This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is an elegant view of a hotel.

In his 1910 book Forty Years of a Sportsman’s Life, Sir Claude de Crespigny (1847 – 1935), my fourth cousin three times removed, mentions his 1887 visit to the Tropical Hotel Kissimmee, Florida.

View of the Tropical Hotel – Kissimmee, Florida, 1890s, retrieved from State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Sir Claude also mentions the Ponce de León Hotel, St Augustine, Florida. The hotel was  completed in 1887. Sir Claude would have been one of its first guests.

Ponce de Leon Hotel – St. Augustine, Florida, 1893, retrieved from State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

“Hotel Ponce de Leon, St. Augustine, Florida”, postcard about 1909, retrieved from Wikipedia

From Chapter 7 of his book:

In these days of universal travel it is a difficult matter to strike what may be termed new ground. Indeed, it is almost impossible, and the nearest approach one can make to novelty is to pick out the spots least frequented by those two ubiquitous specimens of humanity, the sportsman and the British tourist. Bearing this in mind, and having received an invitation from an ex-sailor, I determined on a short tour through Florida, with Cuba to follow. So having written to S— to meet me at Douglass’s Tropical Hotel at Kissimmee, set about collecting my impedimenta, and engaged a berth by the Cunard boat from Liverpool to New York. Of course there are many ways of getting to the Stars and Stripes, and the traveller can have his choice of which line he will elect to travel by. Mine fell on the Cunarder, and there was no cause to repent it ; everything on board was most comfortable, and with fine weather we made a rapid passage, arriving at Sandy Hook almost before we had well cleared the Mersey — at least so it seemed.

From New York there is again a choice of routes. You can take the luxurious vestibule train or the steamer to Jacksonville, where it will not be amiss to spend a couple of days at St. Augustine, in the palatial hotel, Ponce de Leon, built after the style of old Moorish architecture. From Jacksonville you will take the train to Kissimmee ; or, better still perhaps, the steamer down St. John’s River to Sandford, and then on by rail.

Arrived at Kissimmee, Mr. Douglass will, assuming that he is still in the land of the living, make you thoroughly comfortable in the Tropical Hotel at an exceedingly moderate outlay, and will put you in the way of obtaining either a steamer or boat to the best sporting ground, which is in the neighbourhood of Fort Bassenger and Lake Arbuckle.

On arrival at Kissimmee, I found all arrangements had been made by S— , who had also got punt and everything in readiness so that there was nothing for me to do but overhaul the shooting-irons and kit, and prepare for a start. While on the subject of shooting-kits, it may be mentioned there is no necessity to bring out cartridges, as a gun- maker in Kissimmee, called Farringdon, can supply every requisite ; and, what is more, is particularly careful in loading. When ordering cartridges I found American wood powder by far the best, and can recommend it strongly. Flannel is the best material for clothing, and a stock of quinine should not be forgotten. These, however, are details.

On Tuesday, December 13, we left St. Elmo at 7.15 a.m., arrived at the south end of Lake Tohopekaliga at 1 p.m., and passing quickly through the canal into Lake Cypress, and on through a second canal, came into Lake Hatchineha, just as daylight was vanishing. Here we were lucky enough to hit off a sandbank studded with oak copse, and dry wood being plentiful, soon had our camp fire under way, and supper. The whiff of tobacco, and glass of Bourbon whisky which followed the evening meal, were both mighty acceptable, for we had had nine hours’ hard rowing under a blazing sun, and were both fairly tired out. At least I can answer for it that it was with a feeling of deep satisfaction I curled myself up in my blankets for the night, and was quickly lulled to sleep by a chorus of frogs, with the occasional ” ouf, ouf! ” of a somewhat consumptive alligator.

Map showing Kissimmee and St Augustine, Florida

I was thinking of Sir Claude this week, following the sad news of a lion being shot for sport in Africa.  Sir Claude was an active hunter who killed many animals for his own amusement.

Rhino shot by Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny from opposite page 291 of Forty Years of a Sportsman’s Life
Trophies at Champion Lodge from opposite page 295 of Forty Years

I deplore game shooting. I can’t understand why people want to kill animals for sport, now or a hundred years ago.

An article by J A Mangan and Callum McKenzie in the International Journal of the History of Sport about the Shikar Club, offers some clues as to why Sir Claude was so keen on hunting:

Patriotism obsessed de Crespigny. He was of the view that every able-bodied Briton had an obligation to defend his country and could not be considered a ‘man’ till he had done so. He practised what he preached. He served in both the Royal Navy (1860–5) and the Army, (1866–70) and later, despite his advancing years, was keen to play an active part in the Boer War. Sporting pleasures and military duties, in his rigid opinion, went hand in hand. Hunting was an ideal training for warfare. He was dismissively contemptuous of all ‘gentlemen of England now abed’ types. He likened such ‘feather-bed aristocrats’, particularly those who declined military duty, to effeminate French aristocracy, and, considered they had no place in the English social hierarchy. His son’s military success was, in his certain view, the result of the family’s predilection for hunting: ‘Men who have been good sportsmen at home are the men who will do best and show the greatest amount of resource when on active service.’ (page 258 of Forty Years) De Crespigny was a pragmatist as well as patriot. Hunting was more than training for war, as noted elsewhere; it assisted military promotion and to this end, de Crespigny used it as a means of consolidating friendships with high-ranking military officials and useful politicians.

In Florida Sir Claude shot and wounded a moccasin snake, bagged half a dozen snipe (for eating), fruitlessly tramped after deer and turkey, but later seems to have shot some venison for eating. (pages 188-193 of Forty Years)


  • (2008) Imperial Masculinity Institutionalized: The Shikar Club, The International
    Journal of the History of Sport
    , 25:9, 1218-1242, DOI:
    10.1080/09523360802166162 retrieved through the State Library of Victoria eJournals service – link :

Similar text appears in Mangan, J. A. Reformers, Sport, Modernizers: Middle-class Revolutionaries. : Routledge, 2013. viewable in Google books Also in Mangan, J. A. and Callum McKenzie Militarism, Hunting, Imperialism: ‘Blooding’ The Martial Male. : Routledge, 2013. viewable in Google books

Note the article, and the books, incorrectly refers to Sir Claude as a Brigadier-General. The fourth baronet did not achieve that rank. His son, Sir Claude Raul Champion de Crespigny, the fifth baronet, was a brigadier-general.