Coral Gables Florida
The Biltmore Hotel
Biltmore Hotel is a lively place for spirits attached in some way.
Despite the circumstances of their death, spirits participate in their favorite activities.
Murder by adultery and a tragic accident also have caused hauntings.
DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY
This 1925 gloriously beautiful Victorian/European Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables is described as a “Luxury golf and spa resort” that from its beginning has been and is “a place of elegance, beauty, and old world charm!” It has long captured the hearts of the local, national and international high society community, and deeply admired by the general public as well. Over its many years, when it was being used as a playground resort for the rich, this resort hotel strived to please and satisfy its guests, including the famous, and infamous as well. Its guest list included such notables as Al Capone, the Roosevelt family, the Vanderbilts, Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, and Ginger Rodgers.
It is a well-constructed, solid multi-floored, beautifully designed Mediterranean-Revivalist structure, that is the crown jewel amongst the neighborhood homes and community that surround it; blending in with the style of the residences, as well as offering some truly glorious features, making it one of the grandest hotels in the United States. Because it was carefully and expertly built with the finest materials, it survived its years of service with the federal government, with the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, and a period of being vacant and forlorn, in need of TLC.
After two major restoration and renovation efforts by the city of Coral Gables in 1983 and 1992, costing 50+ million dollars, and a third restoration effort by a private organization, costing millions more after 1992, the Biltmore Hotel of Coral Gables now offers a lot for its guests of some means, as well as visitors. Many events such as weddings, fashion shows, etc. are held here, making good use of the space available. Visitors are welcomed who wish to gawk at the beauty of the place, and enjoy eating at the patio restaurant, that is open to the public. There are tours that many visitors and guests take of this hotel, and on Thursday nights, both the public and guests can come and enjoy the telling of the Biltmore Hotel’s ghost stories.
Nestled amongst a lovely 18 hole golf course, tennis courts, and country club, one finds this impressive red tile roofed hotel, resembling a European palace, complete with a Spanish-style red ceramic tile roof, and a glorious archway over the entrance road, leading to the hotel’s main entrance.
From the outside, one immediately is impressed by the 300 foot copper-clad top of the Biltmore’s central 13 story tower, that has many fine suites and some event rooms, and was inspired by the Baroque, Gothic Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain.
The inside lobby is truly glorious! Tall ceilings with frescoes and paintings, columns, imported Italian travertine marble for the floors and trim, hand-carved wood and spacious areas with lovely lounge chairs, complete with a baby grand piano, invite all to enjoy! There are 275 rooms, suites and tower suites, three ballrooms decorated with marble and mosaic designs, 24 conference rooms, the largest swimming pool in the United States, plus all the amenities one would expect from a first class, 5 star resort hotel. The first floor patio that is beautifully landscaped with a fountain, plants and trees, is home to the upscale restaurant, mentioned above.
This most magnificent hotel, that opened with much fanfare in the winter of 1926, was the labor of love of two talented men: John McEntee Bowman, and George Merrick. Bowman was the gifted entrepreneur who had plenty of experience building grand hotels for “society’s royalty”, being the genius behind the Biltmore Hotel chain in such cities as New York, Los Angeles and Havana Cuba. His ritzy Biltmore Hotels took good care of their wealthy patrons. Bowman knew what would attract the people with money, offering a palace-like structure, with all the bells and whistles and amenities that the who’s who of society would expect and appreciate.
Boman got together with equally talented land developer, George E. Merrick, who knew a lot about developing amenities around a swanky hotel, and about what kind of community that would be needed to help support such a grand hotel. To increase the odds that the neighborhood would always be an upper-class area, George Merrick had developed and carefully planned the community of Coral Gables, this rich suburb of Miami. Visiting Coral Gables, Tom and I saw many lovely homes, fine landscaping, the University of Miami, hospitals, large golf courses, a country club, tennis courts, suggesting that Merrick did a great job in planning this community.
The quality of the hotel itself and this careful planning of the surrounding community would see this building not only through the Depression, but also World War II, and the years beyond.
When the hard financial times of the Depression hit Florida, the Biltmore Hotel made good use of their giant-sized pool, and offered all kinds of water-based entertainment and aquatic sports, from high divers, synchronized swimming with Ester Williams to alligator wrestling, much to the delight of the thousands of people who came each week to see the show.
During Prohibition, the private and secure 13th floor suite was the perfect place for a speakeasy and gambling joint, for the entertainment of the hotel guests, and wealthy people from Miami, all under the supervision of a local mobster gambler, Edward Wilson and two fun-loving gangsters from New York, Thomas Fatty Welch and his friend, Arthur Clark, who both had left New York City two steps ahead of the law. Wilson leased the 13th and 14th floor of the Biltmore tower, and became partners with Fatty, in this endeavor, with Arthur helping Fatty.
Besides enjoying a good cigar, Fatty truly loved to party, enjoyed the excitement and all the lovely ladies. He was a good-natured soul, but had some personal weaknesses that got him into trouble with his partner, Edward, who wasn’t a forgiving man.
This illegal operation was never raided, because it is thought that some members of law enforcement in Coral Gables were bought off, as this was the practice of the mob in not only Florida (such as Fort Lauderdale), but in cities all over the United States, such as St. Paul.
After a heated argument, Edward, in a fit of temper, dissolved his partnership with Fatty, (probably because he thought Fatty was cheating him), via a fatal gun shot. Fatty died, right in front of the fireplace in this 13th floor speakeasy. Not only did the police report of this murder disappear, but Wilson disappeared and wound up in Cuba, which gives credence to the idea that some of the police department officials were on Wilson’s payroll.
However, the hotel knew what was going on, on the 13th floor. When Fatty was killed, the tower elevators were locked, while all traces of the speakeasy vanished and the people who were involved in this illegal activity, were quickly ushered off campus, safe from the police. When officers arrived, all they found was the body of Thomas Fatty Welch. Fatty’s friend, Arthur, was also shot but he lived.
When World War 2 came in 1941, The Biltmore Hotel fell on hard times. This grand lady was bought by the federal government, and was drafted by the armed forces, becoming a military hospital; called The Armed Forces Regional Hospital. The marble floors were covered with linoleum, and cement blocks covered some of the windows. It was transformed from a high class, international resort hotel into a government institution, with a serious purpose; taking care of the wounded.
After the war, it remained a military hospital, The Hospital of Veteran’s Affairs, for a time, and then was turned into the University of Miami’s Medical School, until they built their own building. The University of Miami’s Medical School stored cadavers of the dead homeless and indigent on the lower floors, donated to them from the city of Miami, and perhaps surroundings areas. Medical students learned much from them.
In 1973, The Historic Monuments Act allowed the city of Coral Gables to take ownership of this now creepy fixer upper opportunity, in need of some major TLC. This grand building stood vacant and neglected for 10 years by the living. Finally, the city of Coral Gables spent a boat load of money to restore and repair this grand hotel, a process that took around 4 years.
It opened again as a deluxe hotel in 1987, but closed again in 1990, because it wasn’t deluxe enough. So another 3 million was spent to upgrade the 18 hole golf course, rooms were spruced up, and the pool was repaired. These new improvements were enough to spark the interest of a private hotel organization in 1992, who took over the hotel, and put another 40 million more dollars into major improvements. The Biltmore at Coral Gables was once again in top form, and once again became the favorite resort of the well-to-do, the political class, and popular Hollywood stars, such as Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, and Robert Redford.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Many veterans died in the building during the hospital years. Many hospitals listed on HauntedHouses.com have entities who died there while a patient.
A young mother fell to her death trying to save her 3 year old son who had climbed up on the balcony railing of their high rise tower suite. People who die during the process of trying to save a loved one, or giving birth to their child, sometimes haunt the place of their death, as they don’t know if their loved one(s) was saved or not.
A married woman was caught by her husband in bed with her lover. The husband killed them both. Marital infidelity has long been a cause of murder; being caught in a room with a lover often turns out badly.
During the 1920s and 30s, gangsters, while on their down time, have tried to behave in places that the public visits, and in mob-owned businesses: though sometimes their business or life style, or their temper issues catch up with them, ending in the death of others. Wilson shot Fatty to death in their 13th floor speak-easy. Fatty truly loved this new illegal business venture, and all its perks, and really enjoyed the Biltmore as well. He was suddenly murdered. taking it all away. People who are suddenly killed, sometimes are not ready to cross over just yet.
Entities who were former guests of hotels and places of entertainment have been known to visit or haunt these places that hold special memories.
During the ten years that the Biltmore was vacant; 1973-1983, people who were standing on the golf course behind the hotel, used to be able to see windows open and close by themselves, and mysterious lights seen in the windows.They also heard the sounds of music, coming from the hotel. Because the electricity was off inside the building, many thought that the spirits that remained there had taken up residence.
The officials thought that real people must be the real culprits, and appropriate action was planned.
Thinking that transients were trespassing and squatting in the hotel, the authorities sent in dogs and police to find the culprits, but came up empty-handed. The 14 police officers and 2 detectives did see paranormal activity, as their presence did scare the entities there. They heard breaking glass, witnessed the windows on the top floor open and close by themselves, and also saw phantom apparitions fleeing down the hallways. Their dogs also sensed entities, and ran out of the hotel.
Guests have been teased by entities who open and close doors, and play with the lights.
Guests have also awakened to see male entities dressed in hospital gowns looking at them. These shy entities have also been seen wandering the hallways, and disappear as soon as the living see them.
A transparent couple has been seen dancing in one of the ballrooms. They vanished into thin air, in front of living witnesses.
The Female Entity of the mother who died –
Is known as “The Lady in White.”
This sad entity lingers in some of the tower suites, wanders the halls, and sometimes sits on guests’ beds. She has also been seen rushing around the balcony where she accidentally fell to her death, while saving her son.
Friendly female entity –
Experienced on the 13th Floor
One woman who was taken by Fatty to the 13th floor, via the elevator, was greeted with a cheery hello, from a “filmy” female entity, floating several feet above the floor.
The Male Entity of Thomas Fatty Welch –
Described as being a jovial spirit, full of fun, and having a deep appreciation for a good Cuban cigar and women.
Fatty loves to wander the 13th floor, to help out in the elevators, to go to the restaurants, on occasion, and still likes the company of the living, especially women. He was so pleased that The Biltmore was restored to its former glory, that he is content to hang out there, spending his after-life in this hotel, getting some chuckles by playfully teasing the guests and staff, and is friendly and cooperative toward paranormal investigators and psychics.
He is thought to be the one who plays with the lights and doors and takes the lamp shades for chuckles. Guests have heard his jovial chuckle, and witnessed the word, “BOO!”, being printed by an unseen finger on fogged up mirrors in the bathrooms.
During an authorized paranormal investigation in the late ’70s, he made his presence known in an EVP inadvertently recorded by investigators. He followed them around, breathing very heavily, ending the recording with a huge sigh.
His apparition has been seen in bathroom mirrors.
The Elevators in the hotel go to the 2-12th floors. To visit the 13th floor, a special key is used by the bellhop, because the suite there is used for special people, like Presidents, political leaders, rock stars, etc. Fatty does make exceptions for pretty women, and takes things into his own hands!
Couples going to their rooms on the floors below the 13th, via the elevator, have been taken to the 13th floor, passing the floor that they have pushed the button for, especially if the woman is pretty. Once there, the living have heard people talking & laughing, smelled cigar smoke, and felt a strong presence standing real close to them. Sometimes the elevator door shuts before the woman’s male companion can get off, leaving his female partner alone with Fatty and friends!
Waitresses who are working in the restaurants, and have their hands full of plates, etc. have experienced the door to the dining area opening up for them, courtesy of Fatty.
A huge YES indeed is in order.
There have been many personal experiences reported by staff, guests and investigators.
One group of investigators held a seance on the 13th floor, where Fatty spoke through one of them, explaining why and how he died.
Many paranormal investigation groups have seen Fatty, who welcomes the attention and company!
Though I couldn’t find any hard scientific evidence of the entities that has been published on-line, at least one paranormal group mentioned in the story above, caught Fatty on tape via an EVP, as he followed them around, like a good host would!
1200 Anastasia Avenue
Coral Gables, Florida 33134
The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida, can be found about 10 minutes from downtown Miami, located in the rich suburb, Coral Gables. This magnificent structure sits proudly on the corner of Anastasia Avenue and Columbus Blvd, at the north end of the Biltmore Golf Course. From the South Dixie Hwy, take Granada Blvd north past the university, the hospital, past Blue Road. and the Riviera Country Club green, and past another main drag, Bird Boulevard When you get to the small street, Escobar, the next place where you can turn left is Anastacia Avenue. If you see the street, Malaga, you have gone a block too far.
- Coast to Coast Ghosts
by Leslie Rule
Andrew McMeel Publishing – 2001
- Ghost Stories of Florida
by Dan Asfar
Lone Pine Publishing International – 2005
- Haunt Hunter’s Guide to Florida
by Joyce Elson Moore
Pineapple Press – 1998
- Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore, Vol. 1
by Greg Jenkins
Pineapple Press – 2005
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr