“Discovering An Old Treasure” by Dan Ponder

“Discovering An Old Treasure” by Dan Ponder

The Vinoy Hotel lobby, as it appeared during the 1920s.

The Vinoy Hotel lobby, as it appeared during the 1920s.

St. Petersburg's Vinoy from the air, 1920s.

St. Petersburg’s Vinoy from the air, 1920s.

The Hotel in 1926, overlooking Tampa Bay.

The Hotel in 1926, overlooking Tampa Bay.

View from the balcony above the front entrance.

View from the balcony above the front entrance.

Vinoy from yacht basin 1920s

The Lobby of the Renaissance Vinoy today.

The Lobby and Front Entrance (with the old Viewing Tower) of the Renaissance Vinoy today

St. Petersburg-20131016-00094

This article from Friday, January 24th, recounts the beginnings of the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Calvin Coolidge’s visit there in January 1930 and its modern rediscovery. Time has seen rescue of the place where the former President spoke via radio hookup on the “Economics of Life Insurance,” before heading north, with Mrs. Coolidge, to stay in Mount Dora on their way to the west coast. Mr. Ponder’s recounting of Coolidge’s dislike for the fancier food may or may not be genuine. Apocryphal or not, it speaks to the truth that Coolidge was an unabashedly simple man with unpretentious tastes and humble manners. He never did care for “special treatment,” wishing to be just another American, free to come and go without fanfare or attention, as biographer Claude M. Fuess recounts in his book, Calvin Coolidge: The Man From Vermont,

“In harmony with the other phases of his character, Coolidge had simple tastes. The living conditions under which he had been brought up were good enough for him, and he was in no danger of being corrupted by self-indulgence…Coolidge had himself no affectations and despised people who, as he said, ‘put on airs’…He had been taught as a child the evil of waste, and the lesson persisted. In July 1925, he went to Camp Devens to review the 26th Division, and thorough preparations were made for his reception. In his washroom General Logan had placed two immaculate towels for the President’s personal use; but just before he arrived a hot and dusty aide dashed into headquarters, visited the lavatory, and naturally dried his hands with one of the special towels. When the President was escorted to the washroom, his companion noticed that one of the towels was streaked with dirt, and proffered him the remaining one, but Coolidge waved him aside, saying, ‘Why soil it? There’s one that’s been used. That’s clean enough’ ” (pp.485, 487).

The Coolidges arrive in St. Petersburg, January 8, 1930. Coolidge addressed the 200 delegates convened at the Vinoy Hotel on the "Economics of Life Insurance," January 9, carried at 9:30PM on WJZ out of New York and WBZ out of Boston. It was the first time Coolidge spoke publicly after the Presidency.

The Coolidges arrive in St. Petersburg, January 8, 1930, photographed for the St Pete Times, January 9, 1930. Coolidge addressed the 200 delegates convened at the Vinoy Hotel on the “Economics of Life Insurance,” January 9, carried at 9:30PM on WJZ out of New York and WBZ out of Boston. It was the first time Coolidge would speak publicly after the Presidency.

Coolidge letter to the President of Rollins College, Mr. Holt, written on January 9, 1930, on Vinoy stationary. The Coolidges would visit Rollins during their stay in Florida.

Coolidge letter to the President of Rollins College, Dr. Hamilton Holt, dated January 9, 1930, on Vinoy stationary. The Coolidges would visit Rollins during their stay in Florida. The letter, in Coolidge’s unmistakable hand, says: “My dear Dr. Holt: –  It is our intention to call on you Monday or Tuesday and stay for lunch with you or Mr. Bacheller [long-time trustee of Rollins College] as you and he may arrange between you. I expect to reach Lakeside Inn Mt. Dora Saturday P.M.   Cordially  Calvin Coolidge.”

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