St. Pete Beach, Florida, near St. Petersburg, is one of the Sunshine State’s oldest and most visited beach resorts. Rising above the city’s sandy beaches and pristine waters is a distinctive building called The Don Cesar Beach Resort and Spa. Locally known as the pink palace, Don Cesar is known for three things: elegance, hospitality and if the stories are to be believed, ghosts.
The Don Cesar was the dream of native Florida businessman, Thomas Rowe, who built the resort in 1925. When the resort opened its doors, it attracted some of the most famous names of the roaring 20s. Notables like F. Scott Fitzgerald (author of The Great Gatsby) and legendary baseball slugger, Babe Ruth, could be found soaking up the sun on the nearby beach. The Pink Palace may have been a favorite of the rich and famous but was borne out of heartbreak thirty years earlier. Thomas Rowe built the hotel for the love of his life, a love he could never possess.
Many years earlier in the 1890s, Rowe was traveling across Europe where he was captivated by the most exquisite woman he ever saw. While attending the opera in Spain, he met and fell madly in love with Lucinda, a stunning singer. Lucinda was completely unlike any woman he had ever met. Not only did she have an otherworldly voice, but she was also uncommonly lovely and fiercely intelligent. Thomas Rowe knew he had to do whatever it took to make her his wife. Unfortunately, fate had other plans.
When Lucinda brought the American businessman to meet her parents, they immediately rejected him. No daughter of theirs would ever marry an American. After kicking Rowe out of their home, Lucinda’s parents sternly warned their daughter that if she followed through with marrying him, she would be disowned and die penniless. Lucinda had no choice but to break off the relationship with her love. Thomas Rowe returned to Florida a broken man.
As the years passed, Rowe made his fortune but never forgot his beloved Spanish singer. In honor of their love that could never be, Rowe built a hotel and colored it pink, Lucinda’s favorite color. In the lobby, he placed a fountain that would forever remind him of her. Despite all of his success, Thomas Rowe went to his grave pining for the woman who haunted his dreams.
Following the death of Thomas Rowe, the hotel fell out of favor with the elite and was converted into a veteran’s hospital. It wasn’t until 1973, when the pink palace was restored to its former glory, that the haunting became apparent and it all began with the removal of an object
While the restoration was underway, construction workers made the mistake of removing the fountain from the lobby. Not long after this, employees of the Don Cesar received glimpses of the unexplained. According to them, a ghostly man in a suit and Panama hat was seen walking hand in hand with a raven-haired beauty. From the descriptions that were given of the spectral duo, it was determined they were none other than Thomas Rowe and Lucinda. It would seem, although they could never be together in life, they managed to find each other after death.
The apparitions of Rowe and his lady love may be romantic to behold, but they are by no means the only ghosts that haunt the dark corners of this beach resort. Those who work and play at the Don Cesar have reported encounters with injured men in blood-soaked rags and gowns. These phantoms are believed to be all that remains of the patients from the days the hotel was a hospital, and they are not friendly by any means.
Over the years, patrons and staff alike have claimed to feel strong hands either grabbing or shoving them. A number of guests have gone on record as saying that as they tried sleeping, they were awakened by someone pounding on their door. Enraged by the rude intrusion, they threw open the door to give the person on the other side a piece of their mind. What they find is an insane looking man covered in blood letting out a cackling laugh. He then turns and vanishes as he wanders down the hall.
The Don Cesar Beach Resort and Spa is an elegant reminder of a day when the country was enjoying prosperity right before the great depression. Along with the sun, surf and sand can be found an abundance of ghost stories to keep you up all night at the lovely pink palace.
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