Old Miami Is New Again: The Biltmore Miami Coral Cables

Old Miami Is New Again:
The Biltmore Miami Coral Cables

New hotels are nothing new in Miami, where areas like Collins Avenue and the Design District seem to welcome another shiny new hotel opening on the reg. The Biltmore Miami offers a distinctly different experience, now boasting a tony $25 million renovation, a project that took about 18 months to complete in stages.
Biltmore Miami, Coral Cables
When real estate developer George Merrick arrived in what is now Coral Gables, Florida, in the early 1920s, there was nothing to see but the bounty that Mother Nature blessed Florida with. What his real estate developer's imagination saw was a Mediterranean style fantasy, a home and playground for America's newly minted wealth.

He built the Biltmore as the flagship of one of America's first planned neighbourhoods, and with its 315-foot tower, it was the first structure to grace what is now an upscale hood. It was also the tallest building in Florida at the time it was built in 1926.

The architecture was modeled after La Giralda, the famous bell tower of the Seville Cathedral in Spain, and the interior was decorated with Spanish tiles and Moor inspired frescoes. The hotel served as the home away from home for the rich and famous, including President Roosevelt, Judy Garland, and Ginger Rogers. Johnny Weissmuller toiled as a swimming instructor before his glory days as Tarzan on the silver screen. Today, it's still a favourite haunt of celebs like Jennifer Lopez and Bill Clinton. The hotel's hallways are hung with photographs of its famous occupants, and the guestbook is also on display.

Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, filmed in the 1940's by Pedro Serramalera Olivé

During WWII, the hotel was taken over by the War Department, and converted into an army hospital, renamed in 1946 to Pratt General Hospital. Many of the windows were sealed, and the gorgeous marble floors were covered in linoleum. By 1973, the Army had left, and the building's ownership was transferred to the City of Coral Cables. Sadly, it was empty for about a decade before reopening as a hotel on New Year's Eve 1987. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
Biltmore Miami Coral Cables - renovated lobby
The recent renovations walked a delicate balance between preserving the hotel's rich history and updating for modern conveniences. The colour palette is jewel tones that reflect Merrick's original Mediterranean dreams, and rich detail like the carved wood panel elevators have been refurbished - to the tune of about $500K each - alongside glorious new details like the richly hued custom carpeting, colourful frescoes, silk curtains, and new chandeliers that recreate the older ones in reverse. Beautiful birdcages house the finches that have become iconic residents of the Biltmore. The hotel has a resident restoration and fresco expert on hand for regular maintenance and repairs.

Biltmore Miami is an enormous property, with 275 rooms. The pool alone measures half a square mile, and is filled with 600,000 gallons of water - at one time, the largest swimming pool in the world. The 18-hole golf course - itself the subject of $3 million of renovations - was designed by Donald Ross, who also designed Pinehurst in North Carolina, and other U.S. Open venues. The golf course reopened in January 2019. The renovations touched every one of the guest rooms, along with all the public areas of the hotel, including upgrading to hurricane-proof windows.
Biltmore Miami Coral Gables, Fontana Italian Restaurant
There are four restaurants inside the hotel, including casual dining that overlooks the golf course and pool, the Fontana specializing in Italian cuisine, and the upscale Palme d'Or restaurant, with a menu of French classics by chef Gregory Pugin. Guests can choose from two servings of high tea in the opulent lobby, and a Sunday brunch that has become legendary in the city.

There's no place quite like it, in Miami or anywhere else.

Images courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitor's Bureau