a haunting love story and one very pink hotel...

The Don CeSar is situated on what is arguably one of the most spectacular beaches in the country. The cotton candy pink hotel has been a fixture of the St. Pete skyline since 1928. Not only has this historic property won numerous awards (including AAA’s Four-Diamond awards 29 years in a row), but it’s alluring history reads like something right out of a romance novel.

As the story goes... the Don (as commonly referred to by locals) was built by Thomas Rowe who migrated to America from Europe in the early 1900‘s. Rowe, who had made a fortune in real estate, had one dream-- to build a “pink castle” on the beach. Consumed with building the finest hotel in Florida, he spared no expense. Ornate marble fountains, rich furnishings and exquisite fixtures instantly made this grandiose, “pink palace” a hot spot for some of the era’s biggest stars, from Al Capone and FDR to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Lou Gehrig.

Before coming to America, Rowe had a passionate love affair with a young woman named Lucinda. As most stories involving star crossed lover go, Lucinda’s parents did not approve of Rowe and forbade her to see him. Forlorn, Rowe came to America hoping to mend his broken heart. All of his letters to Lucinda were returned, unopened. Several years later, he received word of her death- along with a note that she had written on her deathbed: “Time is infinite. I wait for you by our fountain... to share our timeless love, our destiny is time.”

When construction of the Don began in 1924, Rowe built a replica of the courtyard and fountain where he and Lucinda used to meet- vowing that he and Lucinda would be reunited in death. According to Rowe’s staff, he treated the hotel as his home. He would stand at the top of the stairs in the lobby and would size up every guest that checked in. If someone did not measure up, he would request that they leave.

The 277 room property hit hard times in the 1930’s during the depressions years and the New York Yankees signed a three year spring training contract in 1931, which helped get the property through the Great Depression. Rowe fell ill shortly thereafter and had a will which stated that the property was to be left to his devoted family of employees, however he never signed it. When he was in the hospital, his lawyer rushed in with the new will, but the nurses refused to witness the signature due to his condition. His estranged wife of 30 years inherited the property, but over the next few years it lost much of it’s charm and personality. The hotel was eventually taken over due to back taxes and in 1942 the Army purchased the building and it became a hospital for World War II airmen.

In 1967 the building was abandoned and the once grandiose Don CeSar became somewhat of a blemish on the beach and was scheduled for demolition. A preservation group came to the "pink lady's" rescue by finding a buyer who would return the hotel to its former splendor. In 1975, the famous resort was named to the National Register of Historic Places and in 2003- celebrated it's 75th anniversary. The alluring property recently underwent a $20 million dollar enhancement project- making it an even more memorable place to say "I do".

If you do visit, be sure to keep your eye out for the dapper gentleman in a white suit and Panama hat who walks hand-in-hand with a dark haired beauty. The descriptions match those of Thomas Rowe and his cherished Lucinda. Employees and guests have reported seeing the lovers wandering through the pink hotel to this day. Finally reunited, I like to think they must be enjoying the restored grandeur of their hauntingly beautiful hotel!


  1. What an interesting story! You sure are a wealth of knowledge. I can't wait to plan my wedding there someday...using your services.
    What a romantic story!

  2. What a great story -- I think hotels with a rich history are the most fun to stay in. And with a love story of its own, it's perfect for a wedding!