The Sweet Magnolia Inn is open and newly refurbished! The weather is beautiful this time of year so come on down and enjoy a day on the river or cycling the newly expanded St. Marks bike trail.
History Of The Inn House: The original structure housed a General Store. The owner and his wife lived in the back of the house, let rooms out on the second floor and ran the general store in the front of the building facing the main road that comes into St. Marks. It is not clear what happened to the original builders and owners of the Inn house.
The building is marked as one of the strongest buildings in the whole area and was (and still is) used as a shelter during very strong storms and floods. The walls of the Inn house are made from solid lime rock and cement layered with coquina shells, and the steel in the walls is actually some of the original railroad tracks themselves that went from St. Marks to Tallahassee, now known as the “Historic St. Marks Railroad Bike Trail”.
Then a World War came along with PT boats and sailors, and the building became a brothel where sailors were brought every weekend. The PT boats would be located at Port Leon up the St. Marks River where Pt 109 was said to have visited and docked for a while (site is still there).
When the war ended and the brothel was run out of town, the building was used as a church, a City Hall, and, it is rumored that the building was used to unload bottles of whiskey back in the prohibition days. Eventually, it became a hotel called “The Shangra-La” (hence the name of Room 5), housing another brothel upstairs and a pool hall/bar downstairs. It is said that at times there was violence at this hotel and it eventually burnt out in the early ‘80’s leaving only the four original walls (see the photo in the dining room above the garden windows).The building was rehabbed by Ken Campbell starting in late 1994 and opened for business in 1996 as St. Marks only Bed and Breakfast Inn. In the early part of the Inn’s time, there was a five star gourmet restaurant downstairs. People would come from miles around and wait in line to partake of the gourmet cuisine served at the Inn.
A lot of the trees and vegetation were taken by trucks from the property of Mr. Campbell’s father and brought to the Inn for landscaping, since most of the property was bare, swampy and muddy. Mr. Campbell also built the fishpond garden/boardwalk area behind the Inn. The ponds are in the shape of the state of Florida, trailing off downhill as the Florida Keys do in south Florida and are filled with goldfish, koi and carp.
The wood floors in the upstairs hallway and guest rooms were recycled from the Havana School auditorium. In addition, the front porch brick and, the brick in the fishpond garden behind the Inn were also recycled from the Havana School’s original walls (the school no longer exists).