Miami Biltmore Hotel

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Miami-Biltmore Hotel & Country Club
Coral Gables FL Biltmore01.jpg
The Biltmore in March, 2011
Miami Biltmore Hotel is located in Miami
Miami Biltmore Hotel
Miami Biltmore Hotel is located in Florida
Miami Biltmore Hotel
Miami Biltmore Hotel is located in the US
Miami Biltmore Hotel
LocationCoral Gables, Florida
Coordinates25°44′28″N 80°16′45″W / 25.74111°N 80.27917°W / 25.74111; -80.27917Coordinates: 25°44′28″N 80°16′45″W / 25.74111°N 80.27917°W / 25.74111; -80.27917
ArchitectSchultze and Weaver[1]
Architectural styleMission/Spanish Revival/Italian Renaissance[1]
NRHP reference #72000306[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPSeptember 27, 1972[1]
Designated NHLJune 19, 1996[2]

The Miami Biltmore Hotel is a luxury hotel in Coral Gables, Florida, United States. It was designed by Schultze and Weaver and was built in 1926 by John McEntee Bowman and George Merrick as part of the Biltmore hotel chain. When completed it became the tallest building in Florida at 315 feet (96m)[3] holding the record until 1928 when the Dade County Courthouse was built.

The Miami-Biltmore Hotel & Country Club was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996.[2] On April 18, 2012, the AIA's Florida Chapter placed the building on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places as the Biltmore Hotel.[4]

It served as a hospital during World War II and as a VA Hospital and campus of the University of Miami medical school until 1968. It became a hotel again in 1987 managed by the Seaway Hotels Corporation.

Some people claim this hotel to be haunted, most often by the spirit of Thomas Walsh. [5][6]

When completed, it was the tallest building in Florida, surpassing the Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami. It was surpassed in 1928 by the Dade County Courthouse, also in Downtown Miami.

At one time the pool was the largest pool in the world and among the many attractions was swimming instructor (and later Tarzan actor) Johnny Weissmuller.[7]

The hotel has been used as a setting for the movie Bad Boys and television programs like CSI: Miami and Miami Vice. The hotel was also a major setting for Ken Wiederhorn's 1977 cult horror film Shock Waves, starring John Carradine and Peter Cushing. The film was shot at a time when the hotel was in a state of abandoned disrepair, and featured long camera shots and eerily shot angles.

Currently, the acclaimed GableStage Theater operates out of the Biltmore Hotel. It is owned and managed by Joseph Adler.


As the creator of Coral Gables, land developer George E. Merrick also founded the University of Miami, and developed the suburbs with strict building codes to ensure the beautiful surroundings. Coral Gables is a largely residential, affluent area graced with broad, planted boulevards, golf courses, and country clubs. Stately Mediterranean homes, Banyan trees, and tropical foliage line its quiet streets. The thriving business district is also home to over 150 multinational companies and multinational headquarters.

In 1925, young Merrick joined forces with Biltmore hotel magnate John McEntee Bowman at the height of the Florida land boom to build "a great hotel...which would not only serve as a hostelry to the crowds which were thronging to Coral Gables but also would serve as a center of sports and fashion." In January 1926, ten months and $10 million later, The Biltmore debuted with a magnificent inaugural that brought people down from northern cities on trains marked "Miami Biltmore Specials." The Giralda-inspired Tower was lit for the first time and the champagne corks popped as the guests fox-trotted to the sounds of jazz, all in celebration of the birth of The Biltmore.

In its heyday, The Biltmore played host to royalty, both Europe's and Hollywood's. The hotel counted the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Al Capone and assorted Roosevelts and Vanderbilts as frequent guests. Franklin D. Roosevelt had a temporary White House office set up at the Hotel for when he vacationed on his fishing trips from Miami. There were many gala balls, aquatic shows by the grand pool and weddings were de rigueur as were world class golf tournaments. A product of the Jazz Age, big bands entertained wealthy, well-traveled visitors to this American Riviera resort.

Just months after the hotel opened, on September 18, the 1926 Miami Hurricane struck. While the hotel was undamaged, and actually provided shelter for over 2000 survivors, the disaster signaled the end of the Florida land boom.[8]

Merrick's Coral Gables company declared bankruptcy on April 13, 1929, and Merrick's stake in the hotel was bought out by his partner, John McEntee Bowman in November 1929 for $2,100,000.[8] Bowman resold the hotel in September 1931 to millionaire Henry Latham Doherty. The Biltmore made it through the early 1930s by hosting aquatic galas that kept the hotel in the spotlight and drew the crowds. As many as three thousand would come out on a Sunday afternoon to watch the synchronized swimmers, bathing beauties, alligator wrestling and the young Jackie Ott, the boy wonder who would dive from an eighty-five foot platform. Johnny Weissmuller, prior to his tree-swinging days in Hollywood, broke the world record at the Biltmore pool and was a swimming instructor. Families would attend the shows and many would dress up and go tea dancing afterwards on the hotel's grand terrace to the sounds of swinging orchestras.

But with the onset of World War II, the War Department took over The Biltmore, converting it to a 1200-bed hospital in November 1942. The building was transferred to the Army in 1946 and renamed Pratt General Hospital.[9] Many of the windows were sealed with concrete, and the marble floors covered with government-issue linoleum. The hospital was transferred from the Army to the VA in July 1947.[8] Also the early site of The University of Miami's School of Medicine, Pratt General Hospital remained a VA hospital, with 450 beds, until a newer facility opened nearby in May 1968 and the building was vacated.[9]

In 1973, through the Historic Monuments Act and Legacy of Parks program, the City of Coral Gables was granted ownership control of The Biltmore. Undecided as to the structure's future, The Biltmore remained unoccupied for almost 10 years. Then in 1983, the City oversaw its full restoration to be opened as a grand hotel. Almost four years and $55 million later, The Biltmore opened on December 31, 1987 as a first class hotel and resort. Over 600 guests turned out to honor the historic Biltmore at a black tie affair.

In June 1992, a multinational consortium led by Seaway Hotels Corporation, a Florida hotel management company, officially became the new operators of the Biltmore under a long term management lease with the City of Coral Gables, and again made significant refurbishments to the property.

Seaway invested in new lighting and telephone systems, computer systems throughout, repairs to the pool, furnishings, a complete guestroom renovation program and also remodeled a space into a state-of-the-art health club and spa. At the 1926 gala opening of the Miami Biltmore Country Club, Dr. Frank Crane predicted that "many people will come and go, but this structure will remain a thing of lasting beauty." He was right and in 1996, the hotel celebrated yet another milestone in its illustrious history—the 70th anniversary of this grand South Florida monument and an official designation by the Federal Government as a National Historic Landmark, an elite title offered to only 3% of all historic structures on the National Register of Historic Places.

In February 2009 the Biltmore opened its very own Culinary Academy. The Biltmore Culinary Academy is a recreational hands-on cooking school with classes for adults and children taught by the hotel's chefs. The 3-hour signature hands-on class holds up to eight students and finishes with a meal made up of recipes made in class.[10]


The Biltmore is surrounded by the Biltmore Golf Course, an 18-hole, par 71, championship course designed by Donald Ross. Amenities include a full practice facility, private instruction, and pro shop.

Reopened in November, 2007 following a $5 million investment, the resort's Donald Ross-designed course was restored and updated by noted[citation needed] architect Brian Silva. The original 1925 routing was retained, but all greens, tees and bunkers were reconstructedand grassed to contemporary standards. Course drainage was improved and a new irrigation system was installed. The property again contracted Silva to provide additional improvements to the golf course in the summer of 2018.

The course Casuarina grove is home to a colony of Lilac-crowned (Amazona viridigenalis) and red-crowned parrots (Amazona finschi). In 2018, The Jim McLean Golf School moved from Trump Doral to the golf course.


The Biltmore spa is 12,000-square-foot (1,100 m2) full service spa which is a member of Leading Spas of the World.



  1. ^ a b c d National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ a b "Miami-Biltmore Hotel & Country Club". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2009-04-25. Retrieved 2009-07-03.
  3. ^ "The Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables | 123896". Emporis. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  4. ^ Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places
  5. ^ "Coral Gables Biltmore Hotel". Archived from the original on 2010-08-16. Retrieved 2010-07-20.
  6. ^ Deena Budd. "Haunted Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables". Retrieved 2010-07-20.
  7. ^ Greg Jenkins Florida's Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore: South and central Florida, Volume 1 page 22
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^ a b "Our History - Miami VA Healthcare System". Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  10. ^ "Get Your Dough On: Biltmore Miami Cooking Classes - TravelMuse". 2009-02-20.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Freedom Tower (Miami)
Tallest Building in Florida
Succeeded by
Miami-Dade County Courthouse