by Morton D. Rosenbaum | March 01, 2005

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.

The Biltmore Hotel

Commodious and cozy:
The Al Capone suite at the Biltmore

The Biltmore Hotel
Coral Gables, Fla.
(305) 445-1926

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.

The Broadmoor
In bloom again:
The grand grounds
of the Broadmoor

The Broadmoor
Colorado Springs, Colo.
(719) 471-6200

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
is today.
    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.