Monday, July 21, 2014


When my mother left me a lot of family correspondence, I was particularly touched by my grandfather Folke's letters to my grandmother Olga. There was a reason why he had written so many letters to her. 
My American grandmother, Olga, met my Swedish grandfather, Folke Jonsson, in Brussels in 1909.  Olga was eighteen and Folke, twenty-three. They settled in Gothenburg and Särö, Sweden. Olga, being American, had her family in Florida, and Folke soon came to realize that if you marry a woman from another continent, and this woman is charmingly independent, innovative and brave, and has her own means to boot, she is bound to want to visit her native country some time -- or several times -- or more than several times.  
   To Folke, a sensitive soul, the long separations were quite painful and he suffered till his darling Olga returned.  He “talked” to her in his frequent letters. 
Olga saved all his letters, in their original envelopes, in neat little bundles held together with different coloured ribbons. They were a treasured lifelong testament of his love.
   Olga and Folke corresponded in English as Olga was American and preferred writing in English. Had my grandfather Folke married a Swedish woman who had stayed at home, there would not be this stack of his letters today. He never intended the letters to be shown to others, but more than one hundred years have passed since Folke wrote them to his darling Olga. I have enjoyed getting to know my grandfather in this manner and I think others, not only relatives, should also share that privilege.

The letters have now been published:
Places to buy this book 

For this who wish to see how Olga and Folke lived, there is a Picture Book 
with 150 pictures of how they lived.


When my twenty-two year old grandmother Olga Jonsson (Dawson) visited her parents in Jacksonville, in 1913, she sometimes wrote to her Swedish husband Folke, on the stationary of the Seminole hotel. The family was often there and Olga wrote that it was a nice place to "go and write letters". Jacksonville at this time did not have many ten story buildings and this was probably a very popular place to eat or just "be seen". (For more about pretty Olga, the young girl from Jacksonville who married the handsome Swede Folke, in Paris 1909)

The Dawson's, interested in property development, were no doubt very impressed by the architect, Henry John Klutho who the year before had finished the magnificent St. James Building and his other buildings like the Klutho Apartments and Marocco temple were also very interesting.
The hotel with many decorations inspired by the Florida Seminole Indians.
Here on the roofed balcony over the portico, one had the perfect view of who was coming or going to the hotel. 
The perfect place for Olga and her young friends to enjoy themselves or "be seen" (to "hang out and chill" as they say these days).
Olga's father William Dawson owned the land that the hotel was built on. The lease was for 99 years and many years later, in 1969, when Olga was seventy-nine, she had to travel to Florida (her last of many trips in her lifetime) to try to sell the building which had become the family responsibility as they owned the land. 
She wrote to her daughter Gunilla, in March of 1969, that the family was looking for a suitable buyer. She had suggested to her two nephews (Carl and Billy) who lived in Jacksonville that they should buy the building, fix it up and call it "The Dawson Building" in honor of their grandfather (and her father). But that never came about. But it would have been a good investment no doubt and a landmark had been preserved.
I seem to remember that grandmother Olga said that it would have been too costly for the hotel to add costly fire escapes, so the building had been handed over to the property owners, Olga and her siblings -- ironic, considering that when this hotel was built, it was advertised as "absolutely fireproof" (see the stationary above).

Henry John Klutho, the architect who came from the East coast when Jacksonville had almost burned to the ground in 1901 (grandmother Olga told us grandchildren how they had to flee the city during a fire and they buried the family silver in the garden before they left). Klutho saw the fire as a great opportunity. Read more about his important influence on Jacksonville architecture. More here.

More Klutho buildings in Jacksonville:

If you look carefully, you can see the intricate and detailed Indian decorations on the facade. More below:

The above picture of the Seminole Hotel facade was taken before the hotel was demolished in 1974. From the article by Wayne W. Wood: Jacksonville's Lost Treasures

This terra cotta ornamental piece from the facade of the Seminole Hotel has been preserved at the Museum of Florida at Tallahassee. (From Tallahassee Daily Photo)

The Indian theme continued inside also, as in this dining room called
 the INDIAN ROOM (two pictures from different times, above and below)

Detail of plate used in the dining room



 State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory 

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory 

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory