The Longboat Key Ritz-Carlton, 1926-1963

John Ringling's hotel broke ground in 1926 but was never finished or occupied, and was eventually demolished in 1963.

By Bethany Ritz January 20, 2023

John Ringling had the ambition to bring luxe hotel accommodations to Longboat Key—the depression derailed his plans.

On the southwest end of Longboat Key, where the Longboat Key Club now sits, there was once a Ritz-Carlton in the making. In the 1920s, John Ringling wanted to bring a luxurry hotel to the area at a time when there were few hotels at all. Ringling selected the location with the Ritz-Carlton's managing director, Albert Keller, who agreed to a $5,000-per-year fee to use the name. However, the hotel was never completed. The Great Depression ended the building boom, despite of city-wide efforts to dispel its impact. And although Ringling attempted to continue the building project, with several headlines in The Herald-Tribune promising resumption of the project for years, it fizzled out, slowly fading from conversation and news headlines.

"In the years that followed," declared a 1964 New York Times piece titled "Ghost of a Hotel to Vanish," "the hotel skeleton became en­twined with vines and hemmed in by Australian pines and Sa­bal palms. The golf course re­verted to jungle. For years, the structure was a target for van­dals and a hazard for children. Many were injured while play­ing on its beams. Finally, the area was fenced off." 

Demolition took nearly two months due to the 16- and 20-foot-wide brick walls, but the building was gone by the end of January 1964. 

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