THE ESCAPE HOTEL
The remains of a Fort Lauderdale beach hotel that was once a luxurious getaway for tourists
Poolside | Photo © 2014 Sugarbomb
Located at 2900 Rio Mar on Fort Lauderdale Beach is the bare skeleton of what was once the luxurious Escape Hotel.
The Escape Hotel was the first of many little - by today's standards - gem hotels built by George Gill Jr. Along with his father, George Gill Jr. and Gill Construction were the primary force in developing post WWII Fort Lauderdale. According to city building reports from 1950, 75% of homes built that year were Gill homes.
Walkway between buildings | Photo © 2014 Sugarbomb
George Gill hired architects Theodore Meyer and Lester Avery to build what would soon be known as The Escape, a name allegedly inspired by his yacht. The hotel was built in three phases between 1948 and 1951 and the main part of the hotel opened on New Year’s Eve 1949 with room rates of $10 a day. It was built in a mid-century modern architectural design, the type of design that replaced Art Deco after World War II. Known for its clean simplicity and integration with nature, the style reflected America's post-war optimism and the dawn of the space age.
Postcard showing a poolside view of The Escape Hotel from the 1950's
When President Eisenhower was busy with the Soviets and American troops were fighting in Korea, the Escape was providing an earlier form of luxury to Florida vacationers with its famed piano lounges and tennis courts. The Escape was the first hotel along Fort Lauderdale Beach to have an Olympic-sized pool, cabaret-style entertainment, and remain open all year. The tennis courts attracted major tennis players of the era, including Bobby Riggs. There were poolside beauty pageants and fashion shows. The Bonanza Room opened in 1951 at the hotel, and its nightclub entertainment was a popular draw.
The pool | Photo © 2014 Sugarbomb
The Escape Hotel's success set the stage for Gill's budding empire of beautifully designed hotels. Within 18 months, he had architect Tony Sherman working on the Jolly Roger and soon after on the ship-shaped Yankee Clipper. Gill's magnificent hotels brought guests like Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mantle, and Jack Paar to the sunny shores of Fort Lauderdale Beach.
The spotlight on The Escape had dimmed by the 1980's, the three building hotel closing it's doors. The property was sold to the Marriott Corporation in 1984 and soon rechristened as the Tiffany House, an assisted living community. Instead of featuring piano lounges and poolside parties, the property now advertised 24 hour care and marketed itself as "Club Med for octogenarians."
The lobby entrance of The Escape Hotel | Photo © 2014 Sugarbomb
Today the former tourist destination sits vacant, part of the roof caving in, the once famous pool empty save for a few feet of moss-green water. The floors and walls of hotel suites are now invaded by overgrown plants. Instead of playing host to athletes, celebrities and tourists, The Escape now welcomes only crackheads and curious urban explorers.
Demolition of The Escape began in early 2016 to make way for (surprise) more condos.