The New Florida Hotel, overlooking Lake Mirror in Lakeland, Florida, was designed by the St. Petersburgh architectural firm of Avery and Round for then owner Thomas Hendrix. Originally it was to be known as the Florida Hotel, but the name was changed when the owner discovered that there was already a hotel by that name in Florida. The New Florida Hotel, though not completed, opened for the fall season in September 1926. The opening was short lived, however. The combination of the collapse of the Florida land boom followed by the Great Depression had a severe negative impact on the New Florida Hotel. It closed its doors in late 1926 and did not reopen until 1935 when it was purchased by the Railway Conductors Association.
Along with its neighbor, the Lakeland Terrace Hotel, the New Florida survived, if not flourished, as an urban hotel catering to tourists and business travelers. It served as the spring training headquarters of the Detroit Tigers for a number of years and hosted a number of famous guests, including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Drew Pearson, and Frank Lloyd Wright. By the 1950’s, however, both the New Florida and Lakeland Terrace began to fall prey to changing travel habits and competition from suburban motels offering more amenities and better value.
The last of a string of owners converted the New Florida Hotel into a senior residence hotel in 1962. The name was changed to the Regency Tower in 1980 and it continued to operate as a senior residence hotel until it was closed in 1996, ostensibly for renovations taking a few months to complete.
The venerable hotel did not reopen in a few months, however. It remained closed for several years despite proposals to either renovate it or tear it down. Articles in the local newspaper, The Ledger, emphasized the competing views with headlines such as “Regency Tower: Renovate or Raze,” and “Plan could by last for Regency.” Local organizations and agencies also differed as to the fate of the Regency Tower (New Florida Hotel). The Lakeland Downtown Development Authority recommended that the hotel be demolished and the site be developed, while the preservation group, Historic Lakeland, recommended that that it be restored as a hotel.
The City of Lakeland, which had purchased the old hotel, considered a number of proposals to restore the building before settling on a proposal by the Carlisle Group of Miami to renovate the hotel as an apartment building. The renovations began in 2004 and the newly renovated structure opened as the Lake Mirror Tower in 2005 with 76 apartments.
This small collection of photographs documents the transformation of the building from the New Florida Hotel to the Lake Mirror Tower in a series of before and after photos showing the stages of the renovation.