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When land developer George E. Merrick (creator of Miami’s Coral Gables neighborhood and founder of the University of Miami) teamed up with hotel magnate John McEntee Bowman in 1924 — the height of the Florida land boom — they envisioned building “a great hotel … which would not only serve as a hostelry to crowds which were thronging to Coral Gables but also would serve as a center of sports and fashion.” The Biltmore Hotel, with its Mediterranean architecture and classic Italian, Moorish and Spanish influences, opened its doors just two years later, on Jan. 15, 1926.

Soon after, the elite made their way to The Biltmore Hotel, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, gangster Al Capone, and Hollywood glitterati such as Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby. Before he became Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller was a swim instructor at the hotel’s 23,000-square-foot grand pool, which was also the setting for aquatic and fashion shows over the years.

Like many historic hotels across the U.S., The Biltmore Hotel served as a military hospital during World War II, converted by the War Department into the Army Air Forces Regional Hospital. Once…