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Then & Now with Hampton Dunn

One of the man-made marvels of this century was the creation of Davis Islands during the Florida land boom of the 1920s. D.P. Davis, a one-time "street kid" who shined shoes and hawked newspapers, grew up to become a big-time real estate developer and built the showcase community within a good golf stroke of downtown.

To top off his dream project, Davis provided two elegant hotels, the Palmerin and the Mirasol. Both were of the attractive Mediterranean-revival style of architecture, popular during the land boom. Miami architect Martin L. Hampton designed the Palmerin. Construction began in August 1925 and cost $175,000.

In recent years, the building was renamed the Hudson Manor Hotel and, finally, the Davis Islands Hotel. It housed the Casablanca Restaurant and the Islands Club. In 1990, the old Palmerin was vacated and the structure was remodeled and refurbished as an adult congregate living facility. The building was restored much as it was, including the distinctive open tower at its northwest corner. The purchase and renovation cost $3.5-million. Now called the Hudson Manor Retirement Residence, the handsome landmark on E Davis Boulevard _ the main drag of Davis Islands _ once again decorates beautiful Davis Islands.

Hampton Dunn is a journalist, author, lecturer and, perhaps, Florida's best-known historian. The Tampa resident has spent much of his life chronicling the state and has written 18 books on such places as Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Citrus County.