The Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club
St. Petersburg, Florida
Over the past few years there has been a concerted effort throughout major cities in the USA and Canada to preserve and renovate historic buildings. One such property that has undergone considerable refurbishment is the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club located in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.
The history of this grand hotel is quite fascinating. In 1923, businessman Aymer Vinoy Laughner along with his two friends, financier Gene Elliott and golfer Walter Hagen, met on the front lawn of Laughner’s home (that still exists today), and discussed the possibility of building the most elegant and luxurious hotel facing the St. Petersburg waterfront.
Apparently, Hagen enjoyed hitting golf balls from the face of Laughner’s pocket watch towards a property, owned by a Mr. Williamson, located directly across the street from the Laughner home. Due to its superb waterfront locality, all agreed that Williamson’s property would fit the bill as the ideal location to build their dream hotel.
One day the three friends approached Mr. Williamson and offered to purchase his property revealing to him their hotel idea. Williamson agreed, on the condition that the hotel incorporate the best materials and have the best views of the St. Petersburg waterfront. Legend tells us that all parties immediately came to an understanding, and that the deed was signed on the back of a brown bag. (This may be a trifle farfetched, however, it certainly enhances the story.)
The actual construction of the hotel commenced on February 5th, 1925 and just under 10 months a hotel depicting one of the finest examples of Mediterranean Revival architecture in Florida was completed. The early days saw the hotel, known at the time as the Vinoy Park, opened for business from roughly December through March. The original rates were the highest in the bay area at $20 per night, including a full American plan. However, considering what the hotel offered to its guests, this was a bargain at the time.
Over the years the hotel was very popular with celebrities, entertainers and politicians. Such luminaries as Babe Ruth, Alf Landon, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, Joel McCrae and Jimmy Stewart at one time or another had the pleasure of visiting this gem of a hotel.
Even during the depression years the hotel prospered, largely due to its affluent and elite clientele. During World War II the hotel served as a cooking and baking school for the United States Army, who leased the hotel from Mr. Laughner. After the War the hotel was sold to Charles Alberding for $700,000. During the ’40s and throughout the ’50s the Vinoy continued to be St. Petersburg’s principal social center. Very slowly, however, it began to decline and in 1974 its doors were closed and most of its contents sold. During the period from 1974 until the early 1990s many a vagrant sought refuge within the dilapidated building, and it certainly was an eye sore with its broken widows, doors and terrible stench.
Fortunately for St. Petersburg, in the early 1990s a partnership between Renaissance Hotels and Resorts (previously known as Stouffer Hotels and Resorts), and the Vinoy Development Corporation joined hands, and within 2 years created an almost perfect replica of the original hotel. The cost was in excess of $93 million, however, when you visit this remarkable property you will appreciate why it required master craftsmen to accomplish this feat.
Situated on a 14-acre site overlooking Tampa Bay, and only 22 miles south of the Tampa International Airport, this 360 room elegant hotel is within easy reach of theatres, shopping, museums, art galleries and nightlife. The Renaissance Vinoy certainly satisfies its clientele in providing well-appointed amenities and the highest standards of service.
In fact, to keep up its reputation as a 3 diamond 4 stars hotel, it has recently undergone a $36 million room refurbishment. All rooms and suites include two television sets, in-room refreshment centers, hair dryers, in-room coffee makes, bathrobes, morning newspaper, and three direct-dial telephones, with two phones equipped with data port capability. There is also complimentary shoe shine service, 24 hour room service, concierge/guest services desk, self and valet parking.
At mealtimes, guests can try two of the hotel’s award winning restaurants, The Terrace Room specializing in regional American cuisine and Marchand’s Bar & Grill featuring Mediterranean cuisine. There is also Fred’s, the Clubhouse restaurant, Alfresco, as well as the Promenade Lounge.
Be sure not to miss the heritage tour offered by a tour guide that is topped off with a lunch in the beautiful Promenade Lounge. You will be fascinated following your guide around the hotel as she recounts its history. I must mention that after taking this tour with my wife, we did experience a faraway feel of a hotel reflecting the style and glamour of another era.
Activities at the three outdoor spas, 18 hole championship golf and 12-court tennis centers only hint at the Vinoy’s recreational options. Fitness enthusiasts will also discover the state-of-the art fitness center and the two heated swimming pools.
A romantic stay at the Vinoy is truly a journey back in time, where you can have the opportunity to experience how the rich and famous vacationed in a long forgotten era.
To make your special stay more enjoyable, the Vinoy offers the “Escape to Romance” package. Apart from your beautiful room, you will have a choice of Sunday brunch or dinner for two in the classic Terrace Room Restaurant. In addition, a bottle of chilled champagne and a fresh fruit or assorted cheese basket will be delivered to your room upon arrival. How is that for a romantic revival, or perhaps your honeymoon night?
Renaissance Vinoy Resort And Golf Club
501 Fifth Avenue NE
St. Petersburg, Florida