Travel back in Time with a History Tour of The Vinoy in St. Petersburg Florida

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When we went to St. Petersburg, Florida last week, we were fortunate enough to receive a private tour of The Vinoy, located along the waterside. I truly felt as if we had stepped back in time to the golden age of Florida travel, long before Walt Disney World.

If you’re looking for an authentic Florida experience, I invite you to travel back in time with a history tour of The Vinoy hotel. No wayback machine, Deloreans, phone booths or hot tub time machines needed.

History of The Vinoy

I learned a lot about tourism in Florida on this tour and it was conducted by the delightful and knowledgeable Elaine. The Vinoy Hotel opened on New Year’s Eve in 1925 after taking only 10 months to build. Did you know it was considered good luck to open on New Year’s Eve. I would have guessed New Year’s Day, but hey… let the party begin early, right?

The Vinoy is named after Aymer Vinoy Laughner. He “discovered” the property after having a few drinks with his friends and hitting golf balls across the street into the area. I found this humorous in that men never really change, do they?

History Tour of The Vinoy
A view of the Lobby from above and Verona Glass fixtures

After purchasing the property, construction began to the tune of 3.5 million dollars. Quite a considerable amount in those days. Rooms rented for $20 a night, also on the pricey end. However, the Mediterranean  Revival style hotel was certainly a sight to see and a place to be seen. Residents of St. Petersburg looked to the light to know when the hotel was opened for “season” from Thanksgiving to Easter. (Remember, no air conditioning back then!)

While many things have changed over the years, the hotel retains a majority of the original tile. The tile was handcrafted and hand-glazed and shipped from a factory in Flint, Michigan. I loved looking for the different and special designs in the tile.

History Tour of The Vinoy
Original tile from 1925

Use in Wartime

During World War II, Laughner gave over the hotel to the US Army to serve as a residence for the men in training. During this time the hotel suffered a lot of wear and tear (although the tile held up) and Laughner no longer wanted to keep it. He sold the hotel shortly after.

History Tour of The Vinoy
Garden Fountain

Closed

Unfortunately, after the hotel sold it was not kept to its previous standards. By the early 1970s, rooms were $8 a night, $12 less at 50 years later should give you an idea of the type of clientele the hotel was attracting. After much disuse and disrepair, The Vinoy closed in 1974. The hotel sat closed for 18 years.

By 1992 and $93 million later, The Vinoy returned to its original splendor.

 Ballroom
The Ballroom
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The lobby, ballroom and dining room are all listed on Florida and National Registers of Historic Places.

Tour and lunch details

There’s more I could tell you about The Vinoy, but it truly is a place you have to see and experience for yourself. The lasted only an hour and was well worth our time. Next time we will combine the tour with lunch. The dining room was stunning and I just want to sit and take it all in!

History Tour of The Vinoy the restaurant
Marchands Restaurant

You don’t have to be staying at the hotel to get a tour. Simply call for reservations to (727) 824-8005. Tours depart at 10:30 Wednesday to Saturday for $10 per person. I highly recommend combining a 3-course lunch with your tour at the historical Marchand’s for only $27 per person. The Vinoy is located at 501 5th Ave NE in beautiful St. Petersburg Florida.

Find more to do in Downtown St. Pete here.

Our tour was a private one arranged by Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater. All opinions are my own. 

The Vinoy st. Petersburg Florida

17 thoughts on “Travel back in Time with a History Tour of The Vinoy in St. Petersburg Florida”

  1. I love buildings with a rich history like this. Buildings have style , character, and stories to tell. I love the old world charm of places like this. Its great that someone saved the building from ruin and has relaunched it for this generation to experience

  2. I grew up visiting St. Pete as a child and always loved the beautiful architecture. Thanks for sharing the photos and details of the renovation. It brings back memories of my relatives sharing stories about it.

  3. I am a fan of nice hotels and this seems like a great place. I also found out that hotels mostly have great restaurants so even if you do not sleep there try them out (and 27$ is not too bad for a whole lunch)

  4. I’m a sucker for anything history related and the Vinoy seems to be a place rife with history. I’d love to go sometime! $10 is a really great price. Are all tours private or in small groups?

  5. It looks like you learned a ton about St. Petersburg! The history of cities is always fun to explore. These pictures are awesome, and you did an awesome job documenting your experience! Great post! Thanks so much for posting!

  6. I LOVE this hotel! Thanks for taking me down memory land. I remember many wonderful Sunday brunches and Happy Hours there. Their Happy Hours were just decadent.

  7. Pingback: What to do in One Day in St. Petersburg, Florida with Kids | Detail Oriented Traveler

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