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Hotel Florita History:
The Hotel Florita was built in 1888. At that time Jacmel was the richest town in Haiti, the main trade being coffee. There were no coffee plantations: the peasants were subsistence farmers and grew coffea plants.
There were only a few "big families" and all of them built houses with the ground floor as their office and the two stories above it for living. The kitchen and servants quarters were in the courtyard and the depots for the coffee were usually next to the house and elsewhere on the street - Hence the name "Rue du Commerce".
The 19th Century houses themselves were all designed in Europe - primarily France. They where made of materials selected in Europe: The iron, tiles, etc. were manufactured in Europe. Only the wood, abundant mahogany (at that time), was local.
The economy of the country changed and many of the wealthy Jacmel families relocated to Port au Prince. The Florita was sealed in the 50's, until the town was "rediscovered" by adventurous North Americans, at the beginning of the 70's (before there was a paved road). The trip between Port au Prince and Jacmel took all day, with many rivers needing to be crossed and the town remained beautiful, peaceful and unspoiled.
One of the first foreigners to come to Jacmel was Selden Rodman, a prolific art and travel writer, as well as a poet, critic and eventually, an art dealer. He bought the house after it had been vacant for 20 years and made an art gallery on the first floor. He began to write about Haitian art (most "coffee-table books" about Haitian art were written by Rodman) and was more responsible than anyone else for the popularization of Haitian art in the West. He kept the house for 20 years, spending 4 months a year there - renting it at other times. It was rented by Joe Cross and his family in 1982, who eventually purchased it in 1989. When it was thought that the house should give more people the opportunity to have a sense of what life was like (for the rich) in Jacmel a century ago 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.