The year 2005 is proving to be an exceptionally
good one for “grande dame” hotels. As an increasingly uppity crop
of young upstart properties peddle their luxury wares, America’s
historic resorts, offering all the charm of a national landmark,
have been dusting themselves off for a new generation of attendees.
Old-time banquet halls, resplendent facades and seemingly endless
acreage now stand alongside wireless Internet, cutting-edge spas
and more. Following are some distinctive veterans that refuse to
rest on their well-won laurels.
Commodious and cozy:
The Al Capone suite at the Biltmore
The Biltmore Hotel
Coral Gables, Fla.
When the jazzy, flashy Biltmore opened in 1926 as hospitality
centerpiece to the budding development of Coral Gables, it
announced itself immediately as an enormous national magnet,
attracting nearly everyone who mattered, from the stalwarts of
government in the East to the denizens of a new entertainment mecca
called Hollywood. Even the Great Depression left the Biltmore
largely unscathed, as the resort filled its legendary pool with
synchronized swimmers and alligator wrestlers, and its bleachers
with captivated thousands. After it was converted to a U.S. Army
regional hospital during World War II, however, the property bore
little resemblance to its original incarnation.
After going unoccupied for 14 years, Coral Gables’ trademark
gem finally reopened in 1987 as a restored glamour hotbed, tipping
its heavily refurbished hat both to its Roaring ’20s origins and
the current zeitgeist.
In 2005, the Biltmore celebrates yet another rebirth. Aside from a
recent soft-goods renovation of all 280 guest rooms and a revamping
of the lobby, in January the resort debuted the 12,000-square-foot
Biltmore Spa. But that’s not all: An expanded fitness center (now
covering 10,000 square feet) reopened in January as well, paraded
alongside a $1.5 million upgrade to the 18-hole golf course and a
revamped Palme d’Or, the Biltmore’s signature restaurant. Updated
poolside cabanas will be unveiled this year as well.
Meeting planners can take special delight in the extensive
technological redo performed on the property’s 76,000 square feet
of meeting space, which includes three ballrooms, two tiered
amphitheaters and a hefty count of breakout rooms.
Meanwhile, the fabled Biltmore pool with a capacity of 700,000
gallons and purported to be the largest such watery playground in
the continental United States continues to draw its share of
splashing, gawking crowds.
In bloom again:
The grand grounds
of the Broadmoor
Colorado Springs, Colo.
The self-proclaimed grande dame of the Rockies, the Broadmoor
was born in 1891 as a 2,400-acre casino. It wasn’t until its
repurchase and renovation in 1918, however (following an
intermediary stint as a girls’ boarding school), that the Colorado
Springs landmark, with its opulent interiors and pink stucco
facade, blossomed into the legendary resort it
And a flood of recent activity suggests the property is
blossoming still. Following an ambitious $75 million renovation in
2002, this 700-room dazzler is still making additions. Last year,
the 10-year-old Spa at the Broadmoor underwent a $3 million
redesign by distinguished spa guru Tag Galyean, gaining 3,200
square feet of treatment space and posh perks such as computerized
hydrotherapy Serenity Showers, valued at $100,000 each.
This fall, the property will debut a restaurant designed by
Adam D. Tihany, the creator of New York City’s Le Cirque 2000. By
the summer of 2006, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Mountain Course will
reopen as a renovated, 18-hole powerhouse. And in October, the
resort will premiere the elegant Broadmoor Hall, a
60,000-square-foot event center. Until then, there remains 114,000
square feet of flexible (and historic) meeting space.