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The Belleview Biltmore Hotel, "The White Queen of the Gulf," is located at 25 Belleview Blvd., Belleair, Florida. It was built in 1896 and opened January 15, 1897. It has shingle-style elements. Michael J. Miller and Francis J. Kennard were the architects. The Biltmore is four and a half stories, frame, three principal sections, each 400 feet long, broad verandahs built on enchanting landscape. It is the largest wood-frame building in Florida. Hotel constructed for Henry B. Plant, who developed the railway system on the Florida West Coast during the 1890s and sought to increase traffic by building tourist facilities.
In 1920 John McEntee Bowman purchased the hotel from the Plant Investment Company. John McEntee Bowman, was president of the Bowman-Biltmore Hotels Corp, international sportsman and owner of the Biltmore chain of hotels. Hence the beginning of the new name Belleview Biltmore Hotel. So for 85 years, the name Biltmore is associated with the Belleview. The name Biltmore is tied in with so many other Biltmore hotels around the country also. Bowman developed several Biltmore Hotels through the country during this time period, all bearing the Biltmore name, which was said to be drawn from the Vanderbilt family estate of the same name in North Carolina. Other owners include Bernie Powell who owned the Biltmore for 42 years, Mido, the Jetha Brothers, Urdang and now Legg Mason.
This national treasure has enriched the lives of guests since 1897. It is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and National Trust. Many famous dignitaries have been guests at this hotel including the President George Bush, President Jimmy Carter, President Gerald Ford, the former King of England, (the Duke of Windsor) the Vanderbilts, the Pew family of Sun Oil, the Studebakers, the DuPonts, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Lady Margaret Thatcher, baseball legends Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and entertainers Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan and Carol Channing. In World War II the hotel was closed to tourism, and the U.S. military moved in to train its troops. The windows were painted black so the enemy could not see the hotel at night.
The Biltmore was threatened by demolition in 2004. SaveTheBiltmore.com was launched then, and with an outpouring of community support and our nonprofit group Save the Biltmore Preservationists, the hotel was saved and now owned by Legg Mason Real Estate Investors.
The Mobile Travel Guide gives the Biltmore a four star rating and the World Tennis Magazine gives the resort a five star rating for tennis resorts. The Biltmore is one of the few hotels to have a waltz composed in its name, "The Belleview Waltz." The Belleview Biltmore Golf Club offers a beautiful 18-hole course designed by world famous Scottish-born architect, Donald Ross in 1925.
The Belleview Biltmore provides 243 guest rooms in an intimate setting. There is variety of guest rooms starting with a quaint one-bedroom suite, all the way up to the 3,400 square foot presidential suite. The Biltmore is located on 21 acres along the Intracoastal Waterway, The exquisite but charming Victorian hotel offers world class amenities: banquets, meeting rooms, conference services, gourmet dining, a luxurious spa and weddings with attention to detail. www.BelleviewBiltmore.com for reservations.
The Biltmore is a member of National Trust Historic Hotels of America / HHA.
For a DETAILED history of this wonderful grand dame, click:
There is another Victorian hotel in San Diego called Hotel del Coronado built in 1888.
The Travel Channel said that it is the most famous destination for weddings. This grand hotel is carefully preserved and honored in San Diego.
A third famous Victorian hotel is the Grand Hotel, built in 1886, on Mackinac Island, Michigan, and still fully functional and cherished! During the early years, the summer staff would work at the Grand Hotel while it was open, and during the winter the employees would come down to the Belleview Biltmore and be employed there.
The following information is from an article written by St. Petersburg Times reporter Lorri Helfand in her article April 23, 2005
Copyright Times Publishing Co. Apr 23, 2005
by Lorri Helfand Lorri@sptimes.com
ABOUT THE BILTMORE
The Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa offers:
1895: Railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant buys thousands of
acres and begins construction.
JAN. 15, 1897: The hotel opens.
1919: John McEntee Bowman buys the hotel and adds the name Biltmore.
1942-44: U.S. Army Air Corps moves 3,000 servicemen into the hotel as an auxiliary barracks for MacDill and Drew fields.
1946: Bernard Powell, Nora Mae Peabody and Roger L. Stevens buy the hotel.
1979: Hotel is listed on National Register of Historic Places.
1990: Hideo Kurosawa of Mido Development buys the hotel and calls it the Belleview Mido.
1997: The hotel celebrates 100 years. The Jetha Corp. buys it and returns the name to the Belleview Biltmore. The hotel is renovated extensively.
2003: A company run by Pennsylvania investor Scott Urdang becomes resort general partner.
2004: DeBartolo Development, First Dartmouth Homes and Sun Vista Ventures form Belleair Redevelopment Group and announce a contract on the hotel properties.
JANUARY 2005: Contract with Belleair Redevelopment Group falls through.
APRIL 2005: DeBartolo Development announces new contract on hotel properties.
The Belleview Biltmore, which opened in 1897, has played host to movie stars, sports icons and even several U.S. presidents.
The Belleview Biltmore's 136-acre golf course on Indian Rocks Road, a popular attraction with visitors for decades, is not included in the demolition application
MARCH 2007 Legg Mason Real Estate Investors purchased the Biltmore ,and it was saved from demolition. Their plans include a $100 million renovation to restore the hotel back to the 1940's era.
Maisie Plant, daughter-in-law of Belleview Biltmore Hotel founder Henry B. Plant and her pearls.
Morton Plant, son of Belleview Biltmore Hotel founder Henry B. Plant spotted New York socialite Maisie some 90 years ago and was smitten at first sight. She was supposedly married to another man at the time, so Plant paid her husband $8-million to disappear. Maisie was so enamored by a double strand of pearls that in 1915 she and Morton traded their Fifth Avenue mansion for the necklace to jeweler Cartier. It was a wise barter for Cartier, which established its U.S. flagship store in the Neo-Renaissance townhouse, but not for New York’s grande dame. When cultivated pearls were perfected in the 1940s, the demand for natural pearls plummeted. Her necklace sold at a Parke Bernet auction in 1957 for a mere $150,000.
If only Plant’s heirs had held on to the necklace for a few more decades. A similar natural double-strand sold at Christie’s in Geneva for $3.1 million in 2004, an astonishing world-record price for a string of pearls. Today, fine natural pearls are once again coveted treasures. Legend has it that Maisie Plant lost her $1.2 million Cartier double-strand pearl necklace at the Belleview Biltmore Resort. That happened around the time of World War I, and she's still wandering the halls looking for it, ghost watchers say. The hotel has ghost tours every Saturday night so be sure to sign up and look for her!
Information from www.BelleviewBiltmore.com. All Rights Reserved.
For more than a century, the Belleview Biltmore Resort has bestowed Southern hospitality and unparalleled elegance to an impressive guest list. British royalty, heads of state, movie stars and professional athletes have all heralded the resort's distinctive charm. With a fascinating history laced with social prominence and a remarkable revitalization, the Belleview Biltmore Resort holds a rightful position on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the Belleview Biltmore unites historic charm with contemporary amenities to bring guests an experience that is simply beyond compare. Join us for an exciting walk through the history of this remarkable grand dame resort.
January 15, 1897 – Grand Opening
The Belleview opens its doors and its 145 rooms to a gathering of founder and transportation magnate, Henry B. Plant's friends, family, and business associates. Also at this gathering are a host of area residents who watched in wonder, during the previous 18 months, as the magnificent structure that would soon become known as "The White Queen of the Gulf" took shape high above the Intracoastal Waterways of Clearwater. The original hotel is four stories high and runs four hundred feet from east to west and is ninety-six feet wide.
The Belleview bicycle track, which includes a grandstand for viewing, is used for horse racing. The bicycle track has been described as wooden, asphalt and even brick. However, the Pinellas County Historical Museum lays claim to a section of the old bicycle path which is actually constructed of oyster shell. It was demolished between 1910 and 1914 to build one of the golf courses.
A nine-hole golf course with sand greens is designed and constructed by Launcelot Cressy Servos.
June 23, 1899
Henry Plant dies suddenly at his Fifth Avenue home in New York City. His son, Morton, takes over as vice president of the Plant Investment Company and runs the Belleview until his death in 1918.
Palm Cottage is built, the first in a series of private winter homes constructed on the hotel grounds for wealthy families.
The original wood exterior, which has faded to a dull color, is painted a bright white and the roof is retiled with green shingles (instead of red). The Belleview then becomes known as the "White Queen of the Gulf".
The entrance bridge provides much more than access to the hotel. It houses a curio shop, antique shop, and two museums, one exhibiting mounted fish and the other mounted animals.
At his wife Margaret's urging, construction begins on an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Dedicated as always to excellence, Plant brings in tile setters from Italy to install the more than one million multi-colored ceramic tiles which line the seventy-five by sixty-foot pool.
The boat dock and bathing pavilion are popular with guests. Boats are available for fishing, sightseeing, and transportation to and from Sand Key Beach.
The Belleview Hotel purchases a 1917 American LaFrance fire engine. The hotel was one of the earliest hotels to have its own fire department and police force.
The Belleview Hotel is an ideal vacation spot for industry leaders such as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Ford, although on vacation, has to be in constant contact with his plant in Detroit, so the Belleview is an excellent choice because telephone and telegraph service are available on the premises as well as a post office. Guests can even buy the Wall Street Journal and keep up with the stock market.
Although it never made the Top Ten, the Belleview is one of few hotels to have a waltz composed in its name. Plant commissioned Miss Stella Spurlin of Camden, Alabama, to compose "The Belleview Waltz" which was dedicated to Mrs. H.B. Plant.
The Stone Crab Club is formed. Its membership consists of guests who have spent at least five winters at the Belleview. Members are given a silver buckle in the shape of a crab, and at the annual party, stone crabs and champagne are always served.
The 120-foot East Wing is added, doubling the size and capacity of the hotel from 145 to 290 guest rooms. A new, much larger kitchen and dining room are established on the north side of the main wing.
John McEntee Bowman of the Biltmore Hotel chain purchases the hotel, now known as the Belleview Biltmore. Bowman also purchases the Belleview's sister hotel, the Griswold, in New London, Connecticut.
After young Henry Plant II is involved in an automobile accident, Morton Plant offers an endowment fund of $100,000 for maintenance of a hospital in Clearwater, provided the community can raise $20,000. Morton Plant Hospital opens in 1916 with twenty-one rooms.
Donald J. Ross is hired to design two golf courses and, even though it was commonly believed that grasses for greens wouldnıt grow in Florida, Morton Plant experiments with grasses, fertilizers, and soils.
The Olympic swimming pool is used for Olympic Swimming Trials.
The roster of Belleview Biltmore guests reflect the aura of extravagance and indulgence of the time. Railroad presidents pull up on the Belleview Biltmore's side tracks in their private cars. The Studebakers, the DuPonts, the Pew family of Sun Oil, the Vanderbilts and others associated with "America's aristocracy" check in.
1920: The golf links are frequented by some of the most famous golfers and athletes in the country, including baseball player Rube Marzard, golfer Gene Sarazen, baseball great Babe Ruth and golfer Johnny Farrell..
1924: The second and final addition is begun. When complete, the hotel has 425 rooms; of these, 380 are guest rooms. The rest are used for staff and administrative purposes. James H. Ritchie of Brookline, Massachusetts, is the architect for this $1 million expansion, which includes the construction of the South Wing and an addition to the dormitory, as well as enlarging the grand dining room, the Tiffany Room.
1939: Arnold Kirkeby purchases the Belleview Biltmore. Kirkeby started his career as an investment security salesman in 1919. He moved on the become president of the K Corporation, the K Natus Corporation, Warwick Realty and formed the Kirkeby Hotel chain.
The Belleview Biltmore is completely self-sufficient, with its own post office, police and fire departments that also serve the Town of Belleair, with the general manager acting as postmaster.
1940: Kirkeby and his wife, known as "the most gracious hosts from coast to coast," host the Brooklyn Dodgers for spring training. The upper deck of the pool house is removed, since sunbathing has become a popular pastime.
1942: The Belleview Biltmore enters the war effort when it is requisitioned by the U.S. Army Air Corps to provide extra housing for servicemen training at MacDill and Drew Air Fields in Tampa. Immediately, the hotelıs ledgers and registers, antique furniture, furnishings, supplies and equipment are removed and stored in warehouses. Later most of these items were used in other Kirkeby hotels or sold at auction, resulting in the loss of a major portion of the hotelıs history. The hotelıs seventeen hundred windows, as well as the glorious panels between the hallway and the Tiffany Room are slathered with heavy coats of black paint to block escaping light. Submarine scares are common as nervous soldiers and Floridians keep watch on the waters of Clearwater Bay and the Gulf of Mexico beyond. The post office, police and fire departments are moved off hotel property and become the responsibility of the Town of Belleair.
1943: The government requires the hotel to hook up to Florida Power. Until now, the hotel had its own power plant and water pump system.
1943: August: The U.S. Army Corp moves out. On the last day of their residence, the installation of a brand-new, state-of-the-art $100,000 sprinkler system is completed. The Belleviewıs corridors are silent for the first time.
1944: Kirkeby sells the Belleview Biltmore to multi-millionaire Ed C. Wright at auction for $275,000. Ed C. Wright made his fortune during the Depression dealing in municipal bonds and defaulted coupons. During Wright’s ownership, the Belleview Biltmore remains closed.
1946: Wright sells the Belleview Biltmore to a group of investors from Detroit headed by Bernard and Mary Powell, his sister Nora Peabody and Roger L. Stevens. Mr. Powell was an attorney admitted to practice before the Supreme Court. Mr. Stevens was a part owner in the Empire State Building in New York City and a Broadway theatrical producer. He was also the guiding light behind the Kennedy Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C.
1947: January 10: Somehow the impossible was accomplished in time for the gala reopening of the renovated and redecorated Belleview Biltmore. These years are devoted to restoring the Belleview Biltmore to her original splendor. New plumbing, new wiring, fresh paint, and the reopening of the golf courses highlight the restoration.
For eight seasons, Cal Gifford, popular band leader and music director, appears at the Belleview Biltmore. The band plays at the swimming pool every day for lunch, always opening with "Anchors Away." The band also plays in the lounge before dinner and provides dance music for the rest of the evening as well as for shows in the Starlight Room.
1953: The Duke of Windsor spends the winter season at the Belleview Biltmore.
1958: The Belleair Fire Department, which had been housed on the grounds since 1917, is relocated in town.
1963: Powell builds and equips the Cabana and Beach Club, which provides a beautiful white sandy, gently sloping beach across the Intracoastal Waterway from the hotel.
1975: Aluminum siding is installed on the Belleview Biltmore. It takes a crew of fifteen men, working ten hours a day, six days a week for four months to install the 1,800-plus squares of siding and more than 5.8 miles of aluminum window trim. Previously, it took one thousand gallons to paint this elegant resort.
1979: The Belleview Biltmore is proudly named to the National Register of Historic Places.
1985: The Belleview Biltmore receives two very prestigious designations: Mobil Travel Guide gives the Belleview Biltmore the Four-Star Award and World Tennis Magazine names her a Five-Star Tennis Resort.
1985: December: Powell and his co-owners sign a three-year lease option agreement with a partnership comprised of developer Charles Rutenberg, spa executive Salu Devnani and Belleview General Manager Christopher Reyelt to operate the Belleview Biltmore and to keep her open year-round. The partnership also pours $10 million into a renovation of the guest rooms and the construction of a new, luxurious, state-of-the-art spa.
1993: Hulk Hogan announces in a press conference at the Belleview Biltmore that he would star in a two-hour pilot for CBS, entitled, "Thunder in Paradise."
1995: The Belleview Biltmore becomes a television star, used as a backdrop for the filming of a segment of ABC-TV's family drama entitled "Second Noah."
1997: Lady Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister, is welcomed to the Belleview Biltmore.
2008: September: Just before his election to the Presidency of the United States, Senator Barack Obama enjoyed a stay at the Belleview Biltmore. Unfortunately, he had to shorten his planned trip after being called to the White House due to the Wall Street crisis, but said he hopes to return.
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