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  • The Tropic Cay Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Weekend in a 50’s Motel at the Beach

    Posted on September 4th, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 3 comments

    retro-fun-stuff

    The Tropic Cay Motel, one of the last surviving Mid-Century motels on Fort Lauderdale Beach

    The Tropic Cay Motel, one of the last surviving Mid-Century motels on Fort Lauderdale Beach

    If you want to blow your bankroll on a bed, there are plenty of big, beautiful, over-priced hotels in Fort Lauderdale. If you want to have fun, save $100 a night and still have a decent place to sleep where you can walk to the beach, your options are getting slim, but they’re still out there.

    Last weekend I surprised my wife for her birthday by taking her to the beach for the weekend. Yeah, we live 20 minutes from the beach, but for some reason don’t seem to get down there that often, so we made a weekend of it. But I didn’t see any point in staying at a “luxury” hotel…I wanted to stay someplace that reminded me of the old days, when I was a kid and we’d pack seven people into a cheap room, and spend 70% of the day out of it. I found it at the Tropic Cay.

    Built in the early 50’s (according to the manager), this motel has gone through decades of renovations, remodeling, and innovation, yet still maintains its early Art Deco/Mid-Century Modern feel. (Not sure if it started as deco or modern, but it sort of melds both styles now, along with some current styles. Down here in he land of palm trees we call it “Florida Modern” or “Miami Deco”).

    Original stone wall of the office, still looks like it did 50 years ago

    Original stone wall of the office, still looks like it did 50 years ago

    The stone wall at night, with their green mood lighting

    The stone wall at night, with their green mood lighting

    The rooms had been renovated (probably many times over the years) but still retained some of the old flavor. The furnishings weren’t Mid-Century Modern, which would have been the koolest, but had that sort of retro feel. The original jalousie windows were still intact. And although the floors,

    Original Terrazo in the door jamb

    Original Terrazo in the door jamb

    doors and card-reader locks were fairly new, a sliver of the original terrazzo flooring remained in the door jamb!

    We certainly had a good time staying at the Tropic Cay. They had a very old-fashioned bar next to the pool, with a green neon sign that just said “BAR”. Drinks were cheap, and you could sit out by the pool all night long. We were literally across A-1-A from the beach, so it was easy to go back and forth between the room and the surf. The weather stayed decent for us most the time we were there!

    The Tropic Cay's old-fashioned Bar

    The Tropic Cay's old-fashioned Bar

    Days are numbered for motels like the Tropic Cay. At under $100 a night for a room that can easily hold 10 people, these old-fashioned motor-inns just aren’t lucrative enough for owners to keep them going. On each side of the motel are multi-million dollar high-rise luxury hotels commanding $400 a night and up. And although they are mostly vacant now due to the crummy recession, it’s only a matter of time before people will be willing to shell out tons of lettuce to get a room with an ocean view…they’ll have to, because there won’t be any old motels left to crash at for cheap. The Tropic Cay owners have plans to raise the building and build a new luxury hotel on the spot. Sure, it will be a nice hotel. It will have swank rooms and a trendy new dance club with $15 drinks. It will probably have a pool on the roof and a palm-treed terrace on the fifth floor. But you won’t be able to walk into the lobby in your wet trunks and flip-flops kids. Once all the motels like the Tropic Cay are gone, that part of 20th century Americana will be gone for good.

    The view from our room. Beautiful beach!

    The view from our room. Beautiful beach!

    Hallway, 2nd floor. I made it BW because it still looks like it did 40 years ago.

    Hallway, 2nd floor. I made it BW because it still looks like it did 40 years ago.

    Vintage light fixtures still hang outside each room. Green bulbs give the place a kool 50's aire at night.

    Vintage light fixtures still hang outside each room. Green bulbs give the place a kool 50's aire at night.