ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA; Fun, Sun and Fitzgerald at the Don CeSar
-Contributed by Big Sis, Carole Dick
Generations of jet-set travellers in search of luxury and weather perfection have flocked to Saint Petersburg, Florida and its pink confection hotel, the Don Cesar. Known as the 'Don', this 91 year old resort boasts a sprawling sugar-white beach, unparalleled dining and accommodation and a breeze kissed by the warm sun of the Florida Gulf.
My husband and I made the great migration from north to south a few years back. We live in the community of Tierra Verde and enjoy the laid-back life-style of the Gulf Coast. St. Pete's has on average 361 days per year of sunshine, earning the it a Guinness World Record and the nickname 'Sunshine City'. There is a thriving arts and culture scene, a popular Saturday market and top class dining.
Irishman Thomas Rowe emigrated to the USA and soon made his fortune in Florida real estate. In 1924, he purchased 80 acres of prime St. Petersburg property for $100,000 and built his 'Pink Lady.'
The hotel took its style direction from the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki Beach. It opened in 1928 with constructions costs of 1.2 million dollars. This was 300 percent over budget.
Named after the down-on-his-luck nobleman Don CeSer De Bazan in the opera Maritana, this pink paradise was a favourite Jazz Age stomping ground for hedonistic celebrities.
High-society favourites such as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were regulars at the Rowe Bar, along with FDR. Famed attorney Clarence Darrow and gangster Al Capone rubbed elbows poolside. Even Lou Gehrig took a swing at the Don.
The hotel continued to attract famous guests and survive both Great Depression and Prohibition. But all that changed when the hotel was appropriated by the government during WW2.
The Don became an army hospital, convalescent center and finally an administrative office for the Veteran's Association. By 1960, with the hotel abandoned, it fell into dis-repair and a became a community eye sore.
Local residents established a 'Save the Don' committee in 1971 and the complex sold was to hoteliers C.L Pyatt and William BowmanJr. They renovated and re-opened in 1973. In 1975, the Pink Palace joined the National Register of Historic Places. It is also a founding member of the National Trust of Historical Hotels and recipient of the Best Historic Hotel of America Award of Excellence.
After considerable renovations, the Don now boasts one of the few beachfront spas on the Gulf Coast. The Oceana has 11,000 square feet of tranquil space and 16 blissful treatment rooms.
There are 277 rooms, 40 suites, conference rooms, shopping, fitness center and pools. The Rowe bar continues to offer cool libations to its hip guests. There are two further bars and Uncle Andy's Ice Cream Parlour. Three award-winning restaurants create the best coastal cuisine available in the Gulf Coast.
The Don CeSar is our go-to place for all special occasions. We love the opportunity to indulge in first class luxury, so close to the new home we love.
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