The Pier Hotel – Business

December 1, 2012 – St. Petersburg

From the “History” page: 

“Local lore has it that when the Cordova Family purchased the hotel, they brought their personal major-domo from their Michigan estate to manage the hotel. It also holds that this unknown major-domo (no one seems to remember his name) ruled the hotel with a firm hand. Dressed in full formal uniform, he maintained a reputation for impeccable accommodations, personal concierge attention and European service. He passed away in the hotel after providing more than 20 years of service. Legend also murmurs his image has been seen on many occasions throughout the Hotel since his death, perhaps still overseeing the accommodations with loving attention to the last detail…”

Word of mouth:
One person staying at the Pier Hotel recounted this story:  After a long day of travel the man got to The Pier Hotel.  He kicked off his shoes and flopped to the bed where he fell asleep.  Waking a few hours later, he discovered that the shoes he distinctly remembered as scattered across the floor were neatly placed by his bed.  Upset that someone had come into his room, he checked with the hotel staff who said that no one had been in there.  Perhaps Charles did not find the tossed shoes to his standards.

Rumor has it that Charles was also notorious for moving towels when they were not properly placed by the maids.

Hotel staff:
Since the hotel has been reopened, they have not seen much of Charles.  They believe it is because the hotel is well kept (which it is).  Of the two individuals we spoke to, neither had seen the ghost.  One did say that a few reports of sensing a presence filtered down to them.

SPIRITS of St. Petersburg reports:

This was certainly not an investigation.  We were allowed to walk through the hotel and visited with friends who were staying there.  Walking through the area we got the following:


No known unsolved homicides in the area; does not appear to be an area with a history of violent crime as far as records are available online).

1921 Real estate boom period begins Pinellas. Severe hurricane causes significant destruction throughout Pinellas County. Creates Hurricane Pass between what are now Caladesi and Honeymoon islands. Fort’s Dade and DeSoto deactivated.

The oldest running hotels are the historic Pier Hotel, built in 1921, formally Hotel Cordova and The Heritage Hotel, built in 1926.

A Historic Tour of The Pier Hotel

The Pier Hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in St. Petersburg. Throughout the years, she has seen many changes. Please join us on this historic tour…

The year was 1921. Saint Petersburg was a boomtown both in real estate and tourism. Just 45 minutes to the Northwest was New Port Richey, where the famous silent movie stars of the 1920’s built their mansions to escape from the rest of the world. As they arrived by rail at the transportation center in Saint Petersburg, an overnight stay was typically warranted.

The Pier Hotel was built to accommodate these guests and many other early travelers of that era. Never a private mansion, The Pier Hotel was always, as it is today, a boutique hotel accommodating guests with discreet privileges and impeccable European service.

She opened as The Hotel Scott in the early Fall of 1921. The Scotts made a fortune in early real estate investments, and built the hotel to showcase their family name. They soon moved on to other projects, and in 1923 sold the hotel to the Cordova family. [see contradictory info found on below]

The Hotel Cordova reigned from 1923 until 1999, when she finally closed her doors after 75 years! Although the Cordova was well known throughout St. Petersburg for over 7 decades, the truth is that the Cordova Family sold the hotel in the early 1950’s. For the next 50 years Hotel Cordova changed owners several times, though the name never changed — until 2001 when the extensive renovations done to orginal standards of exemplary workmanship earned her a new name. The Pier Hotel now resonates with a sterling reputation for service, style and value.

Local lore has it that when the Cordova Family purchased the hotel, they brought their personal major-domo from their Michigan estate to manage the hotel. It also holds that this unknown major-domo (no one seems to remember his name) ruled the hotel with a firm hand. Dressed in full formal uniform, he maintained a reputation for impeccable accommodations, personal concierge attention and European service. He passed away in the hotel after providing more than 20 years of service. Legend also murmurs his image has been seen on many occasions throughout the Hotel since his death, perhaps still overseeing the accommodations with loving attention to the last detail. [Note to Brandy: This may be the “Charles” mentioned in the haunting lore at the end]

In 1999 the hotel closed, having been in a state of decline for several years. During the late ’80’s and early ’90’s, downtown St. Petersburg as less than a desirable place to be after sunset. She sat empty, waiting to serve again after her long winter sleep. During this time, schoolboys would occassionally break into the old hotel at night, and tell the story the next day of hearing the major-domo howl with disapproval in the empty halls of the hotel. Then, a metamorphosis took place in downtown St. Petersburg!

It was called BayWalk and the Downtown Shops. Seeing the potential of this lady with an aging dirty face, a local investor purchased Hotel Cordova, saving her from the wrecking ball which had claimed her sister hotel next door (now a parking lot). She was completely gutted, then installed with new fixtures, wiring, paint and finally, the period decor. Each detail lovingly restored to the exceptional standards to which it was built in 1921, right down to the water basins in the hall (where servants washed up before serving their wealthy employers).

Today, you’ll see the same great arches, the same spacious rooms, the same elegant verandah and the same attention to artisanship from a time gone by. In the 2000/2001 season, she reopened as The Pier Hotel. The major-domo reflection was never seen again. We like to think has was satisfied with the result, and could finally rest at long last!

Today, The Pier Hotel’s guests enjoy the same service as was originally provided in the 1920’s, coupled with her adjoining BayWalk location, fine museums, ever expanding list of restaurants & night-life venues, recreation opportunities, waterfront parks, and as always, the sparkling, beautiful waters of Tampa Bay!

The Pier Hotel boasts 33 tastefully appointed guest rooms, most with microwaves, refrigerators, wet-bars and all with French duvets, high-speed Internet access, complimentary Continental-Plus breakfast, and evening Concierge Reception — served in the hotel’s parlor or enjoyed on the verandah.

Many of the guestrooms have the original clawfooted ladies’ soaking tubs. Imagine the comfort and peaceful escape from the outside world while soaking leisurely in these tubs, then dressing later for an evening on the town! Today, The Pier Hotel is known for its European service and discreet privacy for both high-profile guests and tourists alike.

The Pier Hotel was awarded the 2002 Restoration of the Year award from the St. Petersburg Preservation Society.

Property Records: parcel 173119744660160101


Marrick Properties, Eden Properties and Barnett Bank also figure into the history of ownership but specific names associated with those businesses may be difficult to ascertain.

Seller 1999: BINDER ROBERT A


Tons of info on Mr. Binder – sounds like a REAL character!


Robert A. Binder


Binder, Robert A. 62, of Clearwater, FL passed away September 8. He was a native of St. Louis, MO, a member of St. Brendan Church and a well established Entrepreneur in the Clearwater area. He loved boating, fishing and traveling. Survivors include his daughter, Chaney L. (Shane) Wisdom; his son, Robert Bryan (Doris) Binder; 2 granddaughters, Payton L. and Paige T. Wisdom; his brother, Jean F. (Karen) Binder; a dear friend, Thomas A. Bishop; dear nieces and families, Pamela M., Christopher and Makenna Thompson, Haley Callaway, Jacquelyne A., Garrett and Chloey Weissenborn, Jalyn and Alaynah Binder, and Jennifer R. and Justin Burchfield. Services: Funeral services will be held Wednesday, September 15 at 10 a.m. at SYLVAN ABBEY FUNERAL HOME. The family will receive friends from 9 to 10. In lieu of flowers those wishing may make contributions to the Wellness Center at Morton Plant Hospital. Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home 2853 Sunset Point Road Clearwater, FL 33759

Epilogue | Robert Arthur Binder

Rob Binder: He worked hard, lived life to its fullest


By Andrew Meacham, Times Staff Writer

In Print: Sunday, September 19, 2010

CLEARWATER — Courthouse regulars in St. Petersburg or Clearwater knew Rob Binder. You’d see him all the time at foreclosure auctions, a trim man in jeans shorts, a sleeveless shirt and tennis shoes.

Mr. Binder actually enjoyed buying foreclosed properties, fixing them up and selling them. He studied real estate listings the way a hard-core horse player studies a racing form.

By the time he walked into the courthouse he had separated the bargains from the nightmares laden with hidden debt. He thrived on the adrenaline of an old-fashioned auction, and resented Pinellas County’s move to online bidding set to take effect in October.

“It will not be a public auction when it goes private,” Mr. Binder told the St. Petersburg Times three weeks ago. “This system has been working for 240 years.”

It had been working for Mr. Binder since 1968, when auctions were conducted on the courthouse steps. He kept the keys to his more than two dozen properties on separate loops of blue tape, the addresses marked on each.

Besides his real estate, the roofing contractor owned a waterfront home, a 38-foot speedboat and a 58-foot yacht.

Instinct and an unflinching focus helped him succeed, friends say.

“It’s not that he pushed anybody around, but he wouldn’t be pushed around,” said Thomas Bishop, 64, a friend since both attended the same high school in St. Louis.

Mr. Binder dropped out of high school because he was too busy working, Bishop said. The Mobil gas station where he had fixed tires since age 15 was offering him a shot at manager.

By his early 20s, Mr. Binder was managing three gas stations and owned two of them. He moved to Clearwater to be near the water and bought into a roofing company.

He loved to race sailboats, and had traveled to Cuba by boat more than once. A weak heart might have limited his movements but did not discourage him. Mr. Binder worked out two hours a day, ate carefully and seldom drank more than a glass of red wine, friends say.

“He lived life to the fullest because he knew he was on borrowed time,” said Donna Green, his real estate broker.

The crowd at Tommy Duff’s Irish Aviation Pub, not far from his Island Estates home, knew Mr. Binder as a patron who showed up with a broad smile and a joke or two.

Owner Tommy Duff, 67, and Mr. Binder traveled to Ireland with a group last October for a tour of the country’s pubs.

“He became impressed with the country, and he had to know about his roots there,” said Duff. “That became a mission for him.”

His more recent family history was all too familiar. Mr. Binder’s family declined to comment for this story, referring all questions to his friends.

Those friends say that Mr. Binder had been estranged from his two children for years. Pinellas County records show at least four divorces since 1975.

“He did have some difficulties in his personal life with his relationships,” said Bishop. He attributed those difficulties to Mr. Binder’s single-minded focus on his work.

“(Relationships) suffer when you are that intense about the things in your business life,” Bishop said. “He worked so hard at it, it was almost to a fault.”

A few weeks ago, Mr. Binder told friends he had reconciled with his children.

The evening of Sept. 8, Mr. Binder was telling Duff about his family. He had a laptop out, and was showing off pictures of his granddaughters, Payton and Paige.

“He was aglow about that,” Duff said. Then something happened.

“As he was showing me the pictures,” Duff said, “he recognized that he was starting to have a problem. I asked him if I needed to call for help.”

Emergency workers arrived but could not revive Mr. Binder. He died in the pub where he had shared many drinks and stories. He was 62.

Mr. Binder was buried Wednesday in his jeans shorts, a short-sleeved shirt and tennis shoes. That evening, Tommy Duff’s held an Irish wake.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or

Robert Arthur Binder

Born: Dec. 28, 1947

Died: Sept. 8, 2010

Survivors: Daughter Chaney Wisdom and her husband, Shane; son Bryan Binder and his wife, Doris; brother Jean Binder and his wife, Karen; two granddaughters; several nieces.

The 1921 Hotel Cordova was constructed circa 1921 and represents the transition in the lodging industry from small scale, mainly frame boarding houses and hotels built before the World War I era to the large, to masonry hotels built in the boom years of 1921-26. Hotels built in St. Petersburg before 1920 were small, usually less than 50 rooms, and entirely financed by their owner-operators. The first hotels built after the war in St. Petersburg, the Alexander in 1919 and the Ponce de Leon, show a change to masonry construction and architectural sophistication, but remained small in size. This shift in hotel type was a reflection of the growing wealth of the American economy in this period and the increased popularity of Florida as a winter tourist destination. The hotel is also is a fine example of Neoclassical Revival architecture. The Cordova was built by Frederick Scott who named it after himself. Mr. Scott sold the hotel in 1924 to Robert Bartlett, who renamed it the Hotel Cordova. [This information from contradicts the info on The Pier Hotel’s own site which states the hotel was sold to the Cordova family.] The City Directory indicates the hotel was sold to Mr. and Mrs. F.J. Rowe during the early 1930s. During the early 1920s there were several small hotels and apartment houses in this area, such as the Caulfield House (Shelton Suites) at 235 2nd Avenue North, the Allison (250 2nd Avenue North), the Carr (210 2nd Avenue North) and the Stanton Hotel & Apartments at the corner of Third Street and Second Avenue North. The Hotel Cordova is a three-story Neoclassical Revival style building, a rare architectural design in St. Petersburg. Less than one percent of the buildings surveyed in the City in 1978 were Neoclassical style. This style, along with the more ornate Beaux-Arts architecture, were often used for public buildings at the beginning of the 20th century due to the bold, regimented image projected by their appearance. Neoclassical Revival was also a dominant style for domestic building types during the first half of the 20th century. The Neoclassical style is based on the rebirth of past classical styles which originated in the Roman and Greek empires. The revival of interest in classical models originated with theWorld’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 held in Chicago. Buildings were becoming less ornamental during post-Victorian times and the Neoclassical Revival style relied more on bold mass than detailed ornamentation, which provided the simplicity desired without having the building appear “stripped down.” The Cordova’s Neoclassical elements, combined with its small scale, make it unique in downtown St. Petersburg. The Hotel is rectangular in plan, constructed of masonry and clad with stucco scored to resemble stone. Scoring is a technique which was frequently used both in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to give buildings the appearance of more expensive materials were utilized in their construction. The main facade of the Cordova features decorative columns supporting the open, arcaded entrance. The five keyed arches form the base of the decorative classical entablature. 

Search for reported hauntings at site:

One of our final stops brought us to the Pier Hotel on Second Ave. N. The quaint, 1920s hotel is said to be haunted by a particularly persnickety, former guest named Charles. Never satisfied with the staffs’ work, Charles would always make his disapproval known. When he died, the hotel staff thought they had finally caught a break—they weren’t so lucky. Even from the “other side,” Charles manages to keep the staff in line and has reportedly pulled the sheets off of beds that were not properly made. Charles has also been known to play chess with the clerks who work at the front desk, sometimes making four or five moves a night.

The interesting part about the hotel that some people may not know is that it is haunted by an old butler named Charles and his room was on the same floor as ours.

The Pier Hotel

According to its Web site, the Pier Hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in St. Petersburg, passing through many owners through the years. One of the owners is said to have lived and died in room 206.

While on a tour one night, Palouian’s group was approached by a woman who had her own frightening story about the Pier Hotel. She said that while she was staying in room 206 one night, she felt an overwhelming need to clean. She felt it was because of paranormal activity.

The Pier Hotel Web site boasts a more frightening story about a major, name unknown, who used to run the hotel and is sometimes seen wandering the halls.

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