The flamingo-pink Don CeSar is one of those grand old hotels that just oozes history. The resort was the dream of Thomas Rowe, who made a fortune in Florida real estate. In 1924 he purchased 80 acres of land in St. Petersburg, Florida for $100,000 and hired the best architects and contractors to build a “pink castle” that incorporated architectural details such as Moorish arches, red-tile roofs, sun-splashed terraces, and Mediterranean bell towers.
From the moment it opened in 1928, the Don CeSar was a hit with the rich and famous of America’s Great Gatsby Era, playing host to the likes of W. Scott Fitzgerald, Al Capone, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even the great depression couldn’t keep the Don down. But when Rowe died unexpectedly without a will, the property was taken over by his estranged wife, who let it fall into disrepair and lost it to back taxes. When the U.S. entered World War II, the facility was acquired by the U.S. Army and subsequently used as a military hospital, convalescent center, and a Veterans Administration Regional Office. By 1969 the once grand hotel was graffiti covered, vacant, and scheduled for demolition.
Fiercely opposed to the plan, local residents found a buyer for the property, who renovated and updated the hotel, adding a 4,000 sq. ft. spa, signature restaurant, and second outdoor swimming pool. Upon reopening in 1973, the new owner changed the name of the hotel to the Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa. Now a Loews Hotel, the luxury Don CeSar promises: “from powder-white sand to tropical sunsets to the luxurious Spa Oceana, each detail of our St. Pete Beach resort is designed with your pleasure in mind.”