The History...

Irishman Thomas Rowe, who found his fortune in Florida real estate created this landmark after the Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki Beach. The initial cost of his dream resort though was $1.2 million, which was nearly 300 percent over the initial budget.

The resort after its opening served as the hot spot for high society, with a guest list that included President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lou Gehrig and even Al Capone until a fatal combination occurred -- the Depression and World War II and Rowe's death in 1940.

Reportedly, Rowe’s plan after his collapse in the hotel lobby was to leave his "pink lady" to his family of employees. However, after his collapse in the lobby his attorney rushed out to get a new will. A team of nurses who were taking care of Rowe refused to serve as witnesses to the new will stating that he was in no condition to make this sort of decision. With that, his estranged wife of 30 years became the reluctant heir. In less than three years after Rowe’s death, the Don CeSar lost much of its personality and charm and the government seized the hotel for back taxes.

In 1942, the U.S. Army then purchased the property for only $450,000 and turned Rowe’s dream into a convalescent center for World War II pilots. Then when the war was over the former resort became the Veterans Administration regional office. The walls of the once pristine building were stripped and repainted green. Then in 1967 the VA moved out of the building unable to afford necessary repairs and Rowe’s “pink palace was left abandoned and dilapidated.

The once thriving resort for high society became a graffiti canvas, doomed for the wrecking ball.

However, a preservation group rescued the Don CeSar by locating a buyer named William Bowman, Jr. who shared Rowe's initial vision of grandeur and purchases the run-down hotel for $460,000.

In 1973, after putting $7.5 million in renovations into the old resort, Rowe’s initial vision came back to life as Florida’s Pink Castle on the Gulf Coast.

Now the resort is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1989 was selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a founding member of the Historic Hotels of America.

In 2003, the resort and Florida landmark celebrated its 75th anniversary and continues to thrive as a famous location for movies, music videos, and home away from home for guests who range from heads of state to professional wrestlers.

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


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