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The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

Senior Issue 2024
June 5, 2024

The Biltmore Hotel’s Bizarre History

By Max Strongman
Opinions Editor

The Biltmore Hotel has long been one of Miami’s many marvels, a scenic building known for its characteristic Mediterranean Revivalist architecture and rich history. Often recognized as the centerpiece of the historic “Coral Gables,” the hotel was developed by none other than George Merrick: the visionary credited with the creation of the Gables. Merrick hired architects Leonard Schultze and S. Fullerton Weaver to design and realize his vision.

Merrick had a deep admiration for South Florida’s architecture, heavily influenced by the Spaniards of centuries prior. To that end, Merrick’s concept of what the Biltmore was to look like was highly influenced by Southern European architecture—a mesh of Spanish, French, and Italian architectural thematics. 

Contemporarily referred to as Mediterranean Revival, this architectural style invokes the use of grandiose facades, rectangular floor plans, highly symmetrical features, and polished gardens. Opposingly, the style is also known for its keystones and circular facets, manifested through arched entrances or semi-circular windows.

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“The Biltmore is a place where I can relax and enjoy the landscape. From what I understand, George Merrick used  Mediterranean Architecture, like in many other buildings in Coral Gables, to build the Biltmore hotel,” Coral Gables resident Isabella Ramos said.

The Biltmore Hotel in all its architectural glory (Photo courtesy of: Tripadvisor.com sourced from ICE Portal)

This subtle juxtaposition is visible at the Biltmore, a reminder of its beautiful blend of architectural styles. The hotel’s impressive facade, gorgeously painted columns and ceiling, and iconic tiling is a statement, even surrounded by a city with similar influence. Not to mention, its 93-foot central tower, an stunning architectural feature in and of itself.

Even more surprising is the history surrounding the Biltmore. By the early 1930’s, the hotel had become a place to be, hosting luxurious galas and golf tournaments alike. It is rumored that the infamous Al Capone, American gangster dubbed “Scarface,” ran a speakeasy at the Biltmore during the Prohibition Era. One of his bodyguards, Thomas Walsh, was shot at the hotel; bullet holes still adorn the room’s fireplace mantel, earning it the title the “Al Capone Suite.”

Regardless of the truth the rumors hold, the hotel is riddled with interesting facts and history. This, coupled with the Biltmore’s incredible architecture, makes it a sight to be seen—a staple of Miami history.

“The Biltmore is a place where I can relax and enjoy the landscape. From what I understand, George Merrick used  Mediterranean Architecture, like in many other buildings in Coral Gables, to build the Biltmore hotel,” Coral Gables resident Isabella Ramos said.

This subtle juxtaposition is visible at the Biltmore, a reminder of its beautiful blend of architectural styles. The hotel’s impressive facade, gorgeously painted columns and ceiling, and iconic tiling is a statement, even surrounded by a city with similar influence. Not to mention, its 93-foot central tower, an stunning architectural feature in and of itself.

Even more surprising is the history surrounding the Biltmore. By the early 1930’s, the hotel had become a place to be, hosting luxurious galas and golf tournaments alike. It is rumored that the infamous Al Capone, American gangster dubbed “Scarface,” ran a speakeasy at the Biltmore during the Prohibition Era. One of his bodyguards, Thomas Walsh, was shot at the hotel; bullet holes still adorn the room’s fireplace mantel, earning it the title the “Al Capone Suite.”

Regardless of the truth the rumors hold, the hotel is riddled with interesting facts and history. This, coupled with the Biltmore’s incredible architecture, makes it a sight to be seen—a staple of Miami history.

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The Biltmore Hotel’s Bizarre History