When we passed through Lake Wales last fall we were taken by the Hotel Grand, formerly the Dixie Walesbit, an unoccupied ten-story structure in the middle of town. I made a few phone calls and the next time we passed through with permission to enter the premises. Many thanks to the City of Lake Wales, who owns the property, for their time and generosity in allowing us a look inside.
The hotel was built in 1926, near the end of what is known as the Great Florida Boom. Though the Boom passed, the hotel remained open until the 90’s, and passed through a series of commercial owners before the City of Lake Wales took over. Sadly, previous owners didn’t know what to do with the place – during our one-hour tour we saw that many original details had been ripped out, and at least one floor had been subject to vandals – though it wasn’t always clear if the vandals were destructive teens or destructive “renovators.” The hotel is now slated for multi-use development. After talking with city officials and the developer we were heartened to hear how much they care about the history of the old place and hope to restore it to as close as they can get to its old glory.
Note: When in Lake Wales, get the garlic bites at Norby’s Steakhouse. You’ll be glad you did!