The Hotel Florita was built in 1888. Jacmel was then the richest town in Haiti - all of it coffee. No plantations: the peasants subsistence farmers coffea their cash crop.
A few big families. They built houses: ground floor offices - two stories for living. The kitchen and servants quarters were in the courtyard and depots coffee beans much of the street - the Rue du Commerce".
The houses were designed in Holland and France. Send for sale and as ballast. The ornamental ironwork and the tile swere manufactured in Europe - the abundant mahogany was local.
The 50's brought Duvalier, a black man and a lunatic to power and Jacmel was a paler town. The economy changed. A lot of things did. Many of the big houses were sealed. The Florita was sealed in the 50's.
The town was again found by North American travelers. At the beginning of the 70's before the paved road the trip between Port au Prince and Jacmel took all day and longer - many rivers needing to be crossed. And the town remained as it had been - architechurally anomalous to the country, near a red-earthed and relatively prosperous peasantry, peaceful, friendly, not wretched, somewhat undestroyed.
One of the first to Jacmel was Selden Rodman, a writer and hustler, traveler and poet, critic and tennis player - eventually an art dealer - and one who kn ew what he was looking at. He bought the house after it had been vacant 20 years, made an art gallery. He began to write about Haitian art, both books to read and coffee-table books - Rodman was substantially responsible for the popularization of Haitian art in the West. He kept the house for 20 years, spending 4 months a year there. It was rented by Rodman to Joe Cross, a New Yorker given to impulse in 1982 having passed through it on a drunk the previous Christmas. Cross, a prodigal and a presevationist, thoughtlessly and fecklessly then purchased it in 1989 . Viscious military dictatorships had ended a resurgance in upscale tourism in the early 80's and why he did it remains a mystery and his decision to turn it into a hotel a decade later unfathomable.
It is still ther limping along. A sense of what life was like for the Jacmel rich remains possible for everyone.. it was converted into a hotel in 1999 and left mostly as original, so that it could at any time be re-converted into a private house and for this reason, the house and courtyard retain their original charm.
The restaurant and bar are in the depot where the coffee was stored and although the coffee business is no longer thriving in Jacmel the coffee is still local and is the blackest but most alkaline and wonderful tasting coffee, that can be found anywhere.