302 NE 6th Ave, Gainesville, FL
Also known as Sunkist Villa.
Charles William Chase (1857-1909), a relative of Samuel Chase of United States Constitutional Convention fame, came to Gainesville, Florida in 1890 and invested in the Dutton Phosphate Company, later becoming its President. Successful not only in the phosphate industry but also in railroads, real estate and turpentine, Chase, in 1906, undertook the construction of a large private residence. However, the house was not complete when he died in 1909.
Major William Reuben Thomas (1866-1943) acquired the Chase property in 1909 (not documented) and completed the house. Major Thomas, son of Dr. G. P. Thomas who was a Gainesville pioneer, was the mayor of Gainesville for seven years and a Florida state senator for four years. Instrumental in developing the social and cultural environment of Gainesville, Major Thomas was the key figure in bringing the University of Florida and the Chautaugua, a national system of camp meetings, to Gainesville.
The house was maintained as Major Thomas f s residence until 1925. Influenced by the Florida land boom, Thomas saw a need for a luxury resort hotel in Gainesville and with financial backing from the newly formed Gainesville Chamber of Commerce (1925), he began the conversion of his house into the Hotel Thomas. The hotel opened in 1928 and hosted many important national and state figures. During. World War Two, it was used as a club for men from Camp Blanding. The Hotel was a social center for the area, and remained so until it was closed in 1968.
The Atlanta based firm of Edwards and Saywards was employed to design the hotel additions in 1925. William A. Edwards, who supervised the hotel conversion, designed most of the college and university buildings for the State of Florida between 1905 and 1926 and numerous public buildings in the south.
The Thomas Hotel is a visual statement of Florida resort architecture during the boom period. It was designed by one of the South’s leading architects. Begun by an important figure in early Gainesville business development, the house was the residence of another Gainesville figure who was important in the development of Gainesville as the cultural center of North Central Florida, and it became, after its conversion into a hotel, an important community meeting place.
Hotel Thomas is a National Register of Historic Places.