Over 100 Years in the Making

Walk Through Casa Marina Resort’s Past

On New Year’s Eve 1920, Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, opened its doors as Key West’s most glamorous destination. Conceived by American railroad tycoon Henry Flagler, the resort was intended to accommodate wealthy customers of Flagler’s Overseas Railroad, which spanned from Key West to the Florida mainland.

Although Flagler died before the hotel’s construction began in 1918, architects Thomas Hastings and John M. Carrere – who also designed New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, New York Public Library and the Senate and House of Representatives office buildings in DC – wanted the resort to serve as a monument to the magnate’s memory.

Six and a half acres and 1,200 square feet of beach were purchased for $1,000, providing a spectacular natural backdrop for the hotel. The two architects handled the hotel’s interior and exterior, ensuring every detail honored Flagler’s original vision.

Three days after the resort’s grand opening, President Warren G. Harding came to visit, establishing Casa Marina as an exclusive destination. In 1942, the property was bought by the U.S. Navy, and used as officer’s quarters for the duration of World War II. Casa Marina re-emerged as a luxury hotspot in the 1950s, and played host to celebrities such as Gregory Peck, Ethel Merman, Ezio Pinza, Rita Hayworth and Gary Merrill.

Casa Marina Key West History As Army Headquaters For The Hawk Missile Battalion During October 1962
Casa Marina Key West History Lifestyle Military Kennedy

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the hotel was used by the U.S. Army’s Sixth Missile Battalion. Soon after, Casa Marina fell into a period of decline, which was exacerbated by piecemeal renovations in 1978 and 1984.

Through The Years at Our “House By The Sea”

  • 1904 Henry M. Flagler commits to building his Overseas Railway linking Key West to the US mainland.
  • 1912 Henry M. Flagler, upon completion of the railway, promises the town a luxury resort hotel.
  • 1913 Henry M. Flagler passes at the age of 83.
  • 1918 Construction begins under the guidance of a trusted Flagler aid, Louis P. Schutt, who became the resort’s manager until his passing in 1933. Designed by experts in Spanish Architecture, Thomas Hastings and John M. Carrere of New York, as a monument to Henry M. Flagler.
  • 1920 Casa Marina welcomes our first guests on New Year’s Eve and operated as a seasonal resort January through March for the first 10 years.
  • 1935 Casa Marina survives The Great Hurricane of 1935 with no serious damage.
  • 1942 The US Navy, by law of eminent domain, buys Casa Marina and converts it to officers’ quarters. It would remain as quarters until 1946.
  • 1946 The resort was purchased from the government and operated under several owners through 1962.
  • 1962 US military commandeered the resort during the Cuban Missile Crisis; installed missiles directed at Cuba and surrounded the property in barbed wire. The US Military briefly considered using Casa Marina as their permanent headquarters.
  • 1966 Purchased by Senator Spottswood, a 5th generation Key Wester who assisted his mother working the newsstand as a small boy. He leased the resort to the Westinghouse Corporation for training of 300 volunteers for the new Peace Corp.
  • 1967-1976 The resort remained empty with the exception of the Birdcage Lounge and outdoor patio.
  • 1976-1979 The resort was purchased and underwent an extensive renovation and expansion of guest rooms along Seminole Street.
  • 1984 The suites building along Reynolds Street was added.
  • 1984-2005 The resort underwent multiple purchases and hotel flags.
  • 2008 The resort was purchased by LXR/Blackstone.
  • 2009 Casa Marina converts to the Waldorf Astoria™ brand.
  • 2017 Park Hotels & Resorts purchases Casa Marina and continues to proudly fly under the flag of Hilton’s luxury brand Waldorf Astoria™ Resorts.

Truly Delivering Luxury

Famous Guests Include

Band leader Guy Lombardo, actress Rita Hayworth, actor and singer Rudy Vallee, composer and conductor John Philip Sousa, James “Jimmy” Hoffa, poets Wallace Stevens and Robert Frost, Donald Sutherland, Helen Mirren, the late Aaron Spelling, musician and TV personality Ozzie Osbourne.

Today, we continue to welcome contemporary athletes, musicians, actors, literary figures, politicians and journalists.

Casa Marina Key West History Lifestyle Beach