DON VICENTE HOTEL
In the early 2000s I was working for a newspaper as a journalist and was sent “on assignment” to a gala held within the old Don Vicente Hotel. This wasn’t exactly a difficult gig. There was food and a bar and a ton of elegant people dressed to the nines.
But in typical nerd fashion, I kept remarking to my date about how historic the building seemed. The enchanting staircase near the entrance was perfect for photographs and even though the lobby had been completely redone and modernized, you could tell the building had an important role in local history.
The thing I remember the most, however, was when we followed the staircase down into the ground. It’s not often that you encounter a basement in Florida, so I was surprised to see that this was even an option.
The dark, blue-lit basement was home to a fancy bar and comfortable seats. But the first thing I noticed was the low height of the ceiling. I stand over six-feet tall and I noticed an involuntary duck as I walked through the room. I also noticed how cold it was down there…another rare occurrence in Florida. I didn’t find the basement particularly comfortable and my date and I headed back to the ground level to enjoy our drinks.
Later that night I learned the building was once a hospital and clinic and that the basement was rumored to be a former morgue! Like so many visits to historical locations, I suddenly had a memory that would stick with me. So when Phantom History was launched, the Don Vicente was added to my research list.
When I had the opportunity to interview Tessa, a former owner of the Inn, I knew I had to take it. I visited her at her home for the interview, where she pulled back the veil and shared not only the history of her family’s business, but the very up close and personal encounters she had there.
It shouldn’t have surprised me that one of those encounters was in that same cold basement I had visited more than 10 years prior. I was sad to learn that the Don Vicente is now retail space and apartments and not really accessible to the public anymore. But I do wonder if the people who now live there have their own haunted stories to tell.