Diners at Marchand's Bar & Grill inside the Vinoy Resort and Golf Club will have unusual entertainment the next few months. Artists will restore 1925-vintage murals featuring leafy vines and vases ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Vinoy's 1992 reopening.
Some of the designs were restored 20 years ago, but not all of them were completed.
"We could only do a certain amount," general manager Russ Bond explained. "The bottom line is they ran out of money and the rest of the murals, they covered back up."
The (new) Vinoy's anniversary is historic: A voter-approved land swap cleared the way for the Vinoy redevelopment, which required nearly $100 million private dollars. Former mayor and historian Rick Baker called the project a big success.
"We made a lot of efforts, but this was really the first big success and it became almost an anchor for the things downtown that followed," he said.
Before the Vinoy reopened, it sat empty for 17 years, its survival far from certain. Prior to the land swap referendum, the public was allowed to wander the hotel's cavernous hallways.
"All the windows were gone, and there were birds flying through the inside," Baker recalled. Voters overwhelmingly approved the land swap and a long-term lease on the yacht basin across the street.
"I think people in their heart feel downtown is the heart of the city. Even back then -- especially back then -- they wanted the heart of the city to come back," Baker said. "And [the Vinoy] was such a symbol for the city for so many years, they wanted to see that come back."
Bond and his wife visited the Vinoy shortly after it reopened in 1992. He remembered the concierge could only recommend four restaurants, including the hotel's, and one just outside of downtown. Now there are more than 140 restaurants in an area nearly 10,000 people call home.
"It's very possible that we were the reason for the renaissance of downtown St. Petersburg," Bond agreed. "So we take that role very seriously, and we're going to do everything we can to take care of this grand dame and help St. Petersburg continue to grow for years to come."
Bond predicted as time goes by more original decorative art will be exposed in the restaurant and elsewhere in the Vinoy.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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