Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Historical Accomodations

by Barbara Early

Since all Inkies (as we sometimes call ourselves) are lovely, clever, spiritual people (not to mention fiction writers) we understand when sometimes our readers have difficulty telling us apart. Besides the mole on my right cheek, one clear method to differentiate me from the pack is that I am the only Inky born without a history gene. So this is my first--and possibly only--history post.

So while my fellow bloggers are all still entranced with the Titanic (It was a boat. It sank. Get over it.) I’d like to talk about historic hotels. And one in particular. So let’s leave the frigid water of the North Atlantic and head to the palm dotted Vinoy Renaissance Resort in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Vinoy veranda
Now, when we travel, my hubby avoids historic hotels. Generally, the term is synonymous with “small rooms with inadequate plumbing.” That was not the case at the Vinoy where he attended his most recent conference--to which I stowed away in his carry-on bag. One step onto the veranda--with its rocking chairs, patio furniture, and ceiling fans pulling in cooler air from the marina, and I knew it would be a great place to kill someone. (Relax, I’m the mystery writer. I’m sure it would also be a wonderful place to fall in love.) In other words, it was a great setting--probably always was--for one type of book or another. And I found myself--true confession--wanting to know the history of the hotel.

Observation Tower
The architecture is Mediterranean revival (thanks Wikipedia). I would have said cool. From the cool restored embossed tile floor in the lobby (was that a griffin?) to the iconic observation tower. Constructed in 1925, the once seasonal resort was a place where the wealthy and well-known went to winter. Historic guests include Jimmy Stewart, Babe Ruth, Herbert Hoover, Marilyn Monroe, and Calvin Coolidge. (It still attracts celebrities. The guest list when we were there included Howie Mandel, Howard Stern, Sharon Osborne, and Selena Gomez.)

Just off the lobby is a small gallery of the hotel’s history. It includes samples of the china and silverware used in bygone days, as well as other memorabilia. It was there I learned that the hotel was take over by US Army during World War II and used as a training facility. (Wouldn’t that make a great setting for a story? Maybe a nice wartime romance.)The hotel went through a decline during the 70s, and was eventually closed, giving home to vagrants, pigeons and alligators. (A great setting for a horror story.) Now restored, it has a thriving vacation, conference, and wedding business.

Prior to restoration.

It also has more than one ghost story, and was featured in an episode of Ghost Hunters. Curious about staying in another haunted hotel  (I’ll save the other story for another time), I streamed the episode, the highlight of which was an ironing board falling out of a closet. Their experiments, which I can confirm, showed that an ironing board would have to be thrown with considerable force to open the door. And who among us hasn’t wanted to fling an ironing board or two? For more Vinoy ghost stories, read here. http://www.haunted-places-to-go.com/haunted-florida.html

Question: Have you ever visited a place you thought would be a wonderful setting for a book or movie?

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder was released in e-book format from White Rose Publishing in December 2011. You can learn more about her writing on her personal blog: http://barbearly.blogspot.com/ or see what's for dinner on her recipe blog: http://bflogal.blogspot.com/.


  1. Nice, Barb. Who wouldn't want to stay there? It's gorgeous.

    No need to possess the history gene, because we love you just the way you are.

    My answer to your question:
    Shaw Island

  2. Is this where I can leave comments about the Titanic?

  3. Wow that place is amazing. And St Petersburg must have been full of history. See, I love to mix my body count and history-- and that goes for Titanic. (Some one there had the perfect opportunity to ensure their spouse or business rival didn't make it to the lifeboats...)

    Barb you said your hotel was nice but I thought that meant it had two waffle machines in the breakfast foyer instead of just one. If I ever get to St Pete I will have to see this place.
    any celeb stories? Rather ...any problems arise from the paparazzi?

    Thanks for taking on a history post and sharing such a beautiful place. Ive never heard of it before and, hey, I used to be a travel agent.

  4. Suzie--

    Thanks. This is one of the few times setting has ever inspired me. Although I might have to pick up the entire hotel and transport it to another place.

  5. Deb--You know, the murder on the Titanic has definite possibilities. You should write that. (I hope you know I was only ribbing you guys a little about the Titanic.)

    And actually, you can tell you're in a high end hotel when there are no waffle irons.Rather they will be glad to bring you one (or anything else for that matter). And you will pay through the nose. Plus gratuities.

    I also forgot to mention, if we have any car buffs, that the first night we were there, there was a Bugatti in the parking lot. For those who (like me) don't know what that it, they start at over a million.

    As for celebrity sightings, I didn't do so well as some others. Possibly because I didn't try as hard. But I did see a woman that someone pointed out to me as Howard Stern's wife--along with a man I was told was her father.

    No sign of paparazzi.

  6. i've visited a few wonderful setting places. actually, i think anytime i travel someplace new, i keep the writer antenna out to see if the setting is story worthy.

    love the post, especially the little Titanic poke (it was obviously done in love). i'll be waiting for that murder mystery located in the hotel.(laughed aloud at the "I knew it would be a great place to kill someone." - is that a bad thing?)

  7. Barb - your poke didn't hurt a bit! I'm even going to go look up more about this hotel. It HAS to show up in someone's mystery soon! And, if I did far enough it's likely to have a Titanic connection (ha ha)

    I fell in love with Boothbay Harbor, Maine and spent an afternoon in the historical museum there. Now, If I could just find me a sugar daddy, i might get all these books written. hey, maybe If I hang out at the Vinoy?

  8. Hi Deb H! we have to watch Barb carefully when she travels, though DeAnna and Lisa and I seem to enjoy killing people off as well. Woo Hoo! nothing so cathartic as imagining where you can stash a dead body, is there?

    So.. tell us more, are you currently working on a setting that you've visited, and what century are you in?

  9. Yes, DebH--tell us more about what you're writing. And if you have a body count as well.

    And DebM, you may need a sugar daddy just to hang out at the Vinoy. Just sayin...

  10. Hey, they won't let me kill anyone in real life, so I'm stuck with fiction. :D

    That does look like a cool hotel though. I LOVE old buildings like that.

  11. That's a great history post, Barb. Glad to see you popped out of your shell. LOL

    I'm having a hard time imagining such a place being relegated to pigeon poop, but can understand how it happens. It must have cost a fortune to restore it.

    My favourite place to set a movie is Rafter Six Ranch outside of Calgary and at the base of the Rockies. Breathtakingly beautiful.

    I discovered it in the '80s through an Alberta Vacation Guide but didn't realize until I was actually checked in and saw the photos on the sitting room walls that Walt Disney visited and even set many wilderness-type productions there. Also a CBC period drama mini-series had been taped there in the 70's.

    All I knew was that Stan and Gloria welcomed me and treated me like their only guest - which I was at the time because they usually only had weekend guests but I was there from Mon-Friday.

    For years, Sunday services were held in an outdoor church beneath the pines and near a cliff with a fast running river below and the Rockies looming behind. The last time I visited though, they'd built a beautiful log church so services could be held in all types of weather. They still have the outdoor one though.

    They used to have a stagecoach for short rides in the summer although I'm not sure they still do. Regardless, I'd go back at the snap of the fingers.

    I'd even pay full price for a movie ticket if they set another movie there. :D

  12. DeAnna--

    If it inspired me to write a history post, you know it was a cool building. :)

  13. Anita--

    I don't think they're done restoring all of it yet. Just an amazing place. And that ranch sounds like it would be too.

    Seems to me at least the log church should end up in a book somewhere, don't you think?

  14. (It was a boat. It sank. Get over it.)

    LOL! I literally cracked up out loud when I read that, Barb. If anyone didn't guess, Barb is also one of several Inky's with the comedy gene.

    I confess to not being as much of a history buff as some of the other Inkys. I enjoy humanities, which relates to history. I'm more interested in the arts, culture, and philosophy than places and people and dates.

    I did however love my recent trip to Charlottesville and Monticello. I loved the decorating and the artwork and the musical instruments most. Even asked questions about where and how a ball would be held there.

  15. Dina,

    I can see the connection. You'd be more interested in why people of a certain period acted in a certain way than in the costume or such. That would likely interest me more as well

  16. i stay in this century because i tend to have characters who like to do things (like scuba dive) that didn't happen centuries past. WIPs have the ocean and mountains as locations (i'm from Colorado and currently live in Va Beach... go figure).

    unfortunately, i'm not really writing right now. i'm preoccupied with a Guppy (my toddler son) and teaching 2D Animation (more "toddlers" there too *heh*).

    Finishing up the semester trying to finish my half minute of animation for class perusal. I figured students don't usually get to see their teacher's work, so i animated the same semester project they got assigned. I think I'd only give myself a 'B' though - I know I can do better work.

    As for body count... one. Not sure if that MS will ever see the light of day though.

  17. The animation sounds interesting. Are you more interested in screen play, then, or books?

    And I don't know how people can get any writing done with small children about. Kudos on that. I didn't start writing until mine went to college.

  18. more interested in books. somehow in my mind, they have more staying power.


Share This Post

How Our Giveaways Work: The Official Rules

We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.