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The Vinoy® Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club

501 5th Avenue NE · St. Petersburg, Florida 33701 USA

History of Vinoy® Renaissance® St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club


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When it came time to choose a style for the hotel he was about to build on Tampa Bay, Aymer Vinoy Laughner went with what was currently in vogue – the Mediterranean Revival architecture that defined the Florida Boom Era. The style reflected the architectural influences of the Mediterranean coast. And the Vinoy captured its essence down to the most minute and intricate detail. For 85 years – through restoration, renovation, and additions to the resort – The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club’s incomparable facilities have stood the test of time.

A Place for the Past

Follow the original, quarry tile floor from Marchand’s Bar & Grill to the opposite end of the lobby and visitors will discover the Vinoy History Gallery. Honored with an Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Preservation Education/Media by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation in 2008, the gallery encompasses two walls and spans the period 1901-2010, linking the Vinoy with the history of St. Petersburg.

 

Intriguing artifacts and exhibits – many uncovered during the hotel’s extensive renovation – include original room keys and floor tiles, pieces of china and silver, postcards and photos, all displayed in a chronological diorama that brings the resort’s past to life.

Elaine Normile: Resident Historian

Very few hotels take such pride in their legendary past that they employ an in-house historian to chronicle and preserve the property’s stories. Since 1998, when the position was created, Elaine Normile has done just that, channeling a passion for the Vinoy that began in 1984 when her family moved to St. Petersburg.

 

In 1992, Elaine was hired as an administrative assistant and joined the team that would reopen the hotel as the Stouffer Vinoy Resort. Her unabashed affection for the hotel led her to the newly created Historian position, which she has held for the past 14 years. Elaine showcases her vast knowledge of the resort’s history and local importance during year-round history tours that attract over 2,000 people each year.

 

With experience garnered as a former docent at St. Petersburg’s Salvador Dali Museum, she quickly puts every visitor at ease. She welcomes questions and delights in sharing her passion for one of the nation's most remarkable landmarks. In addition, she maintains meticulous details about the hotel’s historic restoration, as well as an extensive photo archives.

 

As a result of Elaine’s dedication to historical accuracy, the hotel is featured in the “Views from Vinoy” history book, which is used in the Pinellas County school curriculum to educate students about the preservation value of history and heritage of St. Petersburg.

Well Noted

In 1978, The Vinoy was named to the National Register of Historic Places, despite being closed and stripped bare of its furnishings and other architectural details. After a meticulous $93 million restoration that began in 1990, The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club was named a Historic Hotel of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation®.

 

The resort was also recently named as one of the “500 Greatest Hotels and Resorts in the World” by Travel & Leisure Magazine. And, readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine have ranked The Vinoy as one of the “Best Places to Stay in the Whole Wide World.”

Revival of the Fittest

The Main Building was pink. Or more accurately, coral. In fact, the original 1925 color was created by the Gutta Percha Paint Company exclusively for the hotel and was named “Vinoy.”

 

The octagonal Observation Tower, built to resemble a Renaissance-style bell tower though it never held a bell, provided a lofty perch for guests to enjoy the view, just like an Italian seaside villa.

 

Decorative archways ruled the roost. The Moorish influence can be seen in the carved stone treatment of the main entrance door and in the great arched window in the south wall of the dining room wing.

 

A Veranda, constructed along the full length of the lobby, provided a cool and breezy respite from the hot, Florida sun, much like a Mediterranean palazzo.

 

The Lobby featured a decorative quarry tile floor below and pecky cypress beams above. Both the original floor and ceiling grace the Vinoy lobby today.

 

Barrel ceilings, archways and ornate plaster moldings highlighted the Vinoy’s Grand Ballroom in a display of absolute symmetry. During the ballroom’s 2009 renovation, the resort unveiled a one-of-a-kind chandelier sculpture designed by glass master Dale Chihuly, featuring 750 pieces of individually hand-blown glass in the timeless Venetian tradition.

 

The Pompeian Dining Room tapped into the news-making goings-on of its archeological namesake, where a flurry of new discoveries in the 1920s captured the public’s imagination. The vibrant “Pompeian” colors of red, blue, black and yellow, plus fanciful and mythological decorative motifs were lavishly applied in the elegant, dining room overlooking Tampa Bay. The complete renovation of the Vinoy in the 1990s included the extensive and meticulous partial restoration of the original frescos that are seen today in Marchand’s Bar & Grill. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the re-opening of the Vinoy in 1992, a further restoration is underway.

History of Vinoy® Renaissance® St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club