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Resort photo tour: Old Florida splendor at the Biltmore Hotel


By Susan B. Barnes, Special for USA TODAY

When land developer George E. Merrick (creator of Miami’s Coral Gables neighborhood and founder of the University of Miami) teamed up with hotel magnate John McEntee Bowman in 1924 — the height of the Florida land boom — they envisioned building “a great hotel ... which would not only serve as a hostelry to crowds which were thronging to Coral Gables but also would serve as a center of sports and fashion.” The Biltmore Hotel, with its Mediterranean architecture and classic Italian, Moorish and Spanish influences, opened its doors just two years later, on Jan. 15, 1926.

[post_ads]Soon after, the elite made their way to The Biltmore Hotel, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, gangster Al Capone, and Hollywood glitterati such as Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby. Before he became Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller was a swim instructor at the hotel’s 23,000-square-foot grand pool, which was also the setting for aquatic and fashion shows over the years.

Like many historic hotels across the U.S., The Biltmore Hotel served as a military hospital during World War II, converted by the War Department into the Army Air Forces Regional Hospital. Once the war ended, the hotel became the early site of the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, and was a Veterans Administration hospital until 1968.

The property then went through starts and stops, including the City of Coral Gables acquiring ownership of the hotel in 1973, and a $55 million investment and reopening in 1987, only to close again in 1990 because of the economic downturn.

In 1992, a 10-year, $40 million renovation program launched, and today the hotel is back to its original splendor. Inside, The Biltmore Hotel’s 273 guest rooms, 133 of which are suites, feature 340-thread-count Egyptian cotton duvet covers atop European feather bedding, and Jerusalem stone-tiled floors.
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The resort’s grounds encompass 150 acres of tropical landscape, including the largest hotel pool on the East Coast (approximately 23,000 square feet holding 600,000 gallons of water), complete with poolside cabanas; a 12,000-square-foot spa; a 10,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art fitness center; boutique shops; kids’ and culinary programs; two bars; four restaurants in which to dine; and, adjacent, tennis courts and the Donald Ross 18-hole, 71-par championship golf course, which debuted in 1925.

The gallery above showcases the resorts’ highlights, including rooms, restaurants, the pool and historical perspectives.


Source: USA TODAY

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Travel Magazine: Resort photo tour: Old Florida splendor at the Biltmore Hotel
Resort photo tour: Old Florida splendor at the Biltmore Hotel
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