Quickie in Florida, 2001.

In 1924, Thomas Rowe purchased 80 acres of land in St. Petersburg, FL for $100,000 to begin his dream of building a “pink castle”. He hired Indianapolis architect Henry Dupont to design the hotel and Carlton Beard as contractor. To ensure the stability of the hotel on the shifting sand and avoid the high cost of sinking so many pilings, Beard devised a floating concrete pad and pyramid footings. To this day there is no sign of evident settling of the hotel. The architecture is a blend of Mediterranean and Moorish styles modeled after different hotels and developments that Rowe and Beard saw in Palm Beach, Coral Gables and Boca Raton. The original design called for a $450,000 six-story hotel with 110 rooms and baths. It was later expanded to 220 rooms and 220 baths and the costs soared to $1.25 million, 300% over budget. Rowe named it Don Ce-Sar after Don Cesar de Bazan, the hero of William Vincent Wallace’s opera Maritana.

Rowe’s “Pink Lady” opened on January 16, 1928, with an extravagant party attended by the elite of Tampa and St. Petersburg. The hotel quickly became a favorite romping ground for the rich and famous of the Jazz Age including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Clarence Darrow, Al Capone, Lou Gehrig and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Pink Palace continued to attract the rich and famous throughout the Great Depression, thanks in part to a deal made with New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert to house his team during spring training for three years.

However, after the sudden death of Rowe without a will, “The Don” was left to his estranged wife and began to fall into disrepair until the United States entered into World War II and the hotel was bought out by the Army for $450,000. It was converted into a military hospital and reopened in December 1942. In February 1944 the Don Ce-Sar became a US Army Air Corps convalescent center. In June 1945 the Don Ce-Sar was ordered closed and was vacant by September of that year. It was converted into a Veterans Administration Regional Office by the end of 1945.

In November 1967 the Veterans Administration began moving out of the Don Ce-Sar. By spring 1969, the once grand hotel was vacant. The General Services Administration planned to raze the graffiti-covered hotel, but this was met with fierce opposition from local residents. In March 1972 the Don Ce-Sar was sold to C.L. Pyatt and William Bowman Jr., a Holiday Inn franchise owner. The Don CeSar (now spelled without the hyphen) reopened on November 23, 1973. Multiple renovations from 1985 to 2001 have updated and added onto the hotel, including a 4,000-square-foot spa, a signature restaurant, and a second outdoor swimming pool. After the addition of the full-service beach club and spa, the official name of the hotel was changed to The Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa.

The Don CeSar was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and became a founding member of the National Trust Historic Hotels of America in 1989. Nightly rate on an arbitrary weeknight in 1.2021 will be allegedly between 350 and 400, plus tax and fees.  Not the place to stay if you’re looking for an economy room!

The original Twistee Treat (below) was a franchised chain of ice cream restaurants, founded in 1983 in North Fort Myers, Florida. The restaurants are characterized by buildings shaped in the form of soft-serve ice cream cones.

This one was in St. Petersburg…

The original company, which had 23 locations in Florida, went into bankruptcy in the early-1990s. A new Twistee Treat company, based in Orlando, FL, was formed in 1996. As of 1999, the new company had 35 locations in Florida and Missouri.

In 2010 a new company, Twistee Treat USA began building new stores.

I saw this rail equipment down in Florida on the trip, but don’t have any information about it! Even Wikipedia doesn’t have much useful information!

A quick drive-by netted a picture of the Bradenton FL former Atlantic Coast Line station. At this point, it was disused, but apparently it was refitted into a dentist’s office a few years later. At least it wasn’t demolished – yet!

And keeping with the train theme, below is where your Tropicana orange juice begins its journey to your favorite grocer…not far from Bradenton, and it travels in a dedicated train.

And at last, a west-coast-of-Florida trademark sunset – so beautiful!

Stay tuned!


4 thoughts on “Quickie in Florida, 2001.

  1. Thanks for the history on the hotel. I have passed it once or twice on my Florida visits and thought it was a unique and interesting structure. I am glad it was not razed.


  2. Nice photos, Mandy, especially the sunset. That pink hotel really is something extraordinary – like a vast pink cake!

    Hoping that Florida comes out of this current epidemic quickly.

    Stay safe

    Sue x


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