school adapted and reused the hotel building as a dormitory, and constructed numerous administration and classroom buildings as well as the addition of recreational facilities. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Academy sold portions of the original golf course site which was subsequently developed with single family homes. On November 5, 1992, the City Council of the City of St. Petersburg, Florida passed a resolution designating the building, now called Farragut Hall, as a local historic landmark.