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The name Don Ce-Sar (hyphenated until 1973) was a character from Rowe’s favorite opera, Maritana. In the opera, the character faces long odds, rigid societal lines, and a king’s wrath to emerge the hero. Rowe won the heart of Lucinda, a dark-haired beauty in the London performance he'd attended, who played the heroine, Maritana. Although they planned to marry, Lucinda was kidnapped from the romance by her parents before unexpectedly passing away. Rowe left London heartbroken and never forgot his first love.
In 1919 Thomas J. Rowe left Virginia for booming St. Petersburg seeking health and wealth. Within five years, he had parlayed $21,000 into $1,050,000. He bought 80 acres on what was Long Key—now St. Pete Beach—and sold tracts to finance his dream hotel, the Don Ce-Sar. Construction on the hotel began in fall 1925. Rowe hired architect Henry DuPont and contractor Carlton Beard to build his palace, and the two visited the grand East Coast Moorish/Mediterranean style hotels for inspiration. Beard devised aningenious floating concrete pad and pyramid footing foundation to stabilize the hotel on the beach’s shifting sands. That same sturdy foundation still supports the building today. The grand “Pink Palace” opened during the winter tourist season in January 1928 and was wildly successful. But after the 1929 stock market crash, reservations dried up, and the hotel went into receivership, with Rowe appointed as its manager. To stay afloat, he shrewdly negotiated a three-year contract to house the New York Yankees baseball team during Spring Training. William Bowman bought the hotel from the GSA in March 1972. He was a developer and hotel owner who spent a year and a half and his considerable expertise to clean, restore, and furnish the ‘Pink Palace.’ In his passion to restore the hotel to its former beauty, he removed, cleaned and replaced every existing pane of glass in the windows.
Today, the Don CeSar continues to cater to discriminating guests (and their pets!). Spa Oceana, the Maritana Grille, Sea Porch Café, and 277 luxury accommodations and amenities provide a welcome respite to travelers, just as the first Don Ce-Sar did almost a century ago. In addition, the Beach House Suites by The Don CeSar offers 77 spacious and well-appointed 1 bedroom suites.
Today the Don CeSar is set apart from its competitors by its long-term and dedicated team of 380 employees who provide professional genuine service. Many of our team members have represented the Don for decades, and interact with our loyal guests as part of their family legacy. In addition, we are not only the iconic Pink Palace Mediterranean structure but also offer a 90-year legendary history. In 1989, it was a founding member of National Trust of Historic Hotels and was recognized by the organization in 2015 as "Best Historic Hotel".