Portfolio Naples December 2017 - Page 46

they marveled at the awe-inspiring painted ceilings, star-splattered Ro- manesque arches and ornate ballrooms. Outside, they admired the griffins and classical figures on the frescoes at the hotel’s roof line and the Roman grandeur of the courtyard’s ‘Cortile Loggia’. e aesthetic was purposeful. e Biltmore Hotel’s visionary founder, George Merrick came from a cultured family that appreciated all forms of expressive art. George’s uncle 44 PORTFOLIO MAGAZINE was the talented muralist, Denman Fink whose work still graces Coral Gables beloved 1927 City Hall. George’s designer/wing man was the colorist Phineas Paist. And George himself was a poet and admirer of urban architect Frederick Law Olm- stead. e future held such unbounded potential during that January, 1926 opening. But there were dark clouds on the horizon. Disaster struck on Sep- tember 18, 1926 in the form of a frightening and destructive hurricane, today known simply as the Great Hur- ricane of 1926. e hurricane struck Miami with such ferocity that it fin- ished off the Florida land boom and set the Biltmore Hotel into crises after only 246 days of regular operation. ree years later, the entire nation plunged into a depression and the exuberant Jazz era came to an abrupt end. During World War II, the Bilt- more Hotel was converted into a mil-