Haunted Lodgings: Don Cesar Beach Resort – St. Petersburg, FL

The Don Cesar

When you see the Don Cesar for the first time, whether from land or sea, the first thought that comes to mind is that this is a fairy castle…an edifice constructed of fantasy.  The towering pink walls meet alabaster sand and turquoise seas while billowing clouds scuttle across an azure sky. It is the ultimate tropical getaway….a place where you could spend many happy hours recumbent on the beach, sipping piña coladas. Could it get any better than that?  Yes! Because not only is this exotic destination perfect for a weekend of pampering, but it also has a mysterious, intriguing side that makes the hotel even more attractive.

The Don Cesar has a legend behind it, a love story. The mastermind behind this awe inspiring hotel was Thomas Rowe. It is said that when Rowe was a young man, he toured Europe, eager to see the world.  What he encountered on that trip was a love that would last his whole life…his love for Lucinda, a beautiful, young, raven-haired opera singer playing the lead on the London stage in a production of Maritana.  For Rowe, it was love at first sight.  He and Lucinda used to meet one another after her performances by a special fountain.  Time went by, feelings grew deeper and an elopement was planned.  After her final performance they would meet again by the fountain and run away together.  Thomas fervidly awaited his love that night, but she never came. Her parents had discovered their clandestine arrangement and disapproved of the match for religious reasons.  They whisked their daughter back to their home country of Spain, and Thomas would never see her again.

Heartbroken, he settled in the United States.  Hopeful still, he would send letters to Lucinda, letters that her parents intercepted and returned to him unopened.  Finally, he married someone else, though his heart wasn’t in the relationship.  Eventually, he received a communication from Lucinda’s parents.  Their daughter had passed away from an illness, but on her death bed, she wrote a message to Thomas:  “Time is infinite. I wait for you by our fountain…to share our timeless love, our destiny is time. “

In his forties, his own health suffering, Thomas Rowe traveled to the then remote St. Petersburg Beach and built a tribute to his love, complete with a replica of their special fountain, and named the building The Don Cesar after the hero from the opera Maritana.  Throughout the years, Thomas invested not only his money, but all his love in making the hotel the grandest in the region. The Don Cesar had a reputation for perfection.

In 1940, Mr. Rowe passed away, but he never left his beloved hotel. His apparition has been spotted overseeing the daily operations in the hotel, smiling at incoming guests and then disappearing, and walking along the beach front, dressed in a white suit.  Joyfully, his apparition is often sighted in the company of a beautiful raven haired woman, their hands lovingly clasped together.

After his death, the hotel suffered a setback.  Though Rowe had intended to leave the hotel to his employees, the hotel staff, he hadn’t signed the new will in time and the hotel instead fell into the hands of his estranged wife, whom he had never divorced.  She didn’t have the same knack or even desire to carry on the hotel, and eventually lost the property.

During the Second World War, the United States Government owned the building, and converted it into a hospital in which injured troops could recuperate. The popular method of our war time government when taking ownership of beautiful, elegant buildings, was to strip as many of the attractive elements from the structure as they could. Many windows were bricked up, the marble floors were laminated over, and the special fountain that Rowe had had reproduced in memory of Lucinda was ripped up. An interesting side note, when the hotel was being renovated, many years later, a letter was found under the spot where the fountain had once stood.  The letter was from the contractor who was given the task of demolishing the lovely water feature.  His note described the fixture in detail, reflected his regret that it was being destroyed and denied any part in the process that resulted in the decision to remove the font. He stated his hope that if his letter was ever discovered, that it could be printed in the local paper; it was.

During the time that the hotel served as a convalescent home for war-battered veterans, many deaths took place.  These tragedies resulted in quite a few paranormal stories, some of which were related to me and my sister-in-law when we visited the Don Cesar in the late 90′s. Our waiter graciously spent time with us recounting tales that were as current as the week previous.  He relayed to us that the morgue of the veteran’s hospital had been located in the area that had formerly been one of the kitchens in the hotel.  After renovations, it was once again converted to a kitchen that is currently in use today.  At least one of the chefs had opened the walk in freezer to encounter the seemingly solid apparition of a nurse standing just inside the door.  Another worker had been passing the walk in freezer when he heard someone banging on the door from the inside.  He thought it was one of his co-workers, a notorious prankster, but he saw the prankster just outside of that area of the kitchen.  When he summoned his courage to open the door to the freezer, it was devoid of life.

Our waiter also told us of an intriguing, yet irritating phenomena that had happened just the week before our visit.  In the dining room, during a very busy dinner hour, the lights in the dining room started to go off and then on in rapid succession.  The lighting in the room is controlled by separate fixtures located in different areas of the room. From where the waiter and other perplexed staff were standing, they could see several sets of light switches, across the room from one another, with no one near them; yet the lights continued to turn on and off, one after another, as if someone was playing with the controls.

It may be that some of the service men who came here to recuperate simply never left.  After the restoration that the Don underwent to regain its original beauty and elegance, who could blame them for wanting to stay?

If you are interested in staying at this exquisite tropical resort, please visit their website: http://www.loewshotels.com/en/Don-CeSar-Beach-Resort/index/about

The Don Cesar Oceanside

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10 responses to “Haunted Lodgings: Don Cesar Beach Resort – St. Petersburg, FL

  1. Wow what a beautiful place and great stories! Someday I hope to see it in person. Heck, if I die before I get to, then I’ll just come back as a ghost and tour the place. Yeah. That’s what I’ll do… and play with the light switches too. :D

  2. HA! That’s my plan too! After I die, I’m going to visit all the places that I always wanted to see, but never got to during my life time! I’ll be a ghost tourist!!! =)

  3. I have seen and been in this beautiful Hotel. I used to live in St. Petersberg and my best friends mother worked at The Don. It is more beautiful in person than these pictures can ever express.

  4. Wow. This is crazy. I was inspired to look up the history of this hotel because of a ghost show I was watching on TV. In about 2004-2005 I stayed here with my boyfriend. I remember waking up one night in the middle of the night and seeing a man standing at the end of our bed. I got so scared that I froze. (I just assumed it was a drunk person that wandered into our room by accident, and I didn’t want to frighten him.) I layed there completely frozen, and then he walked away. I’ve always thought about this – because I never knew what really happened. I just thought to look and check the history of the hotel – needless to say I’m speechless right now. Wow. What a magnificent place though.

  5. I stayed in this hotel in July 2011 with my daughter and mother. One night we went exploring at about 3am. We found a floor with alot of different ball rooms. The lights were mostly off in the rooms. We had our camera and we were taking pictures in one particular room. When we looked at the picture on the camera we could see something showing up on a window thet was partially covered by the curtains. We went over to the window and opened up the curtains all the way. There was an image of a man and woman dancing close together. The woman has a long flowing dress on.

    The next night we went back to that room, the image was gone! However, when I took a picture of the window this time, the picture on my camera showed to be a VERY red image. It looked like Lucifer with horns! I have all the pictures to show anyone.

    • i was there in Nov.2011. i take some picture in the fifth floor down the hall from the ball rooms. I was the only one there at the time. in one of the picture you can see a old men with white hair and small glasses like if he was sitting there looking at me. after me coming back to california and seeing the pictures and how nice it was i would go back.

  6. I worked at this hotel many years ago and experienced many weird things during my employment. Floor #10 housed “King Charles” dining room and a bar directly across it. We also had Sunday Brunch. None of us ever wanted to be among the last to leave at night. If was creepy.. There were daytime experiences as well.

  7. I just drove by there and my bestfriends step mom told me about it. I had to look it up?

  8. my husband and i just stayed there last week-mid april 2013. one early morning at 230 my husband got up to use the bathroom and heard muffled voices behind the wall. i got up at 530 to do the same and heard voices. to our knowledged, the room next door was not occupied. we also had a few weird elevator experiences where it would go up not down, or stop at random floors. crazy! well worth the stay though. it was gorgeous

  9. In the year 2003 I was in the hotel for a conference about my work. My friends and I when we entered the elevator found on several occasions a boy about the age of 7 years, he was always alone, with a super clean cloth with a long sleeved guayabera style, black hair, he never talk to no one and never was with his parents. He was always on the same floor facing activity rooms that were empty. His skin was very paled, and the cloth with pastel colors. The elevator did not stop where we want to.