Senator Sherman S. Winn
Senator Sherman S. Winn is a veteran Miami hotelier, who in a three-decade political career, served as North Miami’s first elected mayor, a Florida legislator and a Miami-Dade County commissioner, and was strong advocate for Florida tourism for more than 30 years.
The one-time hotelier and tourism booster became mayor in 1965 and retired from public life in 1998 as head of the county’s Sister Cities program. In between, he spent 11 years on the commission and 11 in the Legislature: the House from 1970-72, the Senate from 1972-81.
George "Bob" Gill
George W. “Bob” Gill is the builder of several landmark Fort Lauderdale hotels, which helped attract millions of vacationers to Broward County and earned him acclaim as the father of Broward County hospitality.
Born in Chicago, the U.S. Navy veteran moved to South Florida after World War II to develop real estate in warmer weather. He and his father first built houses, but Bob turned to hotels with the 50-room Escape, which opened New Year’s Eve 1949. It was first on Fort Lauderdale beach to offer a swimming pool and to stay open year-round beyond the peak winter season.
Tourism veterans call Mr. Gill a marketing genius. He pioneered bringing travel agents from wintry U.S. cities to stay at his hotels and see the area. He helped to lure the New York Yankees’ spring training camp to Fort Lauderdale in the 1960s, to promote college Spring Break and later, to move the area from Spring Break to its more upscale image.
Tom Staed was a longtime Daytona Beach hotel operator who was a vital figure in the establishment of Florida’s Tourist Development Tax, as well as the assignment of the state’s tourism marketing responsibility to the Florida Commission on Tourism and its operating company VISIT FLORIDA.
With eleven hotels to his name, he established a sales marketing and management company called Oceans Eleven Resorts. In 1999 he sold a number of his hotels, and founded Staed Family Associates, which currently oversees the family’s two hotels, the Bahama House and the Best Western Plus Aku Tiki Inn as well as other assets. Tom’s commitment to the lodging industry made him a force to be reckoned with in the Florida tourism industry. He was particularly respected for the strong leadership and new direction he gave the Florida Hotel and Motel Association, of which he was a past director, vice president and president. He was the Florida Hotelier of the Year in 1982.
He was appointed the first Chairman of Florida’s Governor’s Tourism Advisory Council and Visit Florida, Inc. He was elected President of Best Western International, Inc. and also assumed leadership positions in the American Hotel and Motel Association ultimately serving as chairman. Locally he led the Daytona Beach Hotel and Motel Association and was a past Chairman and Founding member of the Halifax Area Advertising Authority.
Considered the godfather of the modern cruise industry, Mr. Arison is the founder of Norwegian-Caribbean Cruise Lines and Carnival Cruise Lines, and a primary figure in establishing Florida’s multi-billion dollar cruise ship industry.
Arison’s career as a cruise line executive really began after his retirement. Only two weeks after selling Tran-Air, he returned to the shipping business as owner and operator of the Arison Shipping Company. His connections in Miami brought him in touch with Meshulam Riklis, with whom Arison founded Carnival Cruise Lines in 1972.
With projected yearly incomes in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Carnival has become a major force in the South Florida economy. “Company officials,” stated the South Florida Business Journal in 1985, “estimate that its cruise business pumped $60 million into the local economy last year in the form of hotel stays, meals and local transportation utilized by Carnival passengers before and after their cruises.”
Walt Disney is most directly known as the creator of Mickey Mouse and founder of Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
Walt Disney launched Disneyland 1955 as a fabulous $17 million Magic Kingdom. He directed the purchase of 43 square miles of virgin land — twice the size of Manhattan Island — in the center of the state of Florida. Here, he master planned a whole new Disney world of entertainment to include a new amusement theme park, motel-hotel resort vacation center and his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. After more than seven years of master planning and preparation, including 52 months of actual construction, Walt Disney World opened to the public as scheduled on October 1, 1971. Epcot Center opened on October 1, 1982. With an increased investment tenfold, Disney entertained, by its fourth decade, more than 400 million people, including presidents, kings and queens and royalty from all over the globe.
Walt Disney is a legend, a folk hero of the 20th century. His worldwide popularity was based upon the ideas which his name represents: imagination, optimism and self-made success in the American tradition. Walt Disney did more to touch the hearts, minds and emotions of millions of Americans than any other man in the past century. Through his work, he brought joy, happiness and a universal means of communication to the people of every nation. Certainly, our world shall know but one Walt Disney.
Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad provided the first convenient access to Florida for vacationers.
Soon after marrying Ida Alice Shourds, Flagler traveled to St. Augustine, Florida, which they found charming but lacking in adequate hotel facilities and transportation systems. Flagler believed that Florida had the potential to attract large numbers of tourists.
Though Flagler remained on the Board of Directors of Standard Oil, he gave up his day-to-day involvement in the corporation in order to pursue his interests in Florida. He returned to St. Augustine in 1885 and began construction of the 540-room Hotel Ponce de Leon. Realizing the importance of a transportation system to support his hotel ventures, Flagler purchased the Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Halifax Railroad, the first railroad in what would eventually become the Florida East Coast Railway system.
Flagler’s railroad, renamed the Florida East Coast Railway in 1895, reached Biscayne Bay by 1896. Flagler dredged a channel, built streets, instituted the first water and power systems, and financed the town’s first newspaper, the Metropolis. When the town incorporated in 1896, its citizens wanted to honor the man responsible for its growth by naming it “Flagler.” He declined the honor, persuading them instead to use an old Indian name for the river the settlement was built around, Miama or Miami. A year later, Flagler opened the exclusive Hotel Royal Palm in Miami.
Following an amazing career as a founding partner and “the brains” behind Standard Oil, which was the largest and most profitable corporation in the world for more than a century, Henry Flagler invested himself in the development of Florida. During the next quarter century, he literally invented modern Florida. The transportation infrastructure and the tourism and agricultural industries he established remain, even today, the very foundation of Florida’s economy, while the building of the Over-Sea Railroad remains the most ambitious engineering feat ever undertaken by a private citizen. When Henry Flagler began his work in Florida, it was perhaps the poorest state in the Union. Today, thanks in large part to Henry Flagler, Florida is the third largest state in the Union with an economy larger than 90% of the world’s nations.
Bertha Hutchins-Hinshaw is the founder of the Chalet Suzanne in Lake Wales, one of the states’s most honored restaurants.
In the “Boom Days” of the 1920’s, Carl and Bertha Hinshaw Sr. moved to the quiet community of Lake of the Hills, north of Lake Wales, Florida. The Hinshaws had always traveled and entertained a great deal, so Bertha, a determined and gutsy lady, decided to make a living for her family doing what she knew best, making people feel at home. Thus, in 1931, was born Suzanne’s Chalet, named after her only daughter.
A week after putting a small sign out on State Highway 8 (now State Road 17) advertising her new enterprise, the first family of travelers stopped by for a visit. They loved the food, friendship and unique atmosphere the Chalet offered and subsequently returned year after year to relax and be entertained by Bertha and her children.
A favorite of celebrities, Chalet Suzanne has a proud heritage and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On the property are five dining rooms, 30 guest rooms, a landing strip for airplanes, a gift shop, spa, the ceramic studio, a cannery for our soups and sauces, citrus groves and a small experimental vineyard.
Today Chalet Suzanne is a Mobil 3 Star restaurant and has been selected by Uncle Ben’s Rice as one of the Top 10 Country Inns in the US. Chalet Suzanne has also been named to the Florida Trend Magazine’s Golden Spoon Award ‘Hall of Fame.’
Robert E. Langford
Robert E. Langford provided affordable accommodations to Orlando area visitors in the 1950s, including the area’s first air conditioned hotel.
After World War II, Robert E. Langford started his first project in Winter Park, the Langford Apartments. They were the first “modern” apartments to be built in Central Florida. The 24-apartment units, opened December 2, 1950, were constructed in a manner to blend with the scenic beauty of the residential area on Interlachen Ave.
Having been raised in the hotel business, Langford wanted to build a hotel. He realized with the advent of air conditioning and air travel, Central Florida was ripe for development. At that time there were no fine hotels in the area. He began buying land directly across the street from the apartment complex as the future site for his hotel.
The formal opening of Hotel Langford took place in January 1956. Winter Park Mayor-Commissioner, Raymond Greene, officially welcomed Hotel Langford by saying how the community had been “hotel room short” for many years and Mr. Langford’s idea of a year-round hotel will meet the demands of many families. Mayor Greene went on to say ” Winter Park appreciates the opening of the Hotel Langford with all its advantages because it will please a clientele that has for many years been hoping some energetic hotel specialist, who would have enough faith in Winter Park to build an 82-room hotel, would finally decide to make such an investment.” In November of 1971 national attention was attracted to the Langford Hotel as a seven-story, 70-unit hotel addition was added to the hotel.
Over the years some very special guests have stayed at the Langford. A sampling of names include: Lillian Gish, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mamie Eisenhower, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, (who spent their 25th wedding anniversary at the Langford and invited Bob Langford to join them for dinner), Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, George McGovern, Charlton Heston, Louis Rukeyser, The Platters, and Professor Edward Teller to name a few.
In the fall of 1995, Robert Langford was inducted into the Florida Hotel & Motel Association’s hall of fame and awarded the President’s Special Award. As the name suggests, the FH & MA President’s Special Award is given only on special occasions to recognize worthy individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in the hospitality and service industry. Langford’s hard work and perseverance have made him a distinguished leader in the lodging community. Langford’s family name is synonymous with more than 100 years of steady leadership, integrity, and success.
Dick Pope, Sr.
Dick Pope is the founder of Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida. He was also known as “Mr. Florida” as he played a key role in the development of tourism in the state of Florida, and the growth of theme parks as tourist destinations.
Cypress Gardens began when Pope read a magazine article that changed his life — and the Florida economy. An issue of Good Housekeeping described how a South Carolina banker made $36,000 in three months by charging the public $2 a head to see his landscaped estate. ”It always stayed with me that here was business that you didn’t sell anything — you just sold them a look at it. How could you do anything but have success?” Pope told an interviewer in 1979.
Pope opened his Cypress Gardens park on 16 acres of swamp in undeveloped Polk County in 1936, when Florida was noted for oranges and mosquitoes and 34-year-old Walt Disney was known only as an animator. Success for Pope started in 1936, when he began charging 25 cents for admission to a botanical garden he carved out of a Polk County swamp. In the following three decades it became known as lush backdrop for waterskiing exhibitions and movies featuring Esther Williams, Fernando Lamas and Van Johnson.
Pope became a legend for his effort on behalf of not just his attraction but the entire state. He was a showman for Florida, whether handing out Florida-shaped pins, persuading forecasters to describe the weather as partly sunny instead of partly cloudy or staging waterskiing extravaganzas for motion pictures, The Ed Sullivan Show or the 1962 World’s Fair in New York.
Ken Smith, president of Cypress Gardens, said that Pope ”was not only the founder of Cypress Gardens but the driving force behind Florida’s tourism industry.”
Henry “Hal” Robinson
Henry “Hal” Robinson is pivotal to the creation of “Florida’s Nature Coast”, a regional coalition of several counties and small towns that was the first successful attempt to market Florida’s rural areas to visitors.
Juan T. Trippe is the founder of Pan American Airways, which helped position Florida as a major international air destination.
Trippe graduated from Yale in 1921 and worked briefly on Wall Street but got thoroughly bored. Planes fascinated him, though. Trippe was convinced that the future of travel was in the air.Trippe began service with a flight from Key West, Fla., to Havana, Cuba, on Oct. 28, 1927.
What characterized Trippe thereafter was an uncanny ability to pace his airline’s growth with the range of the airliner as it slowly evolved: first crawling from island to island across the Caribbean and into Mexico, then extending to Central and South America.
Before anyone else, he believed in airline travel as something to be enjoyed by ordinary mortals, not just a globe-trotting elite. In 1945 other airlines didn’t think or act that way. Trippe decided to introduce a “tourist class” fare from New York to London. He cut the round-trip fare more than half.
Throughout his career, Juan Trippe had been driven by the great American instinct for seeing a market before it happened–and then making it happen. In a real sense, he fathered the international airline business.