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Florida: The Don CeSar

Surrounded by typical cookie cutter beach resorts, the breathtaking Don Cesar, also known as the ‘Pink Palace’, stands apart from the rest. A brief stroll through the Don Cesar will take you back to its beginning in 1928. Built by Thomas Rowe, this Great Gatsby era hotel was named after the character Don Cesar, from the opera “Maritana”, composed by William Vincent Wallace. It was at a performance of this opera in England, that Thomas Rowe met the love of his life, Lucinda. The two fell deeply in love and planned to elope - despite the fact she was a traveling actress, and her parent’s disapproval of their courtship.

Quite unlike real life, the opera “Maritana” ended with the conflicted lovers living triumphantly every after. Thomas Rowe on the other hand, lost his true love Lucinda forever, when she failed to meet him at their secret rendezvous point, A fountain, where they would together leave for America. Thomas Rowe left England a jilted man, boarding a vessel for America, alone.

It was after a failed marriage in the United States that Thomas decided to move to Florida, where he quickly became prominent in real estate. With this wealth, Thomas Rowe bought land in St. Pete’s beach, and made plans to build a grand hotel. A symbol of his undying love for Lucinda. In this hotel, he would build a fountain. A replica of the one that he and his lost love used to meet at. Out of this dream, the Pink Palace was turned into a reality, and in 1928 the Don Cesar opened its doors.

Immediately, it was a sensation, and Americas elite would spend plenty of Time, “and money”, basking in the sunshine of the resorts paradise. Some known to have attended the hotel include : Franklin D. Roosevelt, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Clarence Darrow, Lou Gehrig, Marilyn Monroe and Al Capone.

Unfortunately, this golden age for the Don Cesar would come to an end during WWII, when the hotel shut its doors for good. However, in 1942 the U. S. Army bought the Don Cesar, and used it as a convalescent hospital for the war ravaged veterans coming home from Europe. By 1967, the Don Cesar fell into disrepair and had been abandoned.

It wasn’t until 1973 that the Pink Palace was given a second chance, and reopened after extensive Restoration. and it has been proudly open ever since.

Despite the fact that countless innovations may have changed its appearance, and the replica fountain has been removed, the hotel still takes you back to the roaring 20’s. Though guests and staff say the hotel itself isn’t the 'only' link to the past.

Many claim to have witnessed visitors from the other side. Upon Lucinda’s death, Thomas Rowe received an envelope from Lucinda’s family. In it, was a letter written by his beloved Lucinda confessing her immortal love for him. A passage from the note exclaimed:

"Time is infinite. I wait for you by our share our timeless love, our destiny is Time.”

Guests and employees alike have reported seeing Thomas and Lucinda, united in death, taking a stroll together or holding hands where the replica fountain once stood. Thomas is also known to haunt room 101 and 102. This conjoining room is where he died from heart failure, after collapsing in the lobby of his hotel.

Another occupied room is 416. Visitors complain of a more menacing specter in this room. Some guests have actually checked out early due to this mischief maker.

The Don Cesar is a remarkable hotel with all the glitz and glamour it always possessed, still at your service. Perhaps Thomas Rowe’s presence still encourages greatness from the Pink Palace.

-GhastlyG :November 2007

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