Monday, September 10, 2012

The Biltmore Hotel: Coral Gables Proud Peacock

At the height of the southern Florida land boom back in the 1920s, wealthy land developer, George E. Merrick founded the city of Coral Gables also known affectionately as “City Beautiful.” In 1925, he expanded his vision to include the construction of a great hotel that “would not only serve as a hostelry to the crowds which were thronging to Coral Gables but also would serve as a center of sports and fashion." 

Merrick joined forces with hotel magnate, John McEntee Brown, and after 10 months of construction and $10 million in expenditures, in January of 1926, the Biltmore Hotel was born and history was made. 

Celebrities gravitated to this prime piece of Coral Gables real estate, and in its heyday the Biltmore hosted the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, Al Capone, Bing Crosby and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who even had a temporary White House office set up at the hotel for when he vacationed on his fishing trips from Miami. 

The biggest bands of the Jazz Age played here and the hotel maintained its reputation even during the economic lull of the depression years by hosting gala aquatic shows that never ceased to draw income from adoring crowds. Synchronized swimmers, bathing beauties and athlete, Johnny Weismuller prior to his days as Tarzan, broke the world swimming record at the Biltmore pool and was a swimming instructor.

World War II changed the character of this luxurious example of Coral Gables real estate. The War Department converted The Biltmore to a hospital that served the wounded under the name of the Army Air Forces Regional Hospital. Many of the windows were sealed with concrete and government-issue linoleum covered the once magnificent marble floors. The hotel was also an early site for the University of Miami School of Medicine and remained a VA hospital until 1968.

Today, the Biltmore Hotel is a National Historic Landmark and a prime piece of Coral Gables real estate situated on 150 lush, tropical acres. The hotel features 275 guest rooms including 130 spacious Mediterranean styled suites and two famed Presidential Suites, a Donald Ross 18-hole golf course, 10 lighted tennis courts, the country’s largest hotel pool and private cabanas, the signature Palme d’Or restaurant and 75,000 square feet of meeting and function space.

An icon of elegance, beauty and old world charm, the Biltmore Hotel remains a precious and stunning jewel in the Coral Gables crown.

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