Coral Gables Biltmore Hotel
The Coral Gables Biltmore Hotel was built in 1926 by John Bowman for the Bowman-Biltmore Hotels Corporation, along with George Merrick. Their goal was to build “a great hotel, which would serve as a hostelry to the tourists coming to Coral Gables but also serve as a center of sports and fashion.”
The building of the hotel cost around $10 million and it was the tallest building in the state of Florida. It quickly became a stopping point for some of the nation’s most important and glamorous people. From Hollywood stars to royalty from Europe, became regular visitors. Guests included such names as Judy Garland, Babe Ruth, and Al Capone. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt visited often during his presidential vacations.
Many guests came to see the aquatic shows held in the hotel’s huge swimming pool. The pool was once the largest hotel pool in the world, and today it still holds the record as the largest hotel pool in the continental United States. Each week, performers might include alligator wrestlers, synchronized swimmers. Before becoming famous as “Tarzan,” actor Johnny Weissmuller was a swimming instructor at the hotel.
It continued to be a popular destination thru 1930s, but during World War 2 the site became the Army Air Forces Regional Hospital. Later it became the first site of the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, and it continued to serve as a veteran’s hospital until 1968.
In 1983, the City of Coral Gables began a full restoration of the historic hotel. After several years and at a cost of about $55 million, The Biltmore re-opened on December 31, 1987 as the luxury resort hotel we see today.
Biltmore is not only a U.S National Historic Landmark, but is also haunted. There are several stories told about people who died there and whose ghosts now haunt the hotel. Most famous is the story of a mobster named Thomas “Fatty” Walsh, who was murdered on the hotel’s 13th floor in 1929. Now there about strange happenings on the 13th floor, like elevators bringing people there without warning, lights and TVs turning on and off, and doors opening on their own.
Another ghost is a woman in white who died after jumping from a tower window, and who now haunts the halls. Add to this all of the soldiers who died there during its many years as a V.A. hospital. If you believe in ghosts and haunted places, the Biltmore certainly is the spot where such things could happen.
Free tours of the hotel are offered every week, which discuss the hotel’s history, including ghost stories.
27 Apr, 2016
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