Thomas Rowe, in failing health, migrates to Florida and begins his dream of building a "pink castle". Against his broker's recommendations, Rowe purchases 80 acres on what is today St. Pete Beach, for $100,000...
The land was accessible only by a frail, wooden toll bridge owned by Mr. McAdoo, who 'operated it on a whim'. Instead of relying on the bridge, Rowe uses small barges to transport building materials. Well-known architect from Indianapolis, Henry Dupont, accepts the commission and moves his firm down to St. Petersburg. Carlton Beard is hired as the head contractor, charged with taking Rowe's vision of a 'great hotel like Waikiki Beach's Royal Hawaiian' and turning it into a reality.
Thomas Rowe is quoted in the Tourist News, January 9th, 1926, as saying "I am not looking for any profit and my only purpose in building the hotel is to give something substantial to the state and to the island."
Rowe chooses the name "Don Ce-Sar" for his hotel as a nod to the main character in the English opera Maritana, Don Caesar de Bazan.