Photography by Jason Stephens and Drew Gorrie

The Lakeland Terrace Hotel continues to preserve its historic architectural features and charm, but, after extensive renovations, the experience is more refined.

There was a time when hotels were just places for out-of-town guests to lay their heads or enjoy a luxury experience while away from home. But, in 1994, former hotelier Ian Schrager changed the business of hospitality forever. Schrager, a former owner of the Delano Hotel in Miami, turned the 14-story art deco hotel into the social hub of South Beach and thus “boutique hotels” were born. The New York Times reports that Schrager’s goal was to create “a cinematic experience aimed less at tourists and more toward locals.” Today, more and more hotels see the value in this model, catering to both out-of-towners and locals alike.

Since its grand opening gala on October 20, 1924, The Terrace Hotel with its ornate Neo-Classical facade has been an iconic landmark for Lakeland. During this era, Florida was booming, and visitors were arriving to Lakeland by train for both the warm weather and lucrative real estate opportunities. Back then, The Terrace Hotel entrance was surrounded by a luscious tropical garden on Main Street which opened up to Massachusetts Avenue. Built by Florida Collier Court Hotels, The Terrace was known as one of Florida’s most luxurious year-round hotels, featuring air conditioning, high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and large French doors which adorned the dining room and lounge overlooking Lake Mirror.

Enjoy specialty cocktails such as The Commissioner and Mr. Henderson’s Tea, tributes to Edie and David.

By the 1940s and 1950s, The Lakeland Terrace was the vacation spot for high-profile visitors such as Henry Ford, Frank Sinatra, and Frank Lloyd Wright, to name a few. By the 1970s, the hotel was struggling financially due to a shift in travel habits and the rise in motels. In 1986, the city ordered The Terrace to close for building code violations, and the hotel remained closed for 12 years until 1996 when a developer purchased the property for $150,000. He invested $7 million into restoring the property to its original first-class luxury experience and reopened its doors 1999. 

Today, The Terrace Hotel is known as Lakeland’s historic hotel, located on the corner of Main Street and Massachusetts Avenue in the heart of downtown Lakeland and surrounded by local restaurants overlooking the iconic Lake Mirror. 

In the fall of 2020, The Terrace Hotel was acquired by Edie Yates, a former city commissioner; her husband, David Henderson; their two sons Todd Baylis and William Henderson; and a non-family partner, John Grieger. 

A few months into the beginning of the project, the unexpected passing of David and Edie left the community and their loved ones in shock. As Todd Baylis; his wife, Sarah Baylis; William Henderson; and John Grieger transitioned into leading the project, they were committed to continuing Edie’s vision to renovate the iconic hotel’s legacy for both out-of-town guests and locals alike to enjoy. 

“My mom was certainly the driver behind the renovation. She wanted to take her service and experience for the beloved community and apply it to creating a new experience at The Terrace by taking the building on to its next journey,” says Todd.

[pull quote] “The renovation captures the hotel’s Old World glamour while updating the property with modern sophistication.” – Sims Patrick Studio

The Terrace is no longer a blast from the past — the dark floral curtains, burgundy carpets, and out-of-date styles throughout the hotel are gone. Elevated yet comfortable, an expert team of hotel interior designers executed a design theme inspired by the hotel’s “1920s’ art deco history, the elegant lines of the Royal Family’s swan descendants, and the lush gardens and vibrant hues of citrus groves nearby. The renovation captures the hotel’s Old World glamour while updating the property with modern sophistication.” – Sims Patrick Studio

The 88 guest rooms have been fully remodeled and feature new finishes, local artwork, and a mix of eclectic furnishings with upgraded accommodations and special nods to Lakeland. In addition, the hotel renovations also include a new gym for guests to enjoy. 

The Terrace Grille’s new bar menu includes a Champagne Cocktail menu, complete with classic favorites like an Aperol Spritz or Bellini.

Vestiges of the hotel’s original architecture remain throughout, but especially in the first-floor lobby and Terrace Grille, including its pecky cypress ceilings; original, iconic, black-tile floors; and the majestic floor-to-ceiling windows. 

The new Terrace Grille experience features an elevated, modern dining room and lounge with a mix of formal and informal seating, including velvet chairs and a custom bar top, inviting guests to enjoy the bar and restaurant menus in the Lake Mirror Room overlooking the water and lobby patio as well. The renovated kitchen has chef’s bar seating which overlooks the kitchen for a fun experience. New Executive Chef Matt McBrayer has developed a carefully created menu that complements the hotel’s new design and features high-quality, fresh ingredients with sustainably and humanely raised proteins, as well as vegetarian and vegan-friendly options. 

For the owners, the project means much more than just renovations; it’s about community and guest experiences. To elevate the experience in such a way, the Terrace Hotel is now a part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton. 

The Tapestry Collection is an independent hotel experience offering guests the same consistency in experience that is to be expected from Hilton. These properties are uniquely designed to maintain an independent character from other hotels within the collection. The partnership gives The Terrace access to the latest tools, technologies, and forward-thinking strategies, enhancing the guest experience and creating more efficient hotel operations. 

[pull quote] For the owners, the project means much more than just renovations; it’s about community and guest experiences.

“We want to provide an elevated experience with opportunities for many to enjoy, whether it’s someone coming in for Happy Hour, a special celebration, or a guest of the hotel who is visiting Lakeland,” says Sarah.

The Terrace Hotel renovations have achieved the feat of preserving what was the best of its past while successfully incorporating a modern experience. 

Whether it’s the history and architecture or the excitement of feeling like a tourist in your own city, boutique hotels in larger cities have changed the traditional hotel business model to become exciting places where locals dine, entertain, and are entertained. The Terrace Hotel owners saw an opportunity to fill a gap in the Lakeland market, and thus a new experience awaits at The Terrace Hotel Lakeland, Tapestry Collection by Hilton.