The Vinoy overlooks Tampa Bay in downtown St. Petersburg — Photo courtesy of The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club
The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club is toasting to its storied history, as the resort celebrates 90 years of hospitality in the St. Petersburg area.
And to think, it all started with a bet at the St. Petersburg Beach Drive home of Aymer Vinoy Laughner, a wealthy Pennsylvania businessman. The wager: whether famed golfer Walter Hagen could drive a golf ball off of the businessman's crystal pocket watch without damaging it.
What happened? Hagen masterfully drove several golf balls off the face of his host’s prized pocket watch without so much as a scratch!
A modern-day reenactment of the 1923 wager — Photo courtesy of Kara Franker
The golf balls landed across Beach Drive on a residential waterfront property, and Laughner’s party guests suggested he purchase the property and build a grand resort.
Construction began on the Vinoy Park Hotel in 1925, and the contractor set a construction record for completing the 375-room hotel in just under 10 months – just in time for a grand opening on New Year's Eve in 1925.
Ninety years later, The Vinoy gives a glamorous nod to its past by offering a special "90 Years an Icon" package priced at $1,925.
Available until Dec. 31, 2015, the package includes the following:
- Two-night accommodations
- Celebratory welcome basket
- Daily breakfast for two at Marchand’s, with a mouth-watering selection from lemon soufflé pancakes to grilled steak and eggs
- Personal history tour with resort historian Elaine Normille
- 1925 chef table dinner experience for two, including a six-course meal and wine pairings of Executive Chef Mark Heimann’s choice
- Two tickets to historic Little Theater,the oldest operating community theatre in the state, which is also celebrating its 90th anniversary
- Two tickets to the Chihuly Collection and Morean Arts Center Hot Shop to experience glass blowing
- $192.50 resort credit for two ($385 total) to be used towards spa, golf, dining or other amenities
- 1,925 Marriott Rewards Points
Sunset at The Vinoy's golf course — Photo courtesy of The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club
In its iconic 90 years, the downtown hotel overlooking Tampa Bay has attracted the crème da la crème, from aristocrats and artists to celebrities and socialites.
The Vinoy’s lush Tea Garden once played host to Marilyn Monroe, as it was one of her favorite spots on property for a stroll. Former President Calvin Coolidge was often spotted at The Vinoy, where he would choose to dine with the employees in the employee mess hall rather than at the on-property restaurant.
Playing the role of “home base” for the opponents of local Tampa Bay Rays, The Vinoy often hosted baseball legends such as Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, too.
Dale Chihuly-designed chandelier in the grand ballroom — Photo courtesy of Kara Franker
A seasoned history buff, Elaine Normile chronicles and preserves the property's extraordinary stories. Previously serving as a docent at The Dali Museum, Normile has vast knowledge of The Vinoy's history and the city of St. Petersburg in general.
Conducting year-round history tours to more than 2,000 hotel guests and visitors each year, she provides meticulous details about the hotel's historic restoration and also shows off an extensive photo archive.
For those who prefer self-discovery, The Vinoy History Gallery encompasses two walls in the lobby and spans the period of 1901 to 2010, linking the resort with the history of St. Petersburg. Intriguing artifacts and exhibits – original room keys and floor tiles, pieces of china and silver, postcards and photos – are displayed in a chronological diorama.
Nowadays, guests can stay in rooms that have housed celebrity VIPs, including Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Jay Leno, George Clooney, B.B. King, Dionne Warwick, Harrison Ford and Queen Latifah.
Courtyard fountain at The Vinoy — Photo courtesy of Kara Franker
Visitors and locals alike enjoy sipping a cocktail on the rocking chair front porch or enjoying the 72-slip marina, 18-hole private golf course and 12-court tennis complex.
Featuring 361 rooms, The Vinoy transports guests back to the Roaring Twenties through its Mediterranean Revival architecture blended with modern elegance. (Think bold colors and artwork by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly.)
The hotel also has five restaurants (Trust us. The food is decadent.), as well as a salon, day spa and fitness center.
It began with a bet. And the rest is history.