An exquisite example of meticulous historic preservation combined with modern amenities and design, The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club seamlessly marries the past with the present. The impressive pink palace perched on the edge of Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg has weathered a tumultuous 20th century to provide visitors and locals alike with a destination unlike any other on the west coast of Florida.
The wide veranda welcomes guests reminding me of the gracious times I associate with the past and yet, once through the ornate entry doors I am immediately aware that I am indeed in contemporary times. Bold artistic motifs and striking turquoise and gold colors set the stage for an engaging, comfortable respite from hectic modern lives. The impressive main floor was recently redesigned and expanded by the award-winning architecture and interior design firm of Leo A. Daly. With grand 25 foot ceilings, various sitting areas and a bar, it is the ideal setting to linger with a book or share a cocktail with friends. The exposed decorative cypress beams were part of the original design and painstakingly saved during renovations. Just off the lobby is the grand ballroom that looks very similar to its original design albeit the stunning 1,250 pound Chihuly “Isla de la Luna” chandelier made of 750 individually hand-blown glass pieces that was added as part of a renovation in 2009.
My guest room located in the tower offered spectacular panoramic views of the marina, a spacious floor plan, a marble bathroom, Frette luxury linens and a lighted makeup mirror with colorful decor that is inviting and seemingly brand new. Dining is another delight at the Vinoy with five restaurants on site ranging from the casual Alfresco’s, adjacent to the resort pool, to the signature restaurant, Marchand’s Bar & Grill, known for its “early bird” three-course dinner (a bargain at $19.25) and exceptional Sunday brunch.
Fred’s Cellar is appropriately unmarked by signage and requires a special code for entry, which makes for a bit of an adventure. Once inside the creative cocktail selection and delicious dishes are almost upstaged by a talented jazz trio setting the perfect tone for what one might expect from a 1920s speakeasy. The Vinoy also offers a variety of activity options with a fully outfitted health club, 18-hole golf course, 12-court tennis complex, two pools, a 74-slip marina as well as a salon and day spa. I also recommend making a reservation for the fascinating historical tour of the hotel.
While it is certainly easy to spend your entire stay in such luxurious accommodations, the Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club is ideally located in vibrant downtown St. Petersburg and just a short drive from the beautiful beaches. Within easy walking distance from the hotel, the Museum of Fine Arts and iconic The Dali Museum offer diverse permanent and rotating art exhibits or peruse the eclectic collection of local art galleries and boutiques.
When your visit winds to a close, the only thing you may regret is that your time at the Vinoy is over. Not to worry, I think it’s safe to say, they poised for a bright future in the 21st century.
The Historical Perspective
First opening its doors on New Year’s Eve 1925, the Vinoy, a marvel of Mediterranean Revival design, was the most impressive and expensive hotels in the state of Florida at the time. It quickly became one of the country’s most prestigious and coveted getaways for the world’s rich and famous families, along with Hollywood stars, celebrities, presidents and authors. In spite of the Great Depression gripping the country, the Vinoy still attracted wealthy Northerners solidifying its position as the “grand dame” of St. Petersburg.
As World War II gripped the country, the Vinoy ceased operation as a hotel in 1942 and leased it to the U.S. Army to be used as housing and training center for military cooks and bakers. After the war and an extensive restoration project, Charles Alberding purchased the hotel for $700,000. Post-war America euphoria coincided with the country’s great highway expansion and returned Florida as the “go-to” destination for winter sun-seekers. The Vinoy regained its former popularity as an elegant oasis overlooking Tampa Bay where guests could enjoy superb cuisine, incomparable service, and a genteel ambiance. Unfortunately, the Vinoy’s resistance to embrace the revolutionary invention of air conditioning prompted guests to seek cooler environs elsewhere. By the late 1960s, the lack of regular maintenance took its toll leaving the once “grand dame” a sad relic of St. Petersburg’s golden past until the hotel finally closed its doors in 1974 and most of its contents sold at auction.
The hotel sat vacant for many years and narrowly escaped the wrecking ball until it was purchased in the 1990. An ambitious three-year, $93 million renovation began to restore the grand hotel to its previous glory while adding all the modern amenities expected by today’s travelers. In addition to the original pink palace, the expansion plan added a new guest tower, a state-of-the-art tennis complex, a Ron Garl designed 18-hole golf course, two heated outdoor swimming pools and three spas; a fully equipped fitness center and a 74-slip marina. The modern era of The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club has been filled with accolades earning the coveted AAA Four-Diamond Award in 2005.
For accommodations call 727.894.1000 or visit vinoyrenaissanceresort.com
By: Jules Lewis Gibson