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Published:May 8th, 2006 06:36 EST
The Casa del Mar Hotel - On a Foundation of Florida History!

The Casa del Mar Hotel - On a Foundation of Florida History!

By Leigh Cort


Reggie Bailey is carving his name in history as he awakens each day at 3:30am, long before the sunrise, thinking about the guests he’s going to pamper.  His supreme personal service as Breakfast Host at the Casa del Mar Hotel & Suites in sleepy Vilano Beach has positioned him as an icon of hospitality to new and repeat guests. His enchanting English (Cornwall) accent isn’t the only attribute that ends up on, written by fans around the globe...specific comments about how “he made my stay the most unforgettable vacation” and “Tthe endless stories of Reggie are all true. He was both charming & caring about each of us” Bailey isn’t a newcomer to this oceanfront gem.  During its construction in 1998, he carried and installed sturdy Thomasville beds and Hemingway collection armchairs and desks into the rooms and suites. His 90-hour weeks found him planting palms, sealing marble floors, laying carpet and planning the breakfast for which he has become famous. 

Scene I: VILANO BEACH 1926

The Casino de Vilano (circa 1926) was built by New York financier & developer August Heckscher for $154,000.  It was destroyed in 1937 by a nor’easter until young Florida developers Joe & Lisa Knecht recaptured the Casino’s spirit and theme, sixty-plus years later.  Its 1920’s architecture and glamorous décor give it the distinction of being an elite member of the Clarion Collection of Boutique Resort properties. Recognized with a mere 29 similar hotels in the U.S., the Casa del Mar has become the first internationally franchised hotel/condo in Northeast Florida that has been awarded the privileged honor. 

Today it’s a 94-room hotel/condo, sitting proudly and prominently on the secluded peninsula of Porpoise Point, gazing at the Atlantic Ocean.  It’s a breathtaking 4-minute ride across the Intracoastal Waterway to historic St. Augustine and a 20-minute drive to posh Ponte Vedra Beach, complete with swank shopping and legendary golf.

As the Hotel begins its transition from Hotel to Hotel/Condo, Reggie envisions himself maintaining his morning post for at least another ten years. “When I’m 85, I can’t imagine myself being anywhere else. I’m sure to continue the breakfast traditions when our Hotel rooms are filled with owners, their families and traveling guests who fall in love with Vilano Beach as much as I have.”


Hotel/Condos are the newest trend in vacation home ownership; buyers can own a luxury vacation home (bedroom or suite at the Casa del Mar Hotel), a world class resort, and receive rent revenue whenever they are not using it. (an optional voluntary rental program). The Knecht’s  recognized the multi-diversified talents of Jay Batten and Larissa Johnson, owners of International One Realty in Palm Coast, FL., to handle the sales of their pet project.  Batten and Johnson are specialists in the worldwide market of investors today who are particularly attracted to purchasing vacation homes in the U.S. Their organization concentrates on this thriving segment of global buyers who prefer big names in the hospitality industry from Clarion and Four Seasons to Ritz-Carlton and Le Meridien.

Batten, who worked for Fred Trump in New York during the 1950’s, understands the lucrative luxury needs of the foreign investor who is fascinated with Florida today. “We pride ourselves on ‘speaking your language’ and our staff speaks Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Gaelic, Italian and Polish. Johnson was TV personality in Russia who recognizes and cultivates the savvy buyer of precisely this type of real estate project. “If I feel emotionally connected to a destination like St. Augustine and Vilano Beach, all that our clients have to do is see it, understand its unique location and they will want to have a share too.”

The Knechts instinctively know that hotel condo buyers are characteristically vacationers who appreciate the many wonderful amenities available at luxury properties plus investors who recognize the appreciation potential of a vacation home.  Buyers today are seeking to invest their money in a stable environment and flourishing economy. According to, “There is a limited inventory of hotel/condo units today and as word continues to spread, more vacationers are learning of this exciting new real estate/vacation trend.”

FINALE: Visting the Casa del Mar

This lazy seaside village is making its debut this year in the national Vilano Beach has finally received its State of Florida Historical Marker on Coastal Highway A1A, dedicated as a Florida Heritage Site! 

Here you can enjoy walking across the graceful arched bridge that traverses the Intracoastal, ride a bicycle around Vilano’s uncrowded picturesque residential streets and stroll a few steps to a variety of restaurants.  Step out on your balcony, drink in the ocean breezes and listen to the waves washing against a gentle sand dune; find shells on the beach or meander to the colorful fishing pier with a view of the spires of St. Augustine’s grand Victorian skyline.

So, slip into your flip-flops and be seduced by the quiet; here you can do everything OR just do nothing!