Etta James’ rendition of the classic 1940’s blues standard,”At Last”, keeps humming through my head when I think of the iconic Loews Don Cesar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida. Perhaps, it is the property’s inspiring story of resilience or the romance of the era that makes the song ring true. Born from a developer’s dream of a beachfront castle, the Loews Don Cesar aka The Pink Palace blossomed into an iconic retreat and pampered playground for the privileged. The register included many high profile guests, politicians, literary giants and American aristocracy. The likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and wife, Zelda, legal eagle Clarence Darrow and mobster Al Capone were among the many who enjoyed the Pink Palace’s pristine beachfront, nightly soirees, superior service and reputation for discreetness.
The Loews Don Cesar’s history mirrors its namesake in many ways. Developer Thomas Rowe, an opera aficionado, fittingly named his castle after Don Cesar de Bazan, the hero of William Vincent Wallace’s opera Maritana, who like the hotel struggled and survived despite setbacks.
It was during rush of the roaring 20’s when The Don Cesar opened its doors to much acclaim and pageantry. Yet, less than a year after its debut, the Crash of 1929 set the hotel on a downward spiral.
The Pink Palace was able to survive the Great Depression thanks to creative prowess and baseball. The New York Yankees called the Don Cesar home during spring training for several years and the local community rallied by hosting dinner dances. Sadly, the reprieve could only last so long.
The banks closed and people had no cash for gas or travel. The business ran dry.
The financial challenges and the death of Thomas Rowe in 1940 would force the Don Cesar to undergo a dramatic change. By the start of World War 11, the property was sold and converted from a ritzy resort to a military hospital and convalescent center. In June 1945, the hospital closed. The Don Cesar building was left vacant for many months until reopened as a Veterans’ Regional Administrative Office. The hotel’s ballroom would be lined with steel filing cabinets and its beautiful interiors would be stripped and repainted “government green”. It would take nearly 22 years before the Pink Palace would be restored to its original glory.
In 1975, The Don Cesar Resort Hotel became the first landmark on Florida’s West Coast to be added to the National Register of Historic American Buildings.
Today, the Loews Don Cesar celebrates its second chance with extraordinary style and grace.
The restored and expanded hotel with its majestic Moorish-Mediterranean style architecture and tropical pastel pink exterior is hard to ignore.
Add in acres of pristine private beachfront and the Gulf’s crystal blue waters as a backdrop, and you have a picture-perfect paradise where the pleasure principle still prevails.
Thomas Rowe’s dream lives on and the motto over his office door in 1927 still resonates.
“Come all ye who seek health and rest, for here they are abundant.”
Location: Loews Don Cesar Hotel – 3400 Gulf Boulevard; St. Pete Beach, Florida 33706
For rates, reservations and more information, visit the Loews Hotels official website or call 855-775-6397
The Park & Beach Package wraps up the Perfect Vacation Getaway at a Savings!
Hotel Highlights & Fast Facts:
- 277 Guest Rooms & Suites/ 8 Story Building
- Historic Hotel of America
- Beachfront Resort with acres of sandy white beach on Gulf of Mexico
- 2 beachfront pools & an outdoor whirlpool
- Spa Oceana – a full Service Spa with 16 treatment rooms, salon and rooftop lounge
- Maritana Grille – a renowned fine dining seafood restaurant with an extensive wine list
- Sea Porch –a casual dining restaurant featuring an eclectic menu of coastal cuisine. The Roasted Gulf Grouper is deliciously-divine!
- Uncle Andy’s Ice Cream Parlor offering homemade ice cream, sundaes, banana splits and Starbucks coffee
- 24 Hour Fitness Center
- 24 Hour Room Service
- 24 Hour Business Center
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- Full Service Concierge Desk
- 22,000 square feet of function space with water views & 16,000 square feet of creative outdoor event space
- Wedding & Reception Services
- Two Lounges: an elegant Piano Lobby Bar & a casual beachfront Sunsets Tequila Bar
- Boutique Shops
- Valet & Self Parking (Fee)
- Beach Rentals
Note: The daily resort fee ($25 per room) covers shuttle service to downtown St. Petersburg, daily yoga and aerobic classes, non-motorized watersports rentals (10 a.m. – Noon), a kids’ camp, Sea Life Education Program, History Tours and more.
Best Bets &Area Attractions:
A Day of Indulgence: Don Cesar’s Spa Oceana invites you to play hooky for a day. Enjoy the Spa’s Whisper Meditation Lounge or soak in the views and the sunshine on the rooftop garden sanctuary. You will be swept away by Spa Oceana’s Sea Retreat Signature Treatment. The soothing experience begins with a relaxing rest in a specialized thermal capsule followed by a Vichy shower, warm full body steam and a 60 minute AromaStone Massage.
The Dali Museum: The Dali Museum is a must-see inside and out! The permanent exhibit, 20,000 square feet of gallery space, features a collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs that spans artist Salvador Dali’s entire career (1904-1989). The building itself is a true work of art; it is an architectural masterpiece that showcases the creative combination of rational and fantastical design elements. The building is a simple rectangle standing 75 feet at its tallest point. But it is the structure’s commanding 18-inch thick hurricane-proof walls that cradle a massive geodesic glass bubble, made up of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass, that makes it a true wonder to behold. Inside, take note of the helical staircase, a tribute to Dali’s obsession with spirals. And, in the garden, don’t miss the the monumental mustache!
Chihuly Collection: A spectacular collection of stunning glass work from world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly.
The Morean Arts Center: Located on Central Avenue in the heart of the Central Arts District . The gallery and creative learning center features some of the area’s top contemporary art exhibitions and offers studio art classes, jewelry-making, photography workshops and more.
The Morean Glass Studio & Hot Shop: Catch a live glass blowing demonstration. Discover the passion, vision and science behind the artistic process. Visit the adjacent shop for a special one-of-a kind glass art souvenir.
St. Petersburg Waterfront: The downtown arts and entertainment scene comes alive along the bayfront. An eclectic mix of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. The Birchwood’s Canopy Rooftop Lounge on Beach Drive is a top pick! Enjoy spectacular sunsets and incredible breathtaking views of Tampa Bay, Straub Park and the downtown skyline.
CityPASS: Explore Tampa Bay’s/ St. Petersburg’s Best Attractions. Sightseeing at a Savings! Each booklet saves travelers up to 38% off of combined admission price to The Chihuly Collection, Busch Gardens, The Florida Aquarium, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and more.
St. Pete Stopover: Spotlight on Shark Tank Winner “Nardo’s Natural”. The Mastronardo Brothers who wooed and won over Barbara Corcoran of ABC’s Shark Tank with their natural skin care line have opened a small shop on Central Avenue. Pop in and say hello to these humble fellas and support their against-the-odds success. Snag a tube of Nardo’s Muscle Rub, a magical blend of essential oils, for you or that special athlete in your life. All-Star Pitcher, David Price gives it a thumbs up! Or, treat your skin to the Brothers’ new organic cleanser, a gentle face wash infused with active charcoal and green tea for deep cleaning and exfoliation.
Photos Courtesy of Loews Hotels and Sheila Gaspers.