It’s still a favorite place for spirits of owners, employees and those who like to party!
The Colony Hotel of Delray Beach really stands out on East Atlantic Avenue as a Delray historic landmark, a beautiful structure to behold. A prominent example of Florida Mediterranean architecture, it is a three storied, bright yellow building with two domed towers, that match the hotel’s striped yellow and red window awnings. It is reminiscent of Henry Flager’s Ponce de Leon Hotel in Saint Augustine, Florida.
Because The Colony Hotel has stayed in the Bowden family, this classy resort hotel never suffered the fate of other hotels. It never slipped into disrepair, but has always been kept in tip-top shape, making it very appealing as a high class hotel. It was historically renovated in 2001, giving this old gal of a hotel a fresh look with all its 1920s charm and original architecture left intact!
Walking into the front patio and lobby is like stepping back to the 1920s. The original furnishings have been restored on the first floor as well as the guest rooms. The authentic wicker furniture, the ornate elevator, the iron chandeliers and candelabras, as well as the arched french doors, fireplaces and the beautiful skylight in the lobby will remind the visitor of the 1920s and ’30s.
Hardwood floors, maintained with love, are found throughout the hotel. The lobby has a terrazzo floor, the porch has a Cuban tile floor and the music and former dining rooms have a lovely red oak flooring.
The rooms also shine with the original decor. All seventy guest rooms have wooden shutters, Dade County pine floors, and their original furniture, decorated with tropical fabrics and colors and original artwork from Florida artists.
A wonderful amenity is offered to guests is the Colony Cabaña Club. On the hotel’s website, they state: “Our goal is to provide an authentic, historic, casual, eco-friendly beach club experience. We offer a quiet, relaxing atmosphere, with customary facilities and essential services to enhance the swimming and beach experience for members and their guests.”
On this two hundred and fifty feet of private beach, a heated salt-water pool, shuffleboard, hammock, day use of refrigerator, beach cabañas, umbrellas, changing rooms, showers and towels are available to club members and guests. Because lunch is offered daily right on the beach, spending a whole day here is an option.
It is also a popular place for club members and hotel guests to hold social events. The hotel website states, “The Club offers a beautiful setting with spectacular ocean views for a variety of events, sunset cocktail parties, dinners, beach weddings and receptions. We will work to personalize your arrangements for you.”
During the height of the 1920s, Delray Beach was a thriving city, with an established love for the arts, which attracted a new group of people to this resort town: those wanting to create and be inspired. This influx of art-oriented folks inspired entrepreneur Martin Luther Hampton to create a hotel in 1926 that embodies Florida architecture.
Hampton used the Florida Mediterranean architecture style in his plans for this labor of love. His upscale hotel attracted many out-of-towners, making it very popular indeed, and a financial success. Artists, writers and cartoonists liked to stay here, not only for the amenities and conveniences, but also because it was in the very heart of the Delray Arts District. This art district is still thriving today!
Hampton ran his hotel until 1935, when he sold it to the father, son and daughter-in-law team, Charles and George and Agnes Bowden, who changed its name to Colony Hotel.
The Colony Hotel has been a Bowden family-run business for three generations as of 2022. It is the sister hotel to the Bowden family’s other five star establishment, built in 1914 and also called The Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport, Maine. While the Maine Colony Hotel catered to the well-to-do during the May through October season, the Colony Hotel in Delray Beach was open from September through May, becoming a great winter retreat for those wishing to escape the cold, snowy winters of the North and Midwest.
Summers in Florida are hot and sticky: not great weather to come and enjoy the beach. Why stay open during the off-season? The established business plan was to close the Colony Hotel in Delray during the summer months, with the Bowden family and staff moving up to the Maine Colony Hotel to spend the summer there.
In 1949, the Colony Hotel purchased some beachfront and built irresistible amenities in their new private club for members and hotel guests to enjoy during their winter holiday.
Florida’s warm, mild weather, the hotel’s private beach, and its saltwater pool, must have been a huge draw for the folks who could afford a winter holiday away from the snow and cold temperatures.
Other amenities were also popular as well! The artistic decor, the fine food served in the main dining room, events hosted in the dining room turned ballroom, lovely rooms with beautiful views, and the friendly, personal service offered by the family members and trusted staff were long established at the Colony Hotel.
Another element of society also came to Florida, (sometimes two steps ahead of the law), and were drawn to the hotel. Gangsters like Al Capone stayed at this up-scale establishment for a needed rest from their illegal, sometimes murderous activities.
Fortunately, these infamous guests behaved themselves in Delray and didn’t leave any bodies of enemies on the beach, or conduct mob business on the hotel property.
In 1999, the Colony Hotel began to stay open all year long, as greater number of tourists had discovered how wonderful things could be in the summer as well as the winter. The Del Ray Artisans organization began to offer summer festivals, workshops and art camps for all ages, which resulted in a strong influx of people who loved to take classes and buy art of all kinds, making it profitable to sell artistic creations in this beach city.
In 2022, I am glad to say that the Colony Hotel survived the Covid plague, and is going strong all year around. It is a favorite place to stay and vacation right on the beach, take art classes, go to festivals and enjoy the peace that wells up in the Colony Hotel and Cabaña.
Living people are not the only ones who love the Colony Hotel. Spirits with a positive attachment to its past reside peacefully with the living for a variety of reasons.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Former owners and residents of hotels and homes, especially those who built and loved their properties, sometimes can’t resist staying around, spending their after-lives in their favorite places. Sometimes they choose to just visit to keep an eye on the living, and supervise the staff and current owners, to be sure things are run properly!
Eldridge Hotel, KS (The spirit of Col. Shalor Eldridge keeps a friendly eye on the living, and tries to be a helpful manager. His likeness has been clearly seen by staff and guests alike, showing his personal brand of hospitality).
Bullock Hotel, SD (The spirit of Seth Bullock maintains what control he can have).
Historical Thayer Bed and Breakfast, MN (The spirits of Gus and Caroline Thayer are friendly presences, and like to visit guests who want to meet them).
Colony Hotel, FL (The spirits of the original owners still keep a hand in the managing of their hotel).
Sometimes employees of hotels, taverns and other similar establishments continue working in the job they enjoyed while alive.
Ashley’s of Rockledge, IL (A spectral waiter tries to help the living when this restaurant is open for business).
Kennebunk Inn, ME (Two former employees in spirit form volunteer their services).
Lake Hotel, WY (A spectral porter who appears as a solid man helps living guests with their luggage).
Colony Hotel, FL (As the original owners moved their faithful employees back and forth between their two hotels for years, perhaps one or two of these faithful souls wanted to keep working, not letting the fact that they were dead get in the way).
Sometimes entities who so enjoyed the good times at a favorite place while alive, may decide to stay or visit in order to continue their party, or crash a living person’s event.
Broadway Theatre, IL (Apparently, the friendly helpful party animals of the past still enjoy good times!).
Natatorium, TX (“Let the good times roll” is the motto of the spirits who still stay).
The Crystal Ballroom, OR (Spirits still enjoy themselves in this special place. Favorite activities include watching the living).
Colony Hotel, FL (Early morning spectral parties have been seen by witnesses).
Jestina Boughton, the third generation owner of The Colony Hotel, has been aware of paranormal activity since she was a child. Some unnamed staff members have talked to persuasive writers, and told their spooky, yet benign experiences. Neighbors and even the police have seen unexplained happenings.
During the years of her childhood, Jestina Boughton used to play at the Colony Hotel when it was closed for the summer.
She often felt that she wasn’t alone, especially on the first floor.
As the current owner, she continues to experience paranormal events.
Spirits of Jestina’s Family
Charles and George Bowden are still here supervising.
Their shadowy apparitions have been seen walking around the halls and other areas of the hotel, checking on guests and keeping an eye on the staff.
I AM HERE! SEE ME!
Charles is bolder about appearing in front of the living, especially in the manager’s office.
Jestina Boughton began to see out of the corner of her eye her grandfather Charles, dressed in a suit walking past her, or in the reflections of picture frames or glass.
Workers have seen Charles walking through walls and arguing with Jestina’s father George, over money matters.
Some have heard women’s disembodied voices engaged in conversation in the dining room when it is empty, at various times of the day and night.
The voices stop when the living enter the area to investigate.
Disembodied whispers have also been reported.
Someone who is not living has been busy in the kitchen, perhaps expressing complaints about how the it was arranged.
The living have heard the sound of pots and pans being thrown around the kitchen, and the dining room.
Rushing to see what was occurring, expecting a huge mess, these witnesses have been surprised to see everything in its place!
Early Morning Spectral Party?
The melodies of 1920s and 30s jazz music has been heard floating out of the hotel on moonless nights around 2:00 AM.
Some thought it came from the dining room, but others couldn’t tell where it was coming from inside the hotel.
Through the years when the Colony Hotel was closed during the summer season, people saw from the street odd activity happening inside the dark, empty hotel, especially after midnight.
The police have been called on many occasions. No one living has ever been found inside the hotel.
At one police visit, the elevator did come to the first floor all by itself, and opened the door.
Perhaps the spirit of Charles or George decided to see why the police were standing in the lobby, as they were law-abiding citizens while alive.
Unknown Personal Appearances
Shadow people had been seen walking/running through the dining room, and hallways.
Shadow people have been spotted standing behind the check-in desk.
Through the windows, dark figures have been seen moving around the rooms, especially on the second floor.
Other people have seen weird lights floating inside the hotel, especially in the lobby, the stairways and the second floor.
Pulsating lights inside the second floor guest room windows (when no one was there) have also been reported.
While hard evidence hasn’t been publicly shared, many personal experiences have been told by the owner Jestina, and by many employees from all eras, guests and neighbors. It has been known to be haunted for a very long time.
The Colony Hotel is on the Wicked Delray Ghost Tour. It is described as being “A world class hotel where the loyal staff is still on duty … 90 years later!”
As this was a favorite work or vacation place for so many people since it was built so long ago, many spirits of former guests, as well as the two original Bowden family owners and some staff, still love being here as spirits. The full paranormal sports package happens within the walls of the Colony Hotel, making it one of the most haunted places in Delray, Florida.
The spirits are willing to share all spaces of the hotel with living staff and vacationers, as they search for peace and contentment among their memories and spectral good times. The spirits of Jestina’s grandfather and father stick around to help her manage the hotel they both loved, though they still disagree on finances. They keep an eye on the hotel records in the office.
The only frustrated spirit in the hotel is the spirit in the kitchen, perhaps a former cook who has her complaints about how it is organized and how kitchen tools of the trade are placed. Too many cooks in the kitchen, whether living or in spirit form, can cause strife.
525 East Atlantic Avenue
Delray Beach, Florida 33483
The Colony Hotel and Cabana Club can be found right in the middle of the fun part of town; the restaurant/boutique/music and art galleries section in Delray Beach, on East Atlantic Avenue. This classic 1926 hotel is also just 2 miles from the beach, and near Festival and Historic Centers. Atlantic Avenue runs west-east through town.
Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore: South and Central Florida
By Greg Jenkins
Pineapple Press, Inc.
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr