Enjoy FREE tours of the Biltmore Hotel in Miami. Tours are held every Sunday and they go over the amazing history of this iconic hotel and National Historic Landmark.
The Biltmore Hotel In Miami
Imagine walking under barrel-vaulted ceilings, passing through marble columns, or gazing at hand-painted frescoes. If you think you’re somewhere in the Mediterranean, think again. Just a short drive southwest of downtown Miami is the city of Coral Gables, known as “The City Beautiful.” This city is renowned for its aesthetic charm and beauty. And in this city is the Biltmore Hotel, a National Historic Landmark.
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History Of The Biltmore Hotel
In 1925, George Merrick set off to create a hotel for the people of Coral Gables; a luxury hotel that would also serve as “a center of sports and fashion.” Merrick teamed up with John Bowman, the Biltmore hotel mogul, and together they contracted Leonard Schultze and S. Fullerton Weaver.
This pair had already been responsible for the Atlanta and Los Angeles Biltmore’s, New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, and the Miami Daily News Tower (also known as Freedom Tower).
The Biltmore’s grand opening was on January 15, 1926. In less than 1 year, the 400+ room hotel had been built, along with a country club, golf course, and enormous swimming pool (the largest hotel pool in the continental US).
Many athletes, musicians, movie stars, politicians, and even gangsters frequently stayed at the Biltmore to enjoy fashion shows, galas, and aquatic shows. People such as Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Johnny Weissmuller, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Al Capone.
That all changed with the start of World War II, however. The hotel was seized by the government and converted into a military hospital. The beautiful ceilings were covered, the windows were sealed, and the floors were overlaid with linoleum. Even after the war, it remained a hospital for veterans until 1968.
Although the city of Coral Gables was eventually able to get the property back, the building remained empty for almost a decade. In fact, it was almost torn down! Then in 1983, restoration began. It took nearly 4 years and $55 million to return the Biltmore to its former glory. Everything now is as it once was, with only slight modifications.
Free Tours Of The Biltmore Hotel
For those that would like to see the magnificent hotel and learn more about it, free tours of the Biltmore Hotel are given every Sunday from 2 PM to 3 PM. You have to register beforehand on Eventbrite; just search for “Biltmore Hotel Tour” and it will come up.
The tour starts at the fireplace at the east end of the Main Lobby. It is given by a volunteer of the Dade Heritage Trust, an organization whose mission is to preserve Miami’s culture. When we visited the Biltmore, Judy was giving the tour. She has been giving these tours for years, simply because she loves to do it.
As we walked around the property, Judy gave us insight into George Merrick’s world upon arriving in desolate South Florida. We learned about his family and the history of Coral Gables. Something we hadn’t realized was that Merrick had named the city streets after names he’d read in Spanish books.
We also learned interesting tidbits about the hotel itself. For example, the inspiration for the design of the hotel was the Giralda bell tower from the cathedral in Seville, Spain. We also learned that the carpet in the Alhambra ballroom was created to match the ceiling. And since some of the original decorative tiles can no longer be manufactured if they are damaged, they’ve had an artist come and hand-paint new ones.
After The Tour
Once the tour was over, we continued to walk around the hotel. We could not get enough of the Mediterranean style and felt like we could have spent hours photographing every small detail. We loved that there was so much history there. As we walked around the main and lower lobbies, we stopped to look at old photographs and read their descriptions.
Dining At The Biltmore
If you have time after your tour of the Biltmore, we also recommend getting something to eat while you’re there. The Biltmore has multiple dining options, with Fontana being a favorite. They offer award-winning Italian cuisine which you can enjoy indoors or outside on the terrace, surrounded by palm trees. Reservations are highly recommended.
Final Thoughts On The Biltmore Hotel
Most people have a misconception of Miami and we want to reiterate that there is so much more to the city than beaches and booze. There is culture and there are endless stories of men and women who have persevered against strong odds to build what has become one of the most important cities in the world.
So if you’re traveling to Miami, or even if you’re a local, we would highly recommend visiting and taking advantage of the free tours of the Biltmore Hotel. We guarantee you’ll leave as captivated and mesmerized as we were.
Have you been to the Biltmore Hotel? What did you think of it? We’d love to read your comments below! 🙂
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