What's in a name
Aymer Vinoy Laughner: Built downtown palace
Times photo -- KATHLEEN CABBLE
The Vinoy Hotel has dominated St. Petersburg's waterfront
since the 1920s
By BETTY JEAN MILLER staff writer
©St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 1990
The Vinoy Hotel, for so long a ragged pink Cinderella
on the waterfront has a most unusual name. Have you wondered
where it came from?
A consultation of one of several local-history books will
tell you that it was built by and named after Pennsylvania oil
man Aymer (pronounced eye-mer) Vinoy Laughner, who came to Florida
in 1919 and stayed until his death in the '40s.
But how did Aymer Vinoy get his unusual name? His son, Paul
Laughner, now 74 and living in Fitzwilliam, N.H., explained it:
"My grandfather, Perry Laughner, loved books (novels) about
men who were great fighters and great woman lovers. He found
one whose name was Aymer Vinoy."
So he named his son after the fictional character.
As to giving the name to a hotel, Paul Laughner claims that
was Aymer's friend E.M. "Gene" Elliott's idea. Elliott,
the man who sold the bonds to finance Gandy Bridge, was at one
of the many colorful parties at the former Laughner home at 532
Beach Drive NE. "It was about 3 a.m., and they were hitting
golf balls off my dad's watch without breaking the crystal. Elliott
looked toward the water and said to my dad, "We're going
to build a hotel there, and we're going to name it the Vinoy
because that's such a pretty name.' "
It was just Aymer Vinoy Laughner, however, who built the hotel
which is scheduled to reopen in late 1991 as the Stouffer Vinoy
Originally known as the Vinoy Park, the Spanish renaissance
style hotel opened for the first time in January of 1926. Into
the 1950s the hotel was one of the leading resorts in the area,
opening each year just before Christmas for a three-month season.
The Vinoy tower, lighted bright red, was a symbol that "the
season" had arrived in St. Petersburg.
The hotel drew the wealthy from far and near, but was available
to local groups for dances and parties, of which there were many,
including the annual Debutante Ball, the Dragon Club New Year's
Eve dance and numerous fraternity dances.
It closed in 1975, and the "Cinderella" has had
many suitors, but all of their golden coaches turned to pumpkins
until now. Realizing the hotel's place in St. Petersburg's past,
executives of Stouffer and Frederick E. Guest, president of the
Vinoy Development Co., which is restoring it, decided to retain
the Vinoy name.
"Obviously, it is a historic building and a historic
name so we wanted to keep it," said Guest.
"The only requirement is that the management company
has built a lot of good will into their name, so we wanted that
in too. And we added the "resort"
because that's what it is. It's more than a hotel now."
For more updated photos of The Vinoy click here -->
(New) Stouffer Vinoy Resort |
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