About once a month I have lunch with two former colleagues from my U.S. Customs days. We meet at different restaurants in the area – in Miami, Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, Key Biscayne, Miami Beach etc. We have a great time talking about the good old days (well, the old days, at least) and solving the major problems of the nation and the world.
Every year, about a week before Christmas we have dinner at a fancy restaurant to celebrate that we have each survived another year, are still ambulatory and still can remember our own names.
Last Friday we decided to have lunch at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. It has been three or four years since we had been there. It is quite a production for us; we don’t usually go that distance. Colleague No. 1 drove south 15 miles from Delray Beach to Colleague No. 2’s house in Deerfield Beach and the latter drove the 32 miles to my house in Pembroke Pines – then I drove the remaining 25 miles to the Biltmore Hotel.
The Biltmore is a luxury hotel built in 1926, designated by the Federal Government as a National Historic Landmark. It may seem weird to call an 85 year old building ‘historical’, but one must recognize that for South Florida the 1920’s are quite ancient times. As recently as 1890 the total population of Dade County was 861. (Now 2,496,435 per the 2010 Census) In fact, all of Florida had only 390,000 people, compared to over 18,800,000 today. Until the 20th century, when the railroad was extended to this area the population consisted primarily of alligators, snakes and mosquitoes. So, 1926 is ‘historical’.
During World War 2 the hotel was converted into a military hospital, and after the war, until 1968, it was a Veterans Administration hospital and the medical school of the University of Miami – then it was converted back to a hotel.
When it opened it was the tallest structure in South Florida, and for many years its pool was the largest in the world. Many heads of state and celebrities have frequented the hotel over the years. President Franklin Roosevelt even maintained an office in the hotel which he used when on fishing trips to Florida. The famous gangster Al Capone stayed there often, along with many Hollywood celebrities. Johnny Weissmuller, Olympic gold medal swimming star and later the most famous of the actors who portrayed Tarzan in the movies gave swimming lessons there.
When you walk into the hotel lobby you feel as if you have stepped back in time.
Behind the hotel is a beautiful golf course.
Here’s a closer view of the entrance.
Oh, I almost forgot, we had lunch in an open courtyard looking out at the golf course. We could have eaten inside but for a change there was no rain and the temperature was actually tolerable.
All in all a very pleasant afternoon.