Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Pink Castle of Saint Petersburg Beach

As seen from the view on Tierra Verde Draw Bridge Famous and Beautiful from any direction. Know as the pink castle and for being haunted, I took advantage of a perfectly clear sky to get a long distance shot of a truly fabulous and historic place.

An article written about the history of the Don Cesar:
The Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach in Florida is a historic hotel with a fascinating history. There are some people who even say it is haunted. The Don CeSar was built by Thomas Rowe. Many years before Rowe built the Don CeSar, he fell in love with a woman named Lucinda. There are people who report seeing the lovers walking in the pink hotel to this day.

The Ghost Story

When Thomas Rowe was a young man, in the1890's he was studying in Europe. Rowe had a romance with a young lady named Lucinda. Lucinda's parents did not approve of Rowe and forbade Lucinda to see him. Rowe returned to America, forlorn. His letters to Lucinda were returned, unopened. When Rowe heard of Lucinda's death he received a note that she wrote on her deathbed: "Time is infinite. I wait for you by our share our timeless love, our destiny is time.

When Rowe started construction of the Don CeSar in 1924, he included a fountain that was a replica of the courtyard and fountain where he and Lucinda used to meet. The fountain was destroyed when the Veteran's administration took the building over. The original fountain was replaced by a replica fountain, that is now in the hotel lobby.

Employees at the Don CeSar tell tales of seeing a couple who appear walking hand-in-hand. The gentleman is a dapper man in a white suit and Panama hat. The young lady is a dark haired beauty. the descriptions match those of Thomas Rowe and his beloved Lucinda. The couple walks through the hotel and then disappears.

History of Don CeSar

The Don CeSar was the dream of Thomas Rowe, who was in failing health when he migrated to Florida and began to realize his dream of building a "pink castle. Rowe purchased 80 acres of land on a narrow strip of land known as St. Pete Beach. At the time the land was accessible only by a frail wooded toll bridge which operated at the whim of its owner. Rowe used a barge to transport building materials.

The Don Cesar was built to emulate the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. The large pink castle was built by Thomas Rowe, who had made a fortune in Florida real estate/ The cost of the hotel was 1.2 million dollars, which was nearly 300 percent over budget. Rowe was obsessed with building the finest hotel in Florida and spared no expense in creating this pink vision with Mediterranean and Moorish architectural motifs.

The hotel's cotton candy pink facade in the lush tropical surroundings was a standout next to the Caribbean blue ocean and sky. The hotel had balconies and terraces lining the exterior. Inside there were ornate marble fountains, lofty ceilings and rich furnishings. Most of the guest rooms had views of the Gulf of Mexico or Boca Ciega Bay. Don CeSar was named for a character in a light opera named Maritiana.

The grand resort was a hot spot for high society of the famous Great Gatsby era. Famous guests included FDR, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Clarence Darrow, Lou Gehrig and Al Capone.

Hard times hit the Don CeSar during the depression years in the 1930's. The New York Yankees signed a three year spring training contract in 1931, which helped the Don through the Great Depression.

According to Rowe's employees, he considered his hotel to be his home and treated it as such. Rowe would sit at the top of the stairs in the lobby and survey each guest that registered. If the guests did not meet his standards, he would request that they leave.

Rowe had a will which left the "pink lady" to his loyal family of employees. However, he died an untimely death in1940, without signing the will. When he was in the hospital emergency room his lawyer rushed to the hospital with the new will, but the nurses refused to witness the signature due to his condition.

Rowe's estranged wife of 30 years inherited the property. During the next few years the hotel lost much of its charm and personality that had given it such high standing with high society. The widow lost the property to back taxes.

In 1942 the Army purchased the property for $450,000 and the building became a convalescent center for World War II airmen. During the time that the veterans were convalescing, many celebrities continued to visit to Don to boost morale for the troops.

After the war, the building was turned into a veteran's administration building. The government stripped the hotel of its luxurious appointments, including the beautiful fountain in the lobby. A Worker who was involved in the demolition wrote a letter and sealed it into the fountain before it was covered by flooring. The letter was undiscovered for 25 years. When the letter was found in 1973, it was published in the St. Petersburg Times. The letter read:

":At this spot in the center of the spacious Don CeSar stood a fish pond covered with imported tile. The manager, Mr. J,H.F. Dikensheets, decided that the fish pool was unsightly and in the way of pedestrian traffic, so it must be destroyed. During the Heyday of this hotel, this fish pool was a spot of beauty sitting in the center of this spacious lobby. It is with much regret that Mr. S.F. Kuban, head carpenter, upon instructions of Mr. W.D. Goodale, superintendent of the building, demolished this pool. If this letter should be found, it is hoped it can be published in a newspaper."

In 1967 the building was abandoned, due to the expense of needed repairs. The once grand Don CeSar became an eyesore on the beach and was slated for demolition..A preservation group rescued the Don CeSar by locating a buyer who would return the hotel to its former grandeur.

The lobby fountain, that had been demolished, was replaced by a replica fountain. The fountain is now the center of a Spanish village surrounded by shops.

Don CeSar was reopened in 1973 as a luxury resort. Renovation and revitalization projects have enhanced the hotel over the years. Recently a $20 million enhancement project revitalized the lobby with rich mahogany accents. Guest rooms received a makeover as well.

The Don CeSar celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2003. The romantic resort has 277 guest rooms., fitness center, two pools and a spa. The famous resort was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. In 1989 Don Ce Sar was selected as a founding member of the National Trust of the Historic Hotels of America. The National Maritime Association uses the pink Don CeSar as a navigational aid on their maps. The Loews Don CeSar is a AAA Four Diamond Resort.

If the ghost stories are true, Thomas Rowe and his beloved Lucinda wander through the hotel and must enjoy the restored grandeur of the haunted hotel.

See Orginal article:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great shots! I used to live in the Clearwater/Largo area so of course I know about the "Pink Castle".