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Don of a New Era

Don of a New Era

Don CeSar Hotel
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In the late 1920s, a developer named Thomas Rowe aspired to build the most beautiful hotel in America, and perhaps he did. His creation, the legendary Don CeSar hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida, opened its doors in 1928. Known as Florida’s iconic “Pink Palace,” the design resembled a sand castle and was a hit right from the start. It has graciously welcomed the world’s elite, stars of the silver screen, renowned authors, U.S. presidents, and high-profile dignitaries, all seeking a private, sophisticated playground in the sun. 

In October 1929, the stock market crashed, and business slowed with so many people in dire economic straits. Over the next 40 years, “The Don,” as locals called it, would become many things: a military hospital with the outbreak of World War II, later a Veterans Administration building, eventually given to the state of Florida and finally to Pinellas county. When the county wanted to tear it down, the locals of Pass-a- Grille decided to do something. Local activist Jane Hurley-Young formed a committee that would save “The Don” by securing investors who would renovate the hotel. Ms. Hurley-Young and her group worked to declare the hotel a National Historic Landmark, forever protecting it from destruction. In 1973 the Don CeSar re-opened as a full-service hotel. 

This year in January, the iconic Don CeSar hotel celebrated its 95th birthday! Following a full-property renovation completed in March 2022, The Don CeSar shines brighter than ever, reminiscent of a Mediterranean-style castle boasting 277 guest rooms, including 36 luxurious suites. The National Historic Landmark offers six restaurants and lounges, an award-winning spa, a new state-of-the-art fitness center, and a private beach, serving as an iconic relaxing property on Florida’s Gulf Coast. 

Honoring its rich history, beloved St. Pete Beach community, and famous patrons, The Don CeSar’s renovation preserves the integrity of its colorful past while propelling the interior design and overall guest experience into the future. Stately colorways taken from the hotel’s history, such as bold emerald green hues in the lobby bar and black and white tile patterns, convey the mood of each space. The Don CeSar’s lobby is energetic and vibrant, with playful touches such as a palm leaf print wallcovering and a quintessential, custom designed glass bar cart that serves period-inspired drinks.

The bar was repositioned to the back of the lobby to open the space and features mesmerizing wood-like tiles that draw visitors in. 

Parker-Torres Design was responsible for upgrades to the 71-room, all-suite Beach House Suites by The Don CeSar, located half a mile down the beach from the main resort complex. These updates encompassed a Sand Dollar Pool Bar redesign and outdoor gathering spaces, including the main pavilion and lounge.

Phase I of the renovations, led by Florida-based Edge of Architecture interior design studio, began in mid-2018 and included a complete refresh of the lobby and meeting spaces at the Beach House Suites by The Don CeSar. In addition, 2018 saw the refresh at the main Don CeSar resort campus to the fifth floor and all meeting spaces, guest corridors, new beach and pool furniture, and meticulous restoration and weatherproofing to The Don exteriors, including the courtyard. 

The grand public spaces complement upgrades to chic and airy Floridian guest rooms, the final stage of The Don CeSar’s renovations also helmed by Parker-Torres Design. Guest rooms feature beach-inspired textures such as wicker and a whimsical flamingo graphic that hover above the whitewashed headboards. A soft blush tone elevates the spaces and ties into the hotel facade’s signature pink. In addition to a complete design transformation, guest rooms have upgraded layouts for two queen beds instead of doubles. Many bathroom spaces now have tubs instead of showers to maximize space. The Don CeSar’s esteemed food and beverage establishments, including the Sea Porch and Beachcomber Bar & Grill, also received many upgrades. 

Dramatically perched atop wind-swept dunes with expansive views in every direction, The Don CeSar is the epitome of old-world glamor and sophistication. “The Don has been a special place of refuge for locals and travelers alike since opening our doors nearly a century ago,” says Barbara Readey, The Don CeSar’s general manager, the first female GM in the 95-year history of the Don.

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