Originally opened on New Year’s Eve in 1925, The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club is the only historic luxury hotel on Florida’s West Coast that boasts a private marina, 18-hole golf course and a 12-court tennis complex. This luxurious waterfront hotel blends historic charm and a rich past with modern luxuries and amenities as seen in the recently renovated lounge-like lobby featuring bold colors and custom-made artwork from famed artist Dale Chihuly and Renee Dinauer. With updates to all 361 guestrooms, more than 61,000 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor event space, five restaurants, a salon and day spa and amenities that cater to leisure and business travelers, the hotel is St. Petersburg’s premier AAA Four Diamond resort.
The laid back luxury reflects elegant 1920s Mediterranean Revival architecture; the resort décor is elegant, yet always comfortable, with a “no jacket required” philosophy. Original hotel tiles dating back to 1925 adorn the lobby floor, while five seating areas with clusters of “sink in” furniture, starburst lighting, and cozy fireplaces welcome tired guests.
The Vinoy is rich with history. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio have been spotted in the Tea Garden, former President Calvin Coolidge preferred to dine in the employee mess hall, and there are displays of the last known remaining private sun bathing solarium – few hotels take pride in preserving their legendary past as The Vinoy does.
It all started with a party, a bet, and a game of golf at the St. Petersburg Beach Drive home of Aymer Vinoy Laughner, a wealthy Pennsylvania businessman, where in 1923, famed golfer Walter Hagen drove several golf balls off the face of his host’s prized pocket watch. The wager: whether the watch’s crystal would survive Hagen’s powerful drive. It did and the golf ball landed across Beach Drive onto a residential waterfront property. Laughner’s party guests suggested he purchase the property and build a grand resort –one that would carry his name. As a result, Laughner purchased the land for $170,000. Led by architect Henry L. Taylor and contractor George A. Miller, construction for the Vinoy Park Hotel began on February 5, 1925.
In May 1990, after sitting unoccupied for 18 years, the restoration and reconstruction of The Vinoy began. For two years, architects, interior designers and local historians took careful consideration to preserve and recreate the historic landmark’s original Mediterranean Revival design and detail. The original pecky cypress beams, which were installed because they were impervious to pests, were removed, numbered, cleaned and replaced. The Pompeian frescos that so lavishly adorned the main dining room underwent meticulous restoration. The glazed quarry tile floor and the ballroom’s ornate plaster castings all, too, were restored to their original grandeur.
Ironically, as the painstaking restoration of this local treasure unfolded, the hotel revealed a treasure of its own. Workers removing an oddly placed wall between the ballroom and lobby discovered a hidden vault containing 1,400 silver pieces, wrapped in newspapers dated 1934, and most stamped “The Vinoy.” In 1992, The Vinoy reopened as a Stouffer Hotel and once again held its place as the epicenter of St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront. The National Trust named it for Historic Preservation as one of the Historic Hotels of America. In 1993, Stouffer Hotels was acquired by the Renaissance Hotel Group and the hotel was renamed The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club America.
It all began with a bet and the rest, as they say, is history. From the time it opened in the dawn of 1926 to its current incarnation as one of St. Petersburg’s most spectacular waterfront resorts, this timeless treasure still impresses with its lofty pedigree, along with an ability to survive decades of neglect, winds of change and pain staking renewal. For 90 years, The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, has been, and always will be, a place to relax, play, indulge, and savor the good life.
The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club
501 5th Ave NE
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701
By: Marla Lazarus