Finding my way to the coast of Florida, two poly bags of dried pineapple in my hand, I had finally reached my destination. As I entered the the grounds of the Gasparilla Inn and Club, one of Florida’s most historic hotels, time seemed to escape me. Almost magically, I seemed to be transported back into yesteryear as my eyes glazed across the tall white pillars and the grand foyer. But the building itself was framed in the paradise like surroundings of this Inn on an island. Calm expansive waters, green grounds, and staff meeting your every need was a welcome site.
And after decades of successful business for the Gasparilla Inn & Club, they will be celebrating their centennial anniversary in February 2013. The Gasparilla Inn & Club has been recognized as a leading destination for discriminating travelers visiting Florida’s Coast since 1913 and is the undisputed center of relaxation and recreation for the Village of Gasparilla Island.
History of The Gasparilla Inn
Taking it’s place among the states great hotels, the Gasparilla Inn is among the largest, most enduring resort hotel and country clubs in Florida. The resort was formerly built for well-heeled and elite northerners when the state first became a recognized and popular travel and vacation spot. It was on the 21st of February 1909 when the former officers of the Boca Grande Land Company made a decision to construct a resort hotel in the heart of the island.
When the hotel was built there were only 20 rooms available in a two story building accessible only for the visiting and staying directors and staff of the Inn. It was Peter Bradley, one of the staff of Boca Grande Land Company and one of the largest titleholders of the greatest part of the land on Gasparilla Island who first initiated and proposed a silent uptown island community in Boca Grande, mainly for The Inn employees and shareholders. And Peter Bradley also was given credit and tribute for engineering the island’s expansion and development through crafting a main phosphate port which is a center for marketable whaling and an expensive resort. Originally the 1911 block of the building was designed with a humble but modest Frame Vernacular. Later on the Boca Grande Land Company owners want to build new ambiance of the resort and change the small island hotel into a first-rate five star type of resort.
The Inn’s creators soon employed the notable Tampa architect Francis J. Kennard to draft the ideas for the hotel development and for the first time, in 1912 the resort was transformed and enlarged into something the owners dreamed it to be. Peter Bradley and his associate, Martin Towle, personally designated and bought the fixtures and hotel furnishings for their fresh resort at Wanamaker’s in New York City. The extended hotel, retitled The Gasparilla Inn, opened for the 1912-1913 season. After an ambitious attempt for a change the proprietors then quickly constructed a casino near the south of the core building. The casino was intended not for betting and gambling, but rather for gatherings and evening entertainment. One of the erected amusements was tennis courts in line to the casino on the east, a pavilion was built nearby and a beach club with a sauna was built on the west side of the property on the Gulf of Mexico.
Another designer employed to tap a change on the resort was Hettie Rhoda Meade, a New York interior designer who took the designing part of the inn.
It was in 1921 Bradley’s Brother Robert became the Chairman of the Board of AAC and with his guts and talent on promotions made the place popular on land acquisition on Gasparilla Island. In 1976 the Inn’s kitchen was torn down and between 1967 and 1978, maintenance buildings were built. One of the maintenance buildings was fireproof and one that was fireproof and included room for staff dining. Architect Mario Troncoso of Temple Terrace, Florida deliberated the new kitchen design. Willis Smith Construction, Inc. was the independent contractor of the new building.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Bayard Sharp, together with roughly 300 others, was involved in the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association (GICIA). This group functioned firmly to preserve the ancient way of living and life norms on the island. Almost all of the deed holders and some of the island’s regular visitors placed solid determination into a fight against excessive development. Their campaign was successful in restraining the amount and size of future development.
The Hotel and lodges totaled 138 quarters by 1981. Earlier, the quantity of rooms in the central building was bigger. During the first part of the 1980s, Sharp and his brother, Hugh, transacted his waterfront assets on the island for the uninhibited railway right-of-way which they offered for usage as a bike pathway for island visitors and inhabitants. In the later months of 1989 Sharp also acquired the Inn Marina and erected a tennis club to the standing courts. The Inn had a club located at the beach, a golf shop and a home adjacent to the croquet lawn, called the Croquet House. All of these are still visible today, though certain of the amenities and support structures have been reorganized.
In late 1994, the main banquet room, along with the original servants’ dining room were extended and developed with a 16 ft. two-story leeway on the east elevation. The expansion fundamentally on the hindmost of the north annexes and is not noticeable from Palm Avenue, near which The Inn is primarily leaning. The expansion on the second floor saved more spaces for parlors for visitor and guest rooms and suites.
In 1997, Sharp built a conviction to guarantee that The Inn would be preserved and track as an operational hotel even later to his death. Sharp, as the highest of the company that possessed The Inn, continued is individually vigorous in its administration since the stage he attained the property until his bereavement in 2002. Meanwhile in 2006, The Gasparilla Inn & Club currently comprises of 137 rooms, 63 in the main Inn and 74 in the nearby 17 cottages, structures and Cabins. The Inn has maintained a social representation and registry for having big commercial moguls and officials over the day, at one time or other as their guest s of honor.
Currently, the inn pays more than 325 personnel and endures countless of its unique customs, containing afternoon tea during Social Season. The Inn is currently possessed by the family of William Farish. Mr. Farish is a previous United States Ambassador to The Court of St. James. Ambassador Farish’s wife, Sarah, is the lone daughter of the late Bayard Sharp.