Monday, September 5, 2016

The Telford Hotel of White Springs

In my previous post I wrote about the town of White Springs and the spring which gave it its name. I mentioned that in the town’s heyday it had fourteen luxury hotels, only one of which survives today. That surviving hotel is the Telford Hotel, and it is the subject of this post.

The Telford Hotel was built by WB Telford in 1902, and was the seventh hotel built in the town. In 1911, the town was ravaged by fire, which destroyed nearly all of the town’s luxury hotels. The number of hotels destroyed differs depending on which website I check; some say four remained while others say only two survived. Needless to say, the Telford Hotel was one of the survivors. Famous visitors to the hotel back in its prime allegedly included Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Howard Taft. As time passed, however, and the popularity of White Springs as a tourist destination began to dwindle, and the community became unable to support luxury hotels. The Telford changed hands numerous times over the years, most commonly operating as a bed and breakfast and/or restaurant. 

Telford Hotel, ca 1903 (source)

Telford Hotel, ca1910 (source)

Telford Hotel. ca1903 (source)

Telford Hotel. 1974 (source)

Telford Hotel. 1978 (source)

As someone who grew up in north Florida, I have two distinct personal memories of the Telford. I’m not sure when I first visited White Springs, or even exactly when my first memory of visiting the town happened, but I certainly remember the event. My mother is a retired history professor, and although she was a stay-at-home-mom at the time of my first Telford memory, she possessed an MA in history. The Telford Hotel was open in one of its many modern day incarnations. The owner had hung portraits of all the US Presidents from Washington to whomever was President at the time (Reagan, I believe) in order around the hotel’s restaurant. He had a standing offer that if anyone could correctly name all of the presidents in order from memory, that person would receive a free meal. My mother, expert on all things historical and lover of all things free, was the first (and for all I know, only) person to take him up on his offer and receive a free meal. After we ate, he gave us a tour of the hotel’s facilities.

Several years later my parents and I returned to White Springs and decided to pop into the Telford on the off chance that my mom could score another free meal by naming all the presidents. Unfortunately for her, the hotel was under new ownership. I don’t recall if it was operating as either a hotel or a restaurant at the time, but what it was operating as was (of all things) an alien conspiracy radio station. I have always been fascinated by the concept of space aliens, and have loved reading science fiction from an early age. However, instead of being fascinated or excited, I remember this absolutely creeping me out. Unfortunately, I don’t remember too many details, other than a man telling us that there was a face on Mars constructed by aliens and the US government knew about it and was keeping it secret. This is such a weird thing to remember that I had actually begun thinking it was some sort of childhood fantasy.

I went down quite an internet rabbit hole researching this, and it turns out that I really can trust my memories. Apparently a fellow named Chuck Harder and his wife purchased the Telford sometime in the late 1980s to serve as the studios for the Sun Radio Network/Talk Star Radio and the production location for his show, “For the People.” Harder went off the air in 1996, although I do not know if he had continued to broadcast from the Telford up until that time or not. A fellow named Richard Hoagland was, for a time, the Science Advisor for Harder’s For the People. This is important because in 1987 Hoagland published a book entitled “Monuments on Mars: A City on the Edge of Forever” which was intended as fact, not fiction. He claimed that there was evidence of the remains of a civilization on Mars, including a giant monument in the shape of a face, pyramids, and the ruins of a city. (A defunct civilization on another planet? Talk about Desolation Travel!) There are even audio archives of Harder and Hoagland discussing various alien conspiracies. Apparently they also offered a TV version of For the People for a brief period; below I've added the introduction to the TV show, which features video of the hotel and the radio station. I do not, however, know when the footage was shot. (Warning: the tune will get stuck in your head.)

As I mentioned above, I don’t know exactly when Harder and his radio program left the Telford, but I do know that it was recently refurbished and operating as a restaurant and bed and breakfast. Unfortunately, the most recent incarnation of the Telford went out of business last year, and as of my visit to White Springs last month, it sat empty with a For Sale By Owner sign on the front door. The interior pictures shown below were taken from the Facebook page from its most recent period of operation, and were first posted online in 2014

The following exterior photos of the Telford were taken by me
during my August 2016 visit to White Springs: 

For more information on the Telford Hotel:

And on the off chance you want more information on Harder or Hoagland: