This French train station is located in a town renamed after the famed writer Marcel Proust's fictional name for the village.
A member of both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Historic Hotels of America, the Gasparilla Inn retains the look and feel of turn-of-the-century Florida. Wealthy northerners fleeing the winter vacation here, trading snow for wicker and pastel luxury. Located in Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, the hotel was constructed during a time when the state was becoming a major travel and vacation destination.
In 1885, the American Agriculture and Chemical Company discovered phosphate rock just east of Gasparilla Island, thus kicking off the development of the area. Construction of the Inn, then known as “The Hotel Boca Grande,” was completed in 1911. When it opened, it was a small, two-story building with 20 rooms available to host the company’s stockholders and directors.
But the hotel was an immediate success, and was soon expanded and renamed. Over the next several years, the Inn’s owners added a casino, tennis courts, bandstand, beach club, bathhouse, croquet lawn, and golf course. An onsite greenhouse supplied the Inn with fresh flowers, and the infamous Pelican Room hosted wealthy fisherman swapping stories.
In the early 1980s, owner Bayard Sharp and his brother traded waterfront property on the island for an abandoned railroad right-of-way, which they donated for use as a bicycle path. Sharp continued improvements of the resort, and in 1997 created a trust to ensure it would be maintained and run as a working hotel even after his death.
Today, The Gasparilla Inn & Club consists of 137 rooms: 63 in the main building and 74 in the surrounding cottages. The Inn continues to be known for its impeccable service and its unique “Old Florida” feel and atmosphere. It has done what very few turn-of-the-century hotels managed to do: remain popular for over 100 years.
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