Don CeSar Time Line

1924 – Thomas Rowe moves to Florida and begins his dream of building a “pink castle” by purchasing 80 acres on St. Petersburg Beach. Rowe’s vision was of a ‘great hotel like Waikiki Beach’s Royal Hawaiin’. The name for the Don CeSar came from the main character in the English Opera Maritana named Don CeSar de Bazan.

1925-27 – Construction begins.

1928 – Opening night arrives at a cost of $1.2 million which is more than 300% over budget.

1930’s – Guest lists include Lou Gehrig, Al Capone, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

1931 – The New York Yankees save the Don from the “Great Depression” by signing a three-year deal to house their players during spring training. The Yankees arrival keeps the Don near capacity with droves of sports writers and players families staying constantly.

1940 – Original owner Thomas Rowe collapses in the lobby and dies shortly after. His original intention was to leave the Don CeSar to his hotel staff, but failure to obtain a witness to his signature in his final moments allows his estranged wife to take over instead.

1942-45 – US Army seizes control of the hotel and converts it into a hospital for WWII airmen after Mary Rowe loses the hotel to back taxes. A couple of famous guests during this time were Joe DiMaggio and Cary Grant.

1969 – The building begins to fall apart after various government offices pull out. Unwanted by the federal and local government the only option appears to be to tear the Don down. But, because Thomas Rowe wanted the Don to stand the test of time the cost of demolition is too high and she is left to vandals and vagrants.

1971-72 – William Bowman Jr. purchases the Don for $460,000 and sees the old hotel as a sleeping beauty.

1973 – The hotel reopens as a luxury resort. The cost of the remodel is $7.5 million and the property value rises to over $30 million.

1975 – The Don Cesar is added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1989 it is selected by the National Trust of Historic Preservation as a founding member of the Historic Hotels of America.

1982 – Robert DeNiro films Once Upon a Time in America.

1985 – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers film a music video at the Don.

2003 – The Don CeSar Beach Resort celebrates its 75th anniversary.

by: Chris Wagar
photo placement: April Slazas & Suzanne White


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