History of the Hotel Newspaper Articles Memberships Message Board Photos of the Biltmore
Sam Casella's (www.PlanningAuthority.com)
Letters and Documents
Below are messages of support and ideas that people have written into this web site to save the beautiful Biltmore Hotel. Current messages are at the bottom of this page.
Sam Casella's (www.PlanningAuthority.com) Letters and Documents
Letter from Sam Casella:
May 15, 2005
Dear Biltmore Supporters:
Friday, May 13, 2005 was a very good day for all who want to save the Biltmore! For those few who have been working to demolish the landmark it was just another baleful Friday the 13th.
Two significant things happened that day. First, the town manager, to his credit, sent out a memo signaling that he has accepted several major arguments put forth by preservationists regarding the pending demolition permit. Second, the Town Commission, to their credit, hired as their legal counsel for this matter Nancy Stroud who is arguably the finest legal talent in the state for this type of case. The implication of these two events taken together is we can reasonably anticipate that the town is going to reject the demolition permit and fight hard to defend that position. I say bravo!
As a citizen and professional planner who has strived for those two events to occur, I’m deeply encouraged that Friday was a turning point in the battle to save the Biltmore. Not the end of the fight by any means. But certainly a turning point. Just 10 days earlier the town’s former legal counsel was telling the world that there is little that could be done to stop the demolition (St. Petersburg Times, May 14, 2005). Now it is clear that the demolition can be stopped and there is an opportunity for all of us to take action that will give the Biltmore the permanent protection it deserves.
For those of you interested in some details of the 10 days that led up to Friday’s turning point, I’m making available four documents:
My letter to the Town (May 6) recommending five attorneys
for consideration as special counsel. This letter was sent after
3 days in which I contacted land use lawyers around the state to identify
the best legal talent to represent the town in this type of litigation.
Number one on my list was Nancy Stroud who the town has now hired.
My letter to the Town (May 12) transmitting a professional planner’s analysis of the major issues confronting the demolition permit.
My 11 page analysis (May 12) demonstrating that the demolition permit could not be issued because it would be inconsistent with the town’s comprehensive plan and because the applicant had failed to comply with the development review provisions in the town’s code of ordinances. My analysis was vetted with several land use attorneys including Michael W. Morell, Terrell Arline, Nancy Stroud, Steve Helfman, and Ted Taub. A few hours after taking my analysis to town hall, I got a call from the town manager about it and the next day his memo (mentioned above) was sent out.
A letter to me from Terrill K. Arline (May 11) providing his opinion as an attorney that it would be a clear violation of state statutes and local ordinances for the town to issue a demolition permit without first considering whether that development order would be consistent with the comprehensive plan. This letter was sent to the town on May 12.
My message to all of you dear people who are fighting this fight is that we have won a battle, but much remains to be done. Everyone needs to stay involved until we have ensured that the hotel is protected by the full weight of intelligent public policies, strong local ordinances, and other legal tools such as conservation easements. We also need to develop wise strategies to ensure that its physical condition is protected and that it remains economically viable. Those accomplishments lay ahead of us, and only when they are in place can we rest easy and be secure that the events of a few weeks ago will not happen again. The hotel may be given a reprieve and the next months and years will determine whether we can make the most of it.
Thank you and best regards,
Sam Casella, FAICP, PP
The Planning Authority ® LLC
310 Overbrook Dr., Belleair, FL 33756-2031, USA
Mobile (USA) +1.727.488.3898
Mobile (China) +86.137.1804.4770
Dear Mr. Urdang and Mr. DeBartolo, (owners and reported purchasers of the Biltmore)
In the St. Petersburg Times this week, I have read about the recent contract between you and the DeBartolo Development company to sell and purchase the beautiful Victorian Belleview Biltmore Hotel and destroy it and to put in condominiums defacing Belleair's history and Pinellas County's history. I know you, Mr. Urdang, live in the Philadelphia area, a city of proud American heritage with a known reputation of saving historical buildings and artifacts. So you know how important it is to preserve American history.
We in Pinellas County and Belleair also want to preserve our local American heritage too! The citizens of Belleair and Pinellas need this historical landmark!
We are hoping here in Pinellas County and the town of Belleair that you let us keep what is so valuable to us, a part of history, a part of our heritage. It is our one true historical building that has so much meaning to us. Please sell it to the non profit organization who wants to purchase it. They can at least save all or part of it.
St. Petersburg Preservation, Inc.
P.O. Box 838
St. Petersburg, FL 33731
Bob and Alice Cooper
This speech was given to the Town of Belleair Commissioners' Meeting June 21, 2005
Dear Council Members,
My name is Ed (last name held upon request)
I want to thank the town council and everyone else for all their efforts in trying to save the Biltmore.
Over 400 people in the town of Belleair signed two petitions sponsored by the Friends of the Belleview Biltmore in May of 2005. These were never submitted to my knowledge to the town of Belleair for a vote but are still in the possession of the Friends of the Belleview Biltmore. (readers, please note, this group is led by the woman who I broke away from, Rae Claire Johnson on June 5, 2005) These petitions if passed either by a vote or the town council would guarantee the preservation of the north and south wings of the Belleair Biltmore Hotel by changing the zoning laws. It will also stop condo/hotel development.
It is very important to remember that 400 people in Belleair wanted to SAVE these two historically significant wings of this beautiful Victorian hotel. They signed petitions to ensure that this would be pursued. Yet the Friends of the Belleview Biltmore continued to push towards destroying these two wings with developers while they were continuing to have people sign what appears now to be worthless petitions. This makes absolutely no sense.
I will read a few lines from an article published May 3rd in the St. Petersburg Times"
"The charter amendment would not prevent the hotel from being razed. But Ken Weiss, a Treasure Island lawyer, said it might discourage developers from proceeding with demolition if they know it will be difficult to replace it with condos.
"They probably can be certain the citizens will not rezone it for multifamily housing. I think the incentives are significantly reduced," Weiss said.
Alan Zimmet, an attorney for several municipalities over the years, said the amendment might create legal challenges by infringing on developers' rights.
"The idea is that it's not supposed to be a popularity contest. Zoning should be based upon the relevant facts," Zimmet said.
While it may be uncommon to give citizen approval in these type of land use decisions, it's NOT unheard of.
What happened to these petitions and where are they?
To use an analogy, it is like foxes going out to get
petitions signed by farmers to provide protection for hen houses, and then
the foxes keeping the petitions without getting a vote by the farmers!
(pause and look up)
Some claim that the Biltmore will be beyond repair if a seller is not found quickly.
Historic property owners often attempt to use what is referred to as 'Demolition by Neglect' to circumvent historic preservation.
The National Trust has an extremely important preservation document which will ensure preservation of the Biltmore while a buyer is found. Here is the document that will help prevent the current owner from pursing "Demolition by Neglect."
Town preservation ordinances can be reviewed and drafted to insure that the historic structures such as the Biltmore are properly maintained. Ordinances and strong enforcement are used by other preservation groups to stop property owners from attempting 'Demolition by Neglect'.
(HOTEL ROOMS VS CONDO/HOTEL ROOMS)
I walked up and down two miles of east, west, north and south wing Biltmore corridors. Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth, Henry Ford, the Studebakers, the DuPonts, the former King of England, (the Duke of Windsor) the Vanderbilts, and Joe DeMaggio and others from history also strolled these same corridors in all of these wings.
Both inside and outside you see consistent moldings, wainscot and sculpted exterior components which tell you the Biltmore was meant to be preserved in its entirety.
Saving all wings and saving the original hotel rooms are vital to preserve both Belleair's and Pinellas county's history.
If we take out the insides of the north and south wings, and replace with hotel/condo units,we will only have an empty facade of the original hotel!
The Biltmore hotel will only be a shell of what it used to be!
If developers gut the north and south wings, and put in condo/hotel rooms, they are destroying the Victorian beauty of the hotel.
The master comprehensive plan is to PRESERVE a historic
hotel, which includes the hotel rooms they way they
are today, and NOT condo/hotel units!
If the insides are gutted and redeveloped into condo/hotel units, then the hotel would be still have its old wrapper around it but the insides will be a phony facade,
If there are hotel/condo units built, the Biltmore will then be a fake!
Its new title will be the world's largest continually occupied fake Victorian hotel!
We must save all the original hotel rooms for the Biltmore to be a true Victorian hotel!
Remember this: the man who wishes to buy the Biltmore is the SAME man who is tearing down Clearwater's landmark hotel, the Clearwater Beach Hotel and putting in condominiums in its place with only a small hotel.
We are losing Florida tourist dollars and our reputation as a great place for fun in the sun because of this man's destructive plans for Clearwater Beach and destructive plans for the Biltmore.
The current plan of this developer is a destructive plan and just another way to sell condominiums!
Condo hotels are just hotel/condos with room service!
Note how this man keeps changing his mind, morphing new ideas as time goes along. He already has had THREE plans and just added a FOURTH plan yesterday!
First it was to chop off the north and south wings,
and put condo/hotels in a semi circle around the east and west wings or
the core of the hotel.
Then it was to chop off 2 wings and replace with similar but fake wings.
Then it was to chop off 1 wing, the south wing, replace with hotel/condo units, and cut the north wing and replace that with condo/hotel units.
Now a fourth chain of events, is that he wants to "renovate" both wings, which really means he wants to gut the insides of the north and south wings and put in condo/hotel units.
Can this man ever make up his mind!?
Can we ever trust this developer!?
DISADVANTAGES OF HOTEL CONDO UNITS
Here are the disadvantages of hotel/condo units as
reported in an article in the newspaper, U.S.A. Today.
September 21, 2004 by Joel Greene.
1. Numbers are increasing, but not many condo hotels
are convenient to business travel destinations.
2. The unit may lose value over time.
3. Hotels typically limit the time the owner may use them.
4. Financing is usually slightly costlier than for a primary residence. Lenders view them
as a greater risk.
5. You may need to give notice that you'll be staying in the hotel.
6. You may not be able to use the room if it has been reserved by another guest.
7. You are likely to pay fees for housekeeping and other services.
8. There may be a monthly condo fee.
9. Income from guests staying in your unit may be cut when travel declines.
10. You may wish to buy insurance to protect against liability claims and some type of damage or loss.
It was reported in the St. Petersburg Times on Monday, June 20, that by August 1, THREE boat marinas will be torn down because of developers putting in condominiums in Pinellas County. Hundreds of boats are being displaced as condominium developers are buying out marinas in Clearwater. We are losing our access to water now because of condo development. We must put a stop to all this over development with condominiums in our county and in Belleair.
Would they gut the insides of both White House wings
and put in a shopping mall and then call that restoration!
No that is destruction, that is NOT preservation!
Ed (last name withheld upon request)
Since the Belleview Biltmore is the largest wooden structure in Florida and the largest continually occupied wooden structure in the world, it would be terrific to use this to develop its reputation. For example have a school for woodcrafts including: woodworking, such as restoring and making anything with wood, wooden boats, antique reproductions, wood carving, veneering, wood joining, cabinet making and marquetry. The Belleview Biltmore could also have a wood craft museum, wood product museum through the ages and pay as you go classes. Since the hotel is Victorian, have a Victorian lobby, furnish some guest rooms with a Victorian themes and have Victorian school of cooking with original recipes. Since the magnificent Tiffany ballroom has original Tiffany glass in the ceiling, stained glass classes would fit right in.
Name withheld upon request
I am a Tampa Bay native and hold an advanced degree in Cultural History. I am also the former Curator of the Ybor City Museum, a Board Member of Tampa Historical Society, Member of the Tampa Bay Visitor and Convention Center, owner of a successful Ghost Walk Tour business, and living history/museum theater specialist for the Henry B. Plant Museum.
I am writing to protest, in the strongest possible terms, the proposed demolition of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Clearwater, Florida. There are many, many reasons why this proposed action is deplorable and, to those of us who have authentic investments - economic, academic, preservationist, traditional, familial - in the Tampa Bay area, completely unacceptable.
To take only one: The Belleview Biltmore's chief architect was F.J. Kennard, whose buildings (both public and private) have graced the area since the early 1920s. An immigrant from Scotland, Kennard - first alone and later with his son - designed some of Tampa Bay's most important structures. Among these were the Floridan Hotel, the Seville Apartments in Hyde Park, the Maas Brothers Department store in downtown Tampa, and the Rialto Theater, a charming and unique Mediterranean Revival theater in which was housed the Tampa Unit of the famed WPA Theater Project during the Great Depression. Kennard's graceful and topical architecture was unique in that it perfectly blended suitability to site and use/function with the decorative wit and topical style of the 1920s and 30s. This was a fragile era in American architecture. The best examples of its structural style were and are victims of suburban sprawl. Abandoned in or near our urban areas, their original use-functions have fled, but their importance to a rich and complete sense of ourselves and our history has increased in value.
From buildings such as Kennard's we learn - in abundant detail - how people in our recent past lived, what they liked, how and with what tools they worked, what they valued. This enables us to understand not only whom we were but whom we are, since no society re-invents itself each generation completely from scratch.
No one expects developers and real estate speculators to interpret these buildings and their esoteric cultural meanings. Developers and real estate speculators deal in land and property; this is the field of their expertise. But historians, preservationists, and social critics have as their field of expertise the past, along with everything and everyone in it. To them the Belleview Biltmore is transparent, a window of surpassing clarity to a complex and informative landscape of human endeavors. If we as a society did not value this landscape and the windows to it, we would not make THE DA VINCI CODE a best seller nor NATIONAL TREASURE a box office hit. If Americans did not value this landscape then millions would not travel to historic sites like MYSTIC SEAPORT, COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG, JAMESTOWN, KEY WEST, THE ALAMO, or MT. VERNON. Nor do we go just to look. We go to learn.
We can only learn if we have the sites and artifacts from which to learn. And we will only, ever, have these sites and artifacts if we agree, as a society, to respect and preserve them.
Listen to what the society around you is saying. Spare the Belleview Biltmore. If you participate in its destruction, you will participate in the willful destruction of your own heritage as well as that of the world around you.
Maureen Patrick, M.A.
Editor: (Tampa Tribune)
Saturday April 23, 2005, The Tampa Tribune’s front page stated: To Protect
Raze? Biltmore Feud Is On and the
I enjoyed the Tribunes: “…Feud is On…” sounded like a phrase pulled from the cartoon strip in Get Fuzzy where the cat, Bucky is a fight with his ferret neighbor. Well, maybe the situations are similar.
Unfortunately, the stories in the Tribune and Times were not about cartoon characters but related the true saga of the grand wood frame historic landmark, the Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa built in 1897 now with a bulldozer close at hand ready to demolish the structures creating the complex.
The destruction of historic landmarks decreases the character that differentiates metropolitan areas. The Bay Area makes a planning decision when it ignores the plight of the historic Belleview Biltmore Resort. Destruction of the Biltmore erodes the history and roots of the concept of community.
Appears repairs and upkeep on the Belleview Biltmore have been strategically delayed. This failure to maintain presumably was to support demolitions, discourage restoration and increase the cost of historic preservation. No problem, it is hard to be disheartened when you’ve tromped through the Vinoy before restoration and visited the Don Cesar when the windows and doors were boarded over. The Biltmore is in good shape for a grand old lady and she has tales to tell.
Internationally metropolitan areas are listening to their history and the tales coming from their landmarks. Lack of concern for historic landmarks goes to the heart of the community’s identity and should be closely scrutinized before slash and burn techniques are used to maximize profits. The immediate profit for one may diminish surrounding property valuations, increase density and remove the cachet of an area.
Communities obtain images, feels, and textures. The interdependence of physical surrounding upon the way we live and our quality of life are quantitative measures of comfort and health in an urban environment.
discount the ecological balance of the communities’ culture and heritage
takes away its memory and identity reducing lifestyle. What price
do we put on historic preservation and lifestyle? We will see as
time runs out. We need to talk compromise to save the Belleview Biltmore
and quality of life in the Bay area we can have light, art and historic
buildings to spotlight if we do not ignore the beauty that is
The Forrester Group
The Forrester Group
You don't have to pay hundreds of dollars to get into search engines. That's for people who don't want to spend the time. Just have a volunteer who knows what he's doing. The more sites link to your site, the better your chances are. So ask your friends and supporters and business organizations and clubs to add a link to this site. I will be sending more suggestions later. I have a large web site, and I never paid a penny to get into search engines.
I am writing you today about our plight to try to save the Belleview Biltmore Resort Hotel, in Belleair, Florida.
The Belleview Biltmore was built in 1897 by Henry Plant. It is the largest wooden structure in the world. The Belleview Biltmore is a beautiful building. It is truly magnificent! From the lobby to the ballrooms, the restaurant, and spa.
As you are probably aware, there is a contract for the purchase of the hotel. The developers are supposedly demolishing it so they can build condominiums. Pinellas County already has an astounding amount of condominiums available. It would be a tragedy to demolish such a grand structure. The Belleview Biltmore is on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
If this building is razed, there would be no history left to share with our children and grandchildren. Our community would be grateful if we could spare the Belleview Biltmore and preserve it.
Please see if there is anything that can be done to save it!
Thank you so much!
I have sent my own mass e-mail. Thank you for providing away for us to help save history.
I would like to see the town officials more involved in preserving the historic structures in Belleair, especially the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. We as residents of Belleair look up to them for the support of the town and a voice for it's citizens. What has their involvement in this issue been ? ? ?
Thanks, the Biltmore must not go to condos. where do I send the donation..save the Biltmore...Dan
Dear Ms. Hein,
You may want to see my article in the Tampa Tribune also not about the Biltmore but the old Federal Courthouse. The same concept. Cultural artifacts are seldom financially self supporting. I lecture and write on these issues. Your solution hopefully will be to raise support for a financial compromise that will save the Biltmore and allow development to support the structure and encourage use. Best wishes! Geneva Forrester, CEO and President, the Forrester Group
Below is an editorial originally printed in the St.
Petersburg Times also written by Geneva Forrester, President and CEO of
the Forrester Group
Landmarks crucial to preserving city's character
Letters to the Editor
Published November 24, 2004
Re: Historic hotel to get new owner, story, Nov. 18.
What landmarks are we willing to preserve? The Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa, built in 1897, is now considered disposable. This questions our investment in growth of culture and community in the 21st century.
New ventures and prospective residents look for an educated work force and a hospitable social climate. The housing, education, roads and sewers make up the basic infrastructure that creates the time for cultural enrichment. Supporting landmark preservation gives character to a city and sets it apart from other cities, eliminating the cookie-cutter image that all cities are alike.
The Belleview Biltmore has ghosts from past guests that come to life when you walk the wooden, creaky floors. Turn around quickly and you see the grand entry of a former patron reflected in the windowpanes of the French doors, the breeze catching her flowing skirts.
However, as pointed out by Belleair Mayor George E. Mariani Jr. in your Nov. 18 article, "If it is that important to a community, then why, economically, has it not survived?"
The issue with the landmark and historic preservation is whether the value to the city aesthetically and historically justifies maintaining the Biltmore. If so, an economically viable compromise should be considered to sustain the sense of beauty and belonging that the buildings bring to the community.
The movement to create livable, workable economic growth in cities requires cooperation. Retaining historic buildings and fortifying character distinguishes metro areas and gives them the power to compete worldwide. Only with the active participation of the populace can the character and spirit of an area be maintained.
The 1897 Belleview Biltmore Resort cannot be rebuilt
once the history and aura are gone. Florida, we can and should invest in
historic preservation to improve our quality of life and as a basis for
the area's economic development. Waltzing in the moonlight can be a sound
-- Geneva Forrester, President,The Forrester Group
I really enjoyed your web page. I have been to the
Belleview Biltmore Twice and I hope to be back soon, It is one of my favorite
places. I hope the best turns out for the resort. I was stunned when I
read about DeBartolo trying to demolish it. It is part of the history of
Tommy (last name withheld on request)
Heritage personified! How dare they dishonor history by knocking down the Biltmore and replacing its splendor with condos. Only a few of the wealthy will profit!!! The Biltmore's splendor should continue to be shared with the public!!! RALLY TO SAVE THE BILTMORE!!!
Good luck with your campaign Diane. With so many good examples of American heritage at the Biltmore, it would be a great shame to demolish it when there are bound to be numerous other better suited sites for new development. It would be a shame to lose its history.
Hats off to you for trying to save the Biltmore! If you haven't already, seek assistance from your local Historical Society and Clearwater Main Street. Good luck with your venture!
Certified Florida Main Street Consultant, has provided consultation and facilitated services for forty-two Florida communities in the areas of Urban Design, Economic Restructuring, Organization, Fundraising, Strategic Planning and Implementation. First Woman Mayor of Stuart Florida 1981-82, 1989-90. Arcade Associates. Partner and Business Manager of 15,000 sq. ft commercial building eleven retail and restaurant businesses. Jefferson Art Gallery-Owner and Manager. Owed and restored 28 Historic structures. Technical assistance in Writing or Re-writing Comprehensive Plans, Zoning Codes and Other Ordinances in Support of Redevelopment. Land Use Committee Town of Highlands, NC 1998,2003.
I hope there is a way found to save this beautiful historic site. In the 70's Sand Key was destroyed by "progress". The big money developers are destroying everything, building monstrosities on every inch of oceanfront. I know there has to be progress, but does it have to destroy every bit of our historic past? I remember when in my home state they began demolishing our beautiful old courthouse buildings. The one in my hometown gave way to a mass of metal and glass. It had sentimental value to me because one of my ancestors had his name on the cornerstone. It was sad.
Jo Ann (last name held on request)
I WAS recently thinking about getting married at the Biltmore in May of 2006. I just saw the article today 4/12/05 about the Biltmore being under contract. I hope you can help me.. the hotel will not provide any information and I definitely don't want to loose my money by giving a deposit to them for the reception, I am suppose to give them the $ this week. Do you think they will keep their end of the bargain to host my wedding and have the roof completed with all this stuff going on? I don't know what to do.
As a resident of this beautiful community for 9 years now, I have seen the controversy over the Biltmore ebb and flow from time to time. I agree that it should be preserved as an historic place to be preserved for our children and their children. We certainly DON'T NEED any more condos, God knows there are so many of them here already BUT, as they are built or apartments are made over to be sold as condos, THEY ARE BOUGHT BEFORE THEY CAN BE FINISHED. I believe that the answer lies in finding someone in our community, some sports star perhaps who it making obscene amounts of money to play ball, to support saving this site. Perhaps someone there could be convinced that their image would be enhanced by giving something back to the community and be remembered in history for something beside how far they can toss a football. Just my thought, there is a LOT OF MONEY there...They build homes that are bigger than most families of ten need to live in, perhaps they can share their wealth in this historic site that has been "home" at least for a few nights, to so many historic people.
I just read an article in today's St. Pete Times stating that the same company that tried to buy it & demolish it last year has another contract on it. I'm wondering this, if taxpayers (be they county or state) can "foot the bill" for a stadium for the Glaziers, why can't the state purchase the Biltmore?
Not only do I dislike the idea of demolishing a beautiful, historic building, the idea of all the traffic a 100-unit condo community will create is frightening. What's the prognosis?
Laurie (last name withheld on request)
I am glad you have this website to help make people aware of the glory of the Biltmore. The sad thing I have found out about Florida lately is that is being overpopulated by "rich white trash" who value nothing. They go around and have homes torn down so they can erect a gaudy "mansion houses" to impress their friends. Historical places like the Biltmore mean nothing to them or major corporations. Saving the Biltmore requires big bucks. With Donald Trump getting to erect his hideous tower in downtown Tampa I wonder if he would like the good PR of rescuing the Biltmore from a horrible fate. That is how you get places saved. Find someone with scads of money and appeal to their egos by showing that rescuing a historic place makes them look good. It sounds ruthless, but as they say "all is fair in love and war." This is war. I have lived in Clearwater for thirty seven years and have watched it be overtaken by the brazen flash merchants.
It will take a community and one unified front to save this landmark. If we could get everyone in Pinellas Co to chip in $100, that would be $100-million. There will be those who will not care, but those who would chip in thousands, tens of thousands, or millions to make up for those who do not. Growing up here, it disgusts me how they small mom and pops are being torn down at the beaches, and if they tear the Biltmore down, it will be like they ripped at the heart of Pinellas County. I would commit $10,000 to a unified well funded group.
Sincerely, Jeff (last name withheld on request)
I am interested in helping with the effort to save the Biltmore. In the last year and a half I have toured it twice and can't imagine seeing it torn down when it holds so much history! It sickens me! It seems that in this area, waterfront property, financial gain and hi rise condos are more important than history preservation. Please let me know what I can do to help in the effort. Thank you.
T. N. (last name withheld on request)
I just got back from a stay there, and there it needs to stay. I would even consider selling my time share and purchase one here, if we can use that for an option-Time share. Save the Queen!
HI , I would like to say I support this cause and will help do whatever it takes to preserve this wonderful hotel. I can't tell how sad it makes me to think they would tear it down . For what condo's??? I don't think so . Please feel free to contact me.
Thank you, Margie (last name withheld on request)
We think what you're doing is fantastic! The best of luck to you and your organization. We love the Belleview Biltmore, and our daughter works there. It would really be a tragedy to see such a wonderful, historic place get demolished in the name of progress. I wonder if the National Trust for Historic Preservation could be of any help? I have heard of that organization (wonder if I have the name exactly correct?) and wonder if they could help you? I hope that everybody rallies to save the Biltmore!
Good for you!
We have so little history left in this area, I hate to see another demolition.
With the growth of our area at such a fast pace it appears there is little thought to maintaining the history.
Developers care only for the bottom line. It is up to the residents and our city officials to think about the future and make plans to protect at least a small bit of the historical significance.
Keep it up!
Hi! I love old buildings:) Please tell me how I can help save the Biltmore. We must work together!
You may be familiar with the Hotel Del Coronado near San Diego which is also a wood structure and I believe the largest wood structure in the west. It was originally wired by Thomas Edison and is a landmark as is the Belleview Biltmore. Ultimately the city purchased and managed the property and it continues to operate today. If the property continues to run in the red as with previous owners it will ultimately be doomed unless a government entity purchases and manages the property.
Keep up the good work. We are 5 month residents on
the Biltmore condos and very concerned with the possible destruction of
this gem. Please keep us informed.
Thanks Bob and Sharon
I support 'Save the Biltmore'. I live in Largo and discovered this lovely resort earlier this year. Since then, I've toured the hotel, eaten in it's restaurants and both taken lessons at and used it's tennis facilities. NOW THAT I'VE DISCOVERED IT, PLEASE DON'T TEAR THE BILTMORE DOWN! INSTEAD, ADVERTISE IT MORE!!
Kathy C (last name withheld on request)
I do not want to see the hotel go.
We were recently Biltmore visitors, on a tour with
our church in Sun City Center. And we were very much impressed with
its style and beauty. It would, indeed, be a sorry day to see it
razed in favor of condos.
But we can see the plight of the owners, as well.
It is not practical to own something that loses money every month, unless
unlimited funds are available, and ownership is more pride than profit.
The crying out by town residents will not pay the bills !
It seems that in order to save it, there needs to be a change in use to some extent. One alternative might be to convert some or all of the rooms into condominiums. Could this be done to turn the finances around?
Another choice might be to involve government aid in some way. It is already on the List of Historic Places. This may not carry much weight in itself, so could an application be made to change it into a State or Federal Park? There are many such places in the U.S. Yellowstone Park, for instance. There is a hotel there that continues, with the help of Uncle Sam if the customer base cannot keep it in the financial black numbers. If no private owner can afford the losses, perhaps the taxpayers will chip in !!
Lee and Olive Hopkins
Please let me know of what I can do, personally, to assist in saving our magnificent hotel. We have to fight to stop all this madness of destroying beautiful, historic sites and building condo's.....like we need more buildings in this county. Good grief.
We have to rally everyone in our town and county to stop this hideous wreckage. I've also emailed Rae Claire and asked what our next step will be. We must remain committed to saving the "Queen".
Keep up the good work and look forward to participating in any way I can.
I support saving the Biltmore.
This upsets me to see that they want to destroy history! I think the President and congress are doing a good job of that now.
My company had their Christmas party there 5 years
ago and I was soooooo impressed with it!
I think sometimes I was born in the wrong era!
I would like to make a suggestion. WHEN the Lady
is saved, they should REDO the front entrance back to the way it was in
the era! That futuristic look is gaudy to say the least. It
takes away from the charm of the building. You want to have the ambiance
as you walk into the entrance and the parlor! To make it GRAND right
from the beginning again!
It is such a beautiful place!
Why not hosting Fashion shows there, along with not
just weddings but Baptisms, Batmitzvas and all sorts of things.
Also the employees should be dressed in the era also to make it more of the time. Except for the housekeeping. That would be too hard with all the clothing. But I feel if the front desk people were dressed in the fashion as it was then would really bring back the era feeling to all guests. This includes the bell hops and all.
Margaret A. Brown (Maggie)
The Belleview Biltmore Hotel distinguishes Belleair & Pinellas County as special and should remain here as part of our heritage.
Marvin and Mary Ann Schoneman
City officials say they can't do anything to stop the destruction of the Biltmore and that's a crock since they don't have to approve the permits! We hope for the sake of the greedy developers that whatever they build sits empty and they really lose there shirts! As they developers keep bringing more people to this area where are they going to get enough water when we are under water restrictions most of the time now! Also where are they even going to have room to build more roads to handle the traffic that every one complains of now! Where are they going to put the poor people that can't afford $200 thousand plus housing? Are they going to build more homeless shelters that they say they don't have enough of as it is? We are becoming very tired of the greed for the almighty dollar in this area and may even consider leaving if things continue and they can't even consider preserving a little of history that can be so important to the up coming generations.
What a shame if DeBartolo wins. Replacing a beautiful piece of historic architecture with condos. Just what we need . . . more concrete buildings in our landscape.
Ryan and Jennifer Rouse
It is devastating to learn that the Biltmore could be so close to demolition. We would love to know what we can do to help. I was married there last May with the intention of visiting for years to come with our children and grandchildren. I am sick that the thought that this beautiful structure might be destroyed, and all my memories with it.
My husband and I moved to Florida about 3 years ago;
we chose the Belleair area because we fell in love with the historic Belleview
Biltmore. Our son and his fiancee live in NYC and visited the area; they
also fell in love with the BB. In fact, they turn down several modern areas
for their wedding reception in October and chose to reserve the historic
Belleview Biltmore. We want to do everything we possibly can to save this
landmark, a true beacon of Florida history and one in which we should have
We are in the eleventh hour. Call all your elected local, county and federal officials and insist they intervene to stop this travesty! If action is not taken now, the Belleview Biltmore will be lost forever.
What a lovely Hotel, why must all think putting up new structures will improve business an why must something so beautiful be destroyed.
Les & Judith Kuhlman
If you can arrange a SAVE THE BILTMORE ... weekend when some proceeds, or at the least the effort is demonstrated that people support saving the Biltmore, count me in. I would be pleased to stay there even if I have to sleep on the floor if it would help the cause. And then I could write in my newspaper about the visit and even more people would likely pitch in to the effort. I hope you can keep me posted at least add my voice to the list of Floridians who want to preserve their past.
Bonner Joy, publisher
The Islander newspaper
5404 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach FL 34217
Serving Anna Maria Island since 1992
I don't live near the area where this Hotel is but
I live in Hudson Florida and want to know if there is anything I can do
to help the people in Belleair keep this fine Hotel standing? Lets all
get together and save a great place. Todd
I have just emailed this letter to all of the email addresses provided by your wonderful website.
"To Whom it May Concern;
I am writing in support of saving the Belleview Biltmore. I am sickened that, in the name of progress, this historical jewel will be forever erased.
Shame on these developers. For them, it is not about leaving a legacy for our future generations; it is about how many people they can fit into a giant stucco box. It's greed, pure and simple. My suggestion would be to set an example for other companies by restoring this landmark to its former grandeur.
Although I am not a resident of this community, I feel that this matter involves all of us. Pinellas County has given developers enough. The small beachside hotels are falling, with giant condominium buildings rising in their footprint. I plead with these companies to curb the greed and think for once of the betterment of the community. In the end, the result will be a beautifully restored piece of history which will be enjoyed by all.
I pledge to do all I can to support saving the Biltmore."
I hope this helps!!!
Monica Van Liew
Good day Diane,
I lived in Sarasota for forty two years and watched too many historically valuable properties torn down to make way for new developments many of which never were funded and the razed piles of destroyed memories just lay and were eyesores for longer than is comfortable to remember. In some cases the intended developers declared bankruptcy and took their borrowed money and ran. Seems City Fathers ignore those who are already there for the sake of the empty promises of those whom they hope will come. The myth of a broader tax base and more revenues is just that: a myth, a fantasy in which politicians desperately want to believe as they spend more and more of the currently available funds. Next it will be petition to Pave Our Bays!
I suggest you post this organization of the www.nationaltrust.org site... What can I do to help? If someone wants to buy it to preserve, why are these buyers and sellers (probably not from around here), so willing to crush our heritage? It seems the south still has 'carpetbaggers' to worry about ... That hotel can make money, the current people just have not been good custodians. However, doesn't the "buck" stop with the city fathers and mothers who , if I am correct, have the power to say yeah or nay?? If the elected officials approve this, they need to GO and Fast....
P.S. Yes we have now written them. Diane Hein
My wife and I just got back from our honeymoon at the Belleview Biltmore, and to say we were really impressed with the hotel would be an understatement...the hotel is one of those rarest of jewels here in Florida, a truly old building with a great deal of history behind it. You can almost hear the string orchestra playing by the original entranceway as you walk down the grand staircase, or see the couples dancing the night away in the grand ballroom. We left with the feeling that this was a truly magical place! Our accommodations left nothing to be desired and made the experience there that much more special.
There is a strange phenomenon in the US that says the concept of preserving old structures is backwards and anachronistic. Yet, in Europe and Asia, there are buildings still functioning fully that are literally hundreds of years old. The thought of the Belleview Biltmore being razed to make way for some modern, sterile condominiums that would generate considerable profit is truly horrendous. People seem to forget the story of Pennsylvania Station in New York City: constructed about the same time as the Belleview, it was a masterpiece of architecture that served the needs of the major railroads that came in Manhattan; sadly, only photographs exist of it today, since it was torn down in 1964 thanks to a thoughtless mayor and quick-acting developers who circumvented the citizens who were leading the fight to save it. Today, it's still regarded as a great crime that it was torn down to make way for that most horrible of buildings, Madison Square Garden, which for all of its claims to fame, is little more than a barn.
The Belleview Biltmore MUST be preserved and restored to its original glory for future generations to appreciate. It is up to the current owners to understand that the hotel's preservation is a great task, and that if they are unable or unwilling to work towards that goal, then to turn its ownership over to parties willing and able to do what is necessary. Thank you for creating this web site and for getting the word out!
I live in PA and stayed at the Biltmore from April
22-26 , 2005
This is a beautiful hotel. It would be terrible to demolished this old hotel. This hotel does need some remodeling to bring it up to date. I feel they should put condo's on the 3rd and 4th floor. The grounds are beautiful and I liked the seclusion of the hotel. Also with the security guard at the gate I felt very secure there.
The food was excellent and the staff was very friendly. This hotel is on the national registry. Lets keep some historic building building in the US. We don't need to demolish this just because someone wants to be condo's there. Let the developer go someplace else in this area and build his condo's. Everybody I talked to that was staying at the hotel or just came in to see the hotel agreed it should stay. If the right person would remodel the hotel, they could make it into a beautiful hotel again. Just because it is old that doesn't mean it has to be demolished.
Barbara Cisek McGarvey
I love staying there. We should learn from Europe and treasure our heritage rather than tearing it down and putting up another Stepford community. New Hampshire saved Wentworth by the Sea and that is Marriot's most beautiful property.
I had the honor to work as a banquet server at the
White Queen of the Golf. History pours out of its walls. Not only
celebrities have the opportunity to experience a relaxing time at the resort,
but also regular people like us have the chance to be part of its history.
The Belleview Biltmore should not be destroyed. Please, Mr. DeBartolo,
look to another direction; do not let the "Old Lady" and her tales disappear.
P/S: I am from Argentina. I moved to Florida seven years ago, and I have the privilege to live in this great country. The Belleview Biltmore is one of its greatnness.
How inspiring to see such organized, enthusiastic and dedicated people who love Florida the way it was, not the concrete condo jungle that's such a blight. Keep up the good work.
Please save the Biltmore. It is one of the magnificent places left in this area. Beside being the larges wooden structures in the world. When our family moved down here 30 years ago from Mountain Lakes, N.J. we would take all our guest who visited to see this magnificent place. DON'T TAKE IT WAY. It is one of the few classy places left.
Jane B. Hrabovsky
I am disappointed, I had my wedding reception at the Biltmore, it's sad that one of the most historic buildings in Florida is in jeopardy of being destroyed. So it survives hurricanes and storms, but I guess history isn't that important in Florida. Arguably the most popular place in Tampa is Ybor, why? Because it has a history, an interesting one at that. Ybor at night maybe isn't as historic, but during the day, it still has that Cuban Italian flavor. It would be very stupid to destroy that, those buildings and history can't be replaced, neither can the Biltmore.
It was just about a year ago when I stumbled across the Biltmore. I was looking for a beautiful hotel for my wedding quests and myself to stay. The pictures on the website did not do justice for this hotel because when my then fiance and I drove out there to see where our guests and ourselves would be staying it literally took our breath away. With every step I took in that hotel I was absoutley amazed and touched with how much history there is behind it. Why is it that we distroy or try to distroy our history, and to what make a few extra dollars? What has this country come to? Did we not learn ANYTHING from the tragic events that happened on 9/11? We lost a piece of our history, we'll never get that back and now we are CHOSING to lose yet another piece. It's heart breaking, this hotel is not only breath taking, but when you are there you feel as if you are a part of the history that the hotel has carried. One more thing is we are so big on education in this state and you are planning on tearing down a historical structure for money. This hotel has a historical tour EVERY day, you learn so much about this place why get rid of it. I am so disappointed to hear this news and I truly hope we can save ALL of the Biltmore, we have enough condos here in the state of Fl.
To whom it may concern:
27 years ago, I moved to Florida from Iowa and was shown the Belleview Biltmore. It was like nothing I had ever seen in the midwest. This was something unique and special that native Floridians and its transplants could cherish forever! I have since taken my children down the drive by the guardhouse and passed on to them my love of this grand old structure. I hope our family's next generation can do the same. My husband and I have strolled the halls and saturated ourselves in her glory. I tell my visiting friends and family to go experience the Belleview Biltmore.
Can't you just feel the gentle breeze on your
face as you sip a lemonade while rocking on one of her porches?
Capitalize on our past as we move into the future. Allow surrounding property to be developed if we must, but in my opinion, destroying this elegant lady for temporary economic gain is a selfish and evil act. Condos will come, highways will sprawl, and growth is rampant, but let us as responsible citizens do all that we can to save architectural treasures such the the Belleview Biltmore.
Thank you for whatever you can do to keep this jewel from the wrecking ball.
Susan B. Panella
TEW - "YOU'RE FIRED"!
MARIANI "STEP DOWN AND TAKE COTTRELL WITH YOU"
My family and I just stayed at the Bellview Biltmore last month and we loved it! Being an architect myself made it even more meaningful. Economics rule - but any reasonable solution that would allow this facility to remain open and keep serving its devoted patrons must be pursued!
Mark Dreyer, AIA (Richmond, VA)
Are there no developers who are willing to preserve history rather than destroy it? Regardless of the "bottom line," it would be obscene to tear down a valuable reference point to the past as well as extreme arrogance to destroy a glorious landmark that defines the historical significance of this region!
Mary Jane Robbins
I am just sick to think that this wonderful piece of
history could be gone forever. I have been a member of the National
Trust for Historic Preservation for several years now to help in some small
way to save buildings such as this across the country. Florida needs
to adopt legislation for a law to protect buildings on the Historic Register
like other states have done. I support your efforts 100%!
I wonder what would happen if the Biltmore in Coral Bables was threatened with destruction? Or the grand hotel in Makinaw Island, Michigan? Well, on second thought, I know I don't have to wonder about that because the residents in those places would never let that happen. Is it going to happen to the Belleview Biltmore because most of us here are transplanted from other states and not united?
We have visited the Biltmore twice and love it. This wonderful, beautiful piece of history MUST be saved for future generations. It is like stepping into our past for a short time.
James & Margaret Wisler
I have lived in Clearwater since 1954 and have loved the Biltmore from day one. Always mentioned to all our visitors that it was the largest wooden structure under one roof in the world and that it was a national treasure. I grew up here and knew many of the people directly involved with the Biltmore...the Spence's, the Tarr's, the Baskerville's, the Dimmitt's, the Sander's and on and on. This historic part of Belleair MUST BE SAVED, it would be like destroying our history, our heritage. We have enough land to build any number of condos, townhomes, villas, houses, you name it, in other areas....so please DO NOT ALLOW THIS AMAZING STRUCTURE TO BE TORN DOWN! I cannot imagine Clearwater without the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, it would lose something that it could absolutely never regain.
I have a son in critical condition right now and am
not able to do what I'd like to do to help save this world renowned Hotel,
so this comment board will have to be the outlet for my sentiments.
(name withheld upon request)
This letter was printed in the editorial section of the Clearwater Times in the St. Petersburg Times newspaper May 1, 2005, and Mr. Michaels has given me permission to print it in this Biltmore Update and on the Message Board. Please note their exhibit of "Boom-Time Grand Hotels of the 1920s" at the St. Petersburg Museum of History. What a wonderful exhibit to go to!
"Regarding the Belleview Biltmore
Destruction of the Belleview Biltmore will be a severe loss to the heritage of Pinellas County. This grand hotel was built by Henry B. Plant to crown his Florida "System" of railroads and hotels and opened in 1897. In order to assure reliable transportation to the Belleview, Plant also acquired the famous Orange Belt Railway that in many ways is credited for beginning St. Petersburg. The hotel is still today one of the world’s largest wooden structures. It compares with the Hotel Del Coronado near San Diego, California. Very few of these late nineteenth century hotels remain. The Belleview was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
The St. Petersburg Museum of History is currently showing a special exhibit on the Boom-Time Grand Hotels of the 1920s. The exhibit features 10 hotels, 9 of which are still standing. Three of these are yet being used as hotels—the Vinoy, the Don CeSar, and the Dennis (now known as the Kelly). Without the hotels, St. Petersburg’s and Pinellas County’s tourist and development economy would not have happened. The hotels themselves provided employment to thousands of local residents, and made possible employment for a great many more working in related businesses. Aside from their architectural significance and charm and the notables who stayed in them, the hotels play a central part in the history of our economy and community character.
Hopefully, there is hope and a lesson to be learned from this exhibit. Two of our finest hotels, the Vinoy and the Don (how many times did the President stay there this past year?) were themselves on the skids not so many years ago. But enterprising entrepreneurs came forth and now these hotels are flourishing. Our other fine hotels have adapted to become law schools, government offices, academies, banks, and condos. Cannot the same be done for the Belleview Biltmore?
St. Petersburg Museum of History http://www.stpetemuseumofhistory.org/web//
335 Second Avenue NE
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701
phone: 727-894-1052 fax: 727-823-7276
I emailed Donald Trump and asked for help or donations. I don't think it will go anywhere but I tried.
I want to say that we live in the South Garden 8and we also lived at Bayshore I for the last 3 years. We come down every month and sometimes twice a month, and always go over to the Belleview Biltmore each day, for lunch or drinks and sit outside, because it is so beautiful and peaceful there. Every time we are there there is always several functions going on and weddings almost weekly there. So I know they are doing the Business, they need help on restoring it back to it's original look, since it is a Historic Place that is still opened. I do not see how they can sell it and have it torn down. My suggestion would be to take the 4th and 5th floor and redo it and make it modernized for Suites and Penthouses and sell them, and keep the rest of the Hotel as in and update their rooms, but everything else should remain the same on the first floor, and the Pool Area outside is great, and also the Dining area is great. Anyway that is what I would suggest and would like to see happen.
We CANNOT allow them to destroy this living landmark! I will be emailing the mass list and have already sent my comments to Rae Claire Johnson. I'm willing to fight for this one!
Saving the Biltmore is priority ONE, but what will happen to all of the employees that will lose their jobs? They have families to support and house and feed.
To tear down an Historic Building like the Biltmore would be a loss to future generations. For those who have not had the good fortune of enjoying this wonderful hotel or walking its halls or grounds I would suggest you do so and you would not be so quick to support such a tragic event and make sure the demolition does not happen. SAVE THE BILTMORE
H. A. Kuhn
There are so many memories for many people thanks to
the Belleview Biltmore. My sisters & I gave my folks a most memorable
weekend at the Belleview for their 50th anniversary. The entire family
enjoyed that time together. Now that my Dad has passed away that
special weekend holds wonderful memories; and memories are all we have
My husband & I celebrate our anniversaries in the
elegant dining room. When a friend from out of town comes to visit
I always take them to the Belleview for lunch. It's a special place
& there just aren't many special places like the Belleview.
I just can't imagine Clearwater without this beautiful, historical, landmark.
Susan & Neal Masters
Perhaps the commission that is approving the demolition
is taking coaching lessons from Tampa's former Mayor Dick Greco who was
and has been on the DeBartolo payroll for decades. He made sweetheart deals
where the DeBartolo's benefited and he (Greco) and DeBartolo made money
together. Is there perhaps some impropriety going on here?? Has any Governmental
agency recently investigated of the financial affairs of the Commissioners
or of their families that could possibly be the recipients of a "gift",
bribe, or gratuity??
If the Biltmore loses, I believe that the citizens of the State of Florida should DEMAND a Federal Investigation into racketeering. Maybe then, Justice may prevail.
I am a native Floridian, born in Indian Rocks, and lived in Pinellas County for most of my life so far. I've seen the devastation wreaked on our history, the disregard for our old buildings and cherished places. The veneer of transient, touristy Florida belies our true history and obscures our historical sites.
If we are going to change this then all Floridians - native, new, year-round, snowbird - everyone who feels a connection to and a love for the state must work together to raise national awareness of our unique cultural heritage.
I realize that even if it is not demolished for condo construction, the Belleview faces many challenges in her future. Saving it from the bulldozers is only the first step. Continued devotion to finding ways to protect and preserve the hotel will be required in perpetuity.
Would it be possible to model the Belleview preservation after that of the Callenwolde estate in Atlanta, GA? That lovely mansion and at least a portion of its original grounds were rescued from destruction and now serve the community as an arboretum and school of the arts. Dance classes, stage performances, pottery classes, horticulture classes, painting, sculpting, woodworking and other arts events are held there to draw attention and bring revenue to help support the upkeep of Callenwolde (also partly a museum). I know the Belleview is vastly larger, but perhaps a similar program would breathe life and functionality back into the Grand Old Lady.
Whatever happens in the future, we must not allow another piece of our past to be crushed under the developers' heel. We must save her.
THIS MAY SOUND LIKE A CRAZY IDEA, HOWEVER, I THINK ANY IDEA IS WORTH A TRY ! HOW ABOUT CONTACTING "THIS OLD HOUSE", THE HAVE ALOT OF EXPERIENCE DEALING WITH HISTORICAL STRUCTURES, AND JUST MAYBE THEY WOULD BE ABLE TO HELP YOU IN THIS MATTER, ALSO WOULDN'T THE EXPOSURE BE FANTASTIC IF THEY CAME TO TOWN !
(side note...we have contacted This Old House, but
because the Belleview Biltmore is a hotel, they could not help us)
I want to help in any way that I can to save the Biltmore! I even wrote a letter to the Tampa Tribune earlier this year to protect this historical structure (published)
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing this letter to voice my concern over the fate of the Historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Belleair, Florida. She opened her doors to us on January 15, 1897 and has been creating memories ever since. This building holds a tremendous amount of history for us in Pinellas County. From the time she sheltered our servicemen in 1942 who walked her hallways wondering what their fate would be during the War, to the countless dignitaries she has hosted through the years, to the thousands of couples who began their lives toghther there, of which I am one of them, she has meaning. She is an ageless beauty and a priceless treasure and her charm cannot be experienced through photographs alone. We need to be able to walk down her hallways and hear her creaky floors and smell her musty smells to really experience the wonder of this glorious Grand old Dame. Our heritage is very valuable and our historic buildings should be left in tact for future generations to experience and enjoy. The Belleview Biltmore is truly extraordinary and should not be reduced to something so ordinary. Please try and find a way to preserve this wonderful landmark. The memories she holds within her walls should not be lost to the wrecking ball.
Concerned Pinellas County Resident
I don't want to see the Biltmore razed!! There has been too much destruction in the area in regards to the almighty dollar. Is nothing sacred anymore? Look at our beaches and all the condominiums over casting the beaches. All the vacant land taken up so 'we can build more houses and make more money'. Tell these investors or vultures to go elsewhere and make their money. One of our last historic buildings will be destroyed along with many others. Please cast my vote to save the Biltmore!!
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Let it not be said "you did nothing"
Honeywell and Debatolo have not relented and neither can we. Channel 10 reports 70% of our community want the Belleview saved. Based on this we should expect 700,000 people to come out in support of the Belleview Biltmore. Let's create our own 1,000,000 man walk right in Belleair - that will get the attention we need! Come show Honeywell and Debartolo we will not let them destroy the Belleview Biltmore and community without a fight.
Three important meetings are happening next week. You are needed at them. The first is Sunday at 6:30. This is an organizational meeting. The other two will be held at the Belleair Town Hall, 901 Ponce del Leon. These two are May 3 at 5:30 P.M and May 5 at 4:00 P.M. The first is a general meeting. Honeywell's pension fund manager is expected to be present. The second is the Historical Preservation Commission meeting where the demolition permit will be discussed. Come show Honeywell - Debartolo is not wanted here.
Your physical presence is necessary. So is your financial assistance. We began a fund raising drive yesterday with a $10,000 kick off donation from Bernie Powell. For those of you who don't know Mr. Powell, he owned the Belleview Biltmore from 1947 until the early 90's. He has generously given substantial donations to the community over the years. Morton Plant Hospital and the Salvation Army are two major benefactors. In February Mr. Powell was honored as "Mr. Clearwater" for a life time of service to us. He is now retired. His health is failing. But he is still there to help when needed. It would be tragic if allowed his beloved Belleview Biltmore to be destroyed.
For his stake, as well as our own, please support "Bill$ for the Belleview" and join us at all upcoming events.
Rae Claire Johnson
P.S. Look for the party bus outside town hall. Stop by and sign the Friends of the Belleview Biltmore banner. Go down in history as someone who made the effort to make a difference. See you there!
Save the Biltmore build around it.
This is a historic sire and needs to protected
Jeffrey J. Prokop
SAVE THE BILTMORE!!!
Melody and Giorgio Aristo, International opera singers, Belleair, FL
As a member of the NTHP and a lover of old Florida hotels, I will do what I can to support the cause. Here in Perry, Taylor County we once had a grand hotel called the Hampton Springs Hotel. It has been gone a long time, due to a fire. However, the county government has secured grants to preserve the site (the old mineral springs swimming pool is still there) and history is being brought back to light and life from the dead.
I'm sure your group has thought of this but let me just speak my piece: IF, IF, IF you lose the war on preserving this grand old structure, at least fight the battle for preservation of the "artifacts" through making the developer save historically important pieces (just as the stained glass ceiling, doors, fireplace mantles, etc.), in other words, a type of recycling. No wrecking ball until the place is gutted. It may be only a partial victory, but at least you haven't lost everything!
Pardon my diatribe, now let me get to the letter writing.
Following, are copies of two emails I just sent. Please read both. Feel free to use any copy from either. To: F. Scott Urdang, 5/5/05 Dear Mr. Urdang: I respectfully ask that you re-think your request for a permit to demolish the grand Belleview Biltmore Hotel. This extraordinary piece of American History should be preserved for all the world to enjoy. The Belleview is just as important in our architectural and social history as Old Faithful Inn, Del Coronado, Plant Hall, etc. in the scheme of our lives, past and present. It is not an "anchor" to our past, as suggested. It is as much a part of our future as the space program. It should be preserved as a proud part of our history for future generations to enjoy, just as Monticello, Mount Vernon, Edison's home, and many more. Once it's gone, all there will be is memories. Many cities highly regret allowing older buildings to be demolished. In Tampa, alone, there is sorrow of losing the original Hillsborough County Courthouse. In New York City, there is sorrow about the loss of Grand Central Station. Certainly, you can understand the importance of saving the best of our past. The Belleview is not just a little cottage that happens to be located on the water. It is a one-of-kind wooden world treasure that means so much to so many people. Mr. Urdang, be a hero. Do not sell to the DeBartolo Development group. Hold on and sell to someone who will save this magnificent world-class structure. Sincerely, Douglas Mann--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------To: Ed Kobel, 5/5/05Dear Mr. Kobel: I respectfully request that you re-think your purchase of the Belleview Biltmore property. This extraordinary piece of American History should be preserved for all the world to enjoy. The Belleview is just as important in our architectural and social history as Old Faithful Inn, Del Coronado, Plant Hall, etc. in the scheme of our lives, past and present. With headquarters in Tampa, no less, you know the importance of saving the Tampa Theater and Tampa Hotel, which many now enjoy and appreciate! Is the Belleview Biltmore not just as important? I think so. It is not an "anchor" to our past, as suggested. It is as much a part of our future as the space program. It should be preserved as a proud part of our history for future generations to enjoy, just as Monticello, Mount Vernon, Edison's home, and many more. If it's gone, all there will be is memories. Many cities highly regret allowing older buildings to be demolished. In Tampa, alone, there is sorrow of losing the original Hillsborough County Courthouse. In New York City, there is sorrow about the loss of Grand Central Station. Certainly, you can understand the importance of saving the best of our past. The Belleview is not just a little cottage that happens to be located on the water. It is a one-of-kind wooden world treasure that means so much to so many people. If, by chance, you are successful in purchasing this property, we, the citizens of the State of Florida, ask that you preserve the structure for generations beyond us. Build your condominium towers on the grounds, with the Belleview as the centerpiece, for public viewing. Just don't tear it down. You could even turn part of it into condos to sell! Mr. Kobel, please do NOT destroy this most important part of our history and heritage. Sincerely, Douglas Mann
I am a commercial real estate analyst and a former member of the City of Tampa’s Architectural Review Commission. I am an advocate of historic preservation I am also a VERY strong proponent private property rights. I would like to see the Biltmore saved, in an economically sound manner. I would use the National Trust’s http://www.historichotels.org web site to try and identify similar, economically successful historic hotels in the US (Hotel Galvez, built in 1911 and the Jekyll Island Club Hotel built in 1888 come to mind). I would contact their general managers who may have a good idea of the economic potential of the Biltmore (in addition, and perhaps more importantly, the ownership groups of successful grand dames of the hospitality industry could individually, or collectively, become a new white knight ownership group for the Biltmore, since they have experience in both historic properties and the historic hospitality industry). The two largest hotel real estate valuation & consulting boutiques that I am aware of are HVS International (http://www.hvsinternational.com) [Stephen Rushmore, MAI has written text books on the subject] and PKF Consulting (http://www.pkfc.com).
You can also search http://www.appraisalinstitute.org.search.asp using Advanced search, Business Services (feasibility studies and market analysis), and/or Property Type (hotel/resort). Most likely there is an economically viable way to save the Biltmore, in the event that there is a financial gap between the value of the Biltmore as restored historic hotel and the market value of the site for development, the city, or the county could then analyze incentives (be it a property tax abatement for a number of years to allowing a zoning density transfer of development rights elsewhere in the county). Seven of Florida's universities have real estate professors on staff (I do have a complete list). Florida State University and the University of Florida are the two lead real estate programs in the state (both have Web sites that can be found using the search engine http://www.google.com). Good luck!
I love the Biltmore, I live in Largo, just a little
south of the Biltmore, and every time I think of it being destroyed it
sickens me..Did you see the Parade in this weekend newspaper? It is doing
a Preservation Contest, for any historical and cultural sites in communities
across America. This contest is sponsored by the Parade Magazine and the
National Trust for Historic Preservation, and they want us to Tell America's
Story", Preservation Award Contest. It can be anyplace in the our communities
where history may have happened. It can be connected to individuals, groups,
or events that helped shape our history and culture in visual and performing
arts, science, government, sports, business, innovation, the law, public
affairs, education, pop culture, buildings, parks, streets, etc...any place
that has a story to tell about our nations rich past will be considered.
See this website
for an entry form and contest rules.
If you need to be help, I would love too.
My family lived in Belleair for 35 years at on W. Rosary Road and I never in my wildest dreams would have believed this could or would happen!
PATRICIA MC GEE-ELLIS
Please look at the May 8th Parade Magazine in last Sunday's St Pete Times! They want people to submit American Historical Places to be saved. I sent info about the Biltmore through their website (www.parade.com). If enough people do this , They may take notice. This is a national magazine.
Why is it that PARADE MAGAZINE's Mother's Day issue
features an article asking Americans to "tell us about your historic place"....yet
the Biltmore's being torn down? Doesn't anyone find it ironic
that VISIT FLORIDA is allocating millions in advertising dollars
to feature "quaint downtowns and points of unique history" (rather than
theme parks) as the latest Florida tourism attractor...yet the Biltmore
is being demolished rather than renovated?
I have not yet heard these issues raised. I'm a former resident of Belleair, still living nearby, and I frequently use the hotel for services and guest lodging. I have found that the hotel is frequently booked, and think the "doesn't turn a profit" story to be quite unbelievable. I would like a contact number and name for possible RADIO INTERVIEW --soon! Thank you.
BELLEVIEW BILTMORE COMMENTS – 5/3/05
THE RESPONSIBILITY THAT PRESENTLY RESTS ON YOUR SHOULDERS CANNOT BE OVEREMPHASIZED. WE ARE IN THE ELEVENTH HOUR OF POSSIBLY LOSING A SIGNIFICANT PART OF THE HEART AND SOUL OF BELLEAIRE AND A VALUABLE PIECE OF OUR LOCAL AND STATE HERITAGE. THIS IS AN AWESOME OBLIGATION FOR YOU AS ELECTED LEADERS AND IT IS AN OBLIGATION THAT YOU OWE TO THE PEOPLE OF YOUR TOWN TO DO THE RIGHT THING FOR THE PEOPLE AS A WHOLE, NOT THE FEW SELF-SERVING SPECIAL INTERESTS. DUE TO THE MANY IMPROPRIITIES SURROUNDING THIS SALE AND DEMOLITION PERMIT I REQUEST THAT YOU CANCEL THE DEMOLITION PERMIT AND ALLOW PROPER TIME FOR PRESERVATIONISTS TO NEGOTIATE WITH THE OWNER TO PURCHASE AND PRESERVE THIS VERY SPECIAL PROPERTY. IT IS UNLIKELY THERE WILL BE A LAW SUIT SINCE THE DEVELOPER HAS ALREADY GARNERED SUCH ADVERSE PUBLICITY FOR THEIR BULLDOZING POSTURE VS. A VISION OF COMPROMISE. IF THEY SUE, LET THEM BRING IT ON. THIS WOULD BE A SMALL PRICE TO PAY TO DELAY LONG ENOUGH FOR POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVES. IT WOULD BE UNCONSCIONABLE FOR THIS BUILDING TO BE DESTROYED PRIOR TO ANY INDICATION OF THE FUTURE PLANS FOR THIS PROPERTY. FAR TOO
MANY LANDMARKS HAVE BEEN DESTROYED ONLY TO FIND LATER, THE GRANDIOSE TALK PRIOR TO DEMOLITION NEVER MATERIALIZED. THE BELLEVIEW BILTMORE IS A LIVING LEGEND AND ICON THAT BRINGS HAPPINESS AND MEMORIES TO THOUSANDS WHO ENJOY THE AMBIANCE OF ANOTHER ERA. ANOTHER GATED COMMUNITY WILL EXTINGUISH THIS INVALUABLE ASSET FOR THE CITY, COUNTY, STATE AND NATION. FUTURE GENERATIONS WILL LOOK BACK AT YOUR DECISION AND EITHER LAUD YOU FOR YOUR VISION OR THEY WILL CHASTISE YOU FOR YOUR LACK OF COURAGE AND YOUR SHORT SIGHTEDNESS. IF THIS STRUCTURE IS DESTROYED ON YOUR WATCH CAN YOU REALLY HOLD YOUR HEAD HIGH IN THIS TOWN? YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MANY THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE ARE WATCHING THIS EPISODE AND EAGARLY AWAITING THE VERDICT OF WHETHER OR NOT THERE IS ANY HOPE LEFT IN THIS COUNTRY FOR OFFICIALS TO STAND UP FOR PRESERVING SUCH IRREPLACIBLE HISTORIC CROWN JEWELS VS. SUCCUMBING TO POLITICS, PARANOIA, AND MONEY.
Letter from Jeff Francis,
May 6, 2005 He is one of our core supporters who so generously
donated money towards the large newspaper advertisements in the St. Petersburg
Times May 1 and May 3, 2005.
I am appalled at the travesty that is unfolding in this community with regards to the proposed demolition of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Belleair.
This 1897 Henry Plant built hotel is the largest and perhaps the most significant landmark in Florida's industrial history era.
The desire to save this important structure will not be won with letters and yelling alone. It will take money, lots of it, which is the only language that big corporations understand.
May I suggest to Urdang Corp to offer the Biltmore to a new owner who will preserve and operate the hotel as it is, or give this community a reasonable time to assemble a private or private-public partnership to buy the hotel at fair market value. To the Debartolo Development Corp, you would be wise to stand down on this deal. You have made millions in the Tampa Bay Area, and will continue to make millions on your projects here. Do you really want to alienate this community by destroying one of the last pieces of history that remain here?
Maybe this community should consider at a mass boycott of Debartolo and Urdang related businesses until they guarantee that this historic landmark will not be demolished.
If I was a Belleair homeowner, I would be talking to my neighbors and town commission about an assessment to help the town get involved in a public private partnership to keep these proposed condos and traffic out of my backyard.
Community support for preservation has been demonstrated, over 70% of the residents of St. Petersburg have voted to tax themselves to save Sunken Gardens and Albert Whitted Airport. An informal poll shows 70% support to save the Belleview. Not the best option, but an option.
Community and corporate leaders, philanthropists, local and statewide politicians, and to the millions that make up this community, please get involved and do not let this jewel be lost for the sake of a few more condos.
As a 42 year old lifetime
resident of this county, I will be forever ashamed if this community sits
back and allows the Belleview Biltmore Hotel to be demolished.
The time is now to act.
Town of Belleair Meeting June 13, 2005
Dear Council Members,
My name is Ed Jameson.
Over 400 people in the town of Belleair signed two
petitions sponsored by the
Friends of the Belleview Biltmore in May of 2005. These were never submitted to my
knowledge to the town of Belleair for a vote but are still in the possession of the Friends of the
Belleview Biltmore. These petitions if passed either by a vote or the town council
would guarantee the preservation of the north and south wings of the Belleair Biltmore Hotel
by changing the zoning laws.
It is very important to remember that 400 people in
Belleair wanted to SAVE these
two historically significant wings of this beautiful Victorian hotel. They signed petitions
to ensure that this would be pursued. Yet the Friends of teh Belleview Biltmore continued
to push towards destorying these two wings with developers
while they were continuing to have people sign what appears now to be worthless
petitions. This makes absolutely no sense.
What happened to these petitions and where are they?
To use an analogy, it is like foxes going out to get
petitions signed by farmers to provide
protection for hen houses, and then the foxes keeping the petitions without getting a vote
by the farmers!
The second topic I would like to bring up is that the
St. Peteresburg Times reported that
developers associated with Friends of the Belleview Biltmore said it would cost $12 million
to tear down the north and south wings and replace with reconstructed condo/hotel units.
These developers also said it would cost three times as much or $36 million dollars to repair and save the
north and south wings. Yet Friends of the Belleview Biltmore were quoted in the St. Petersburg
Times that it would cost HUNDREDS of millions to renovate the south and wings. This
information is ridiculous if one compares the statements of the developer's quotes of $36 million
to save the historically significant north and south wings. Misinformation is being spread
to the public by the Friends of the Belleview Biltmore who want to destroy history.
We must continue to pursue all efforts to save the entire Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
To give another analogy, if the Statute of Liberty
needed refurbishing, to save some money
would New York destroy this expensive bronze statute and replace it with fiberglass to save a little money!!
Ed Jameson, Vice President, Save the Biltmore Preservationists
I stayed at the Belleview Biltmore Resort with my family two years ago. It was by far the best hotel I have ever stayed at, and turned out to be the best vacation I have EVER experienced!!! I had never had such a relaxing, pampering, fun-filled and memorable vacation before! Anyway, I am now a sophomore in high school, and I recently decided to do the Belleview Biltmore Resort as the topic for my informative speech. So I began to research it online, and I found out about this website. I was SHOCKED when I realized that it's possible that my beloved resort could be destroyed! It nearly took my breath away. If I had not started researching about the resort for speech class, I wouldn't have even known about this! I can't believe that anyone would want to destroy this beautiful place. It's beyond my comprehension. Well, being 16 years old, I don't have a lot of money, but I hope there's something I can do to help out with rescuing the resort. Let me know if you have any ideas. I live in Wisconsin, by the way. I guess, in a way, I'll be promoting the resort through my speech-- but if there's anything else I can do, please let me know a.s.a.p.!
We are interested in the status of the Belleview Biltmore, as we are considering holding one of our shows there this fall. Our last show was in April at Sunken Gardens. It is the "Florida Collectibles & Vintage Memorabilia Show" and all of our exhibitors sell and display old Florida kitsch, furnishings, memorabilia, etc.
Is there anyone who can give me a brief explanation re if the Biltmore will actually be around in October? The sales department says we have to wait until Memorial Day for a letter of guarantee stating whether the hotel is to be demolished.
"Appears repairs and upkeep on the Belleview Biltmore have been strategically delayed. This failure to maintain presumably was to support demolitions, discourage restoration and increase the cost of historic preservation. No problem, it is hard to be disheartened when you’ve tromped through the Vinoy before restoration and visited the Don Cesar when the windows and doors were boarded over. The Biltmore is in good shape for a grand old lady and she has tales to tell." Geneva Forrester
This has been the common thread of owners of thousands of demolished Theaters! Don't fix anything when it breaks. Let it deteriorate to the extent it is beyond refurbishment, then think they have reasonable justification to demolish it! Looks like that is exactly what has happened to the Belleview Biltmore. How long have those blue tarps been on the roof now because of leaks? About a year now, if not longer. Why hasn't the roof been repaired? Makes one wonder, huh?
No one is asking Mr. Urdang to give the property away. He deserves Just Market Value, as a landowner. However, I think it is most reasonable for his group to give the community time to put together financial plans to make a purchase of the Belleview Biltmore and give them right of first refusal.
How about it, Mr. Urdang? You could come out of this smelling like a "rose", by making people across this town, state and entire nation very jubilant, by a single compassionate decision!
withheld upon request
STOP the insanity!! Please oh please keep this wonderful resort open. Too many good memories to throw away. Florida is a tear down and re-build. We should repair and hold on to our precious history. Good luck all involved to keep the Belleview Biltmore the way it is!
By destiny' choice I stood at the Biltmore on Mothers
day. For some reason we could not find one room available anyplace else
and one of the girls at the Marriot directed us to the Biltmore.
Needless to say I fell in love. Then as I read the sunday news I found that the Parade has a Contest about americas historical places. Please enter this contest I truly Believe that this is a blessing for this hotel. I know you will win.
Please contact me if I can do anything at all to help save this place.
My wife and I are native Floridians and have enjoyed celebrating our anniversary at the hotel every August. Last year, we missed our stay due to the hurricanes, and have been looking forward to returning this year. We are horrified to hear talk of possible demolition of the Belleview Biltmore and plan to send a donation to the friends of the Biltmore fund. Please keep fighting! The historical significance of this resort, not just to the town of Bellaire, but to Florida as a whole, must be protected.
Dan and Janice Robertson
I THINK WE SHOULD ALSO LOOK FOR A PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL
, FOUNDATION OR CORPORATION WHO MAY HAVE AN INTEREST IN PRESERVING OUR
SOMEONE - POSSIBLY LIKE DONALD TRUMP - WHO HAVE BECOME INTERESTED IN OUR AREA. MR. TRUMP NOT ONLY IS BUILDING A BEAUTIFUL STRUCTURE HERE IN TAMPA, BUT ALSO DONATED FUNDS TOWARDS THE NEW ART MUSEUM. MAYBE SOMEONE- OR ALL OF US-COULD PERSUADE HIM TO SAVE THE BILTMORE. ALSO - MAYBE WE THE LOCALS WOULD BE ABLE TO COLLECTIVELY PURCHASE THE BILTMORE. JUST A THOUGHT - THINK ON IT!
Osama bin Laden wishes to destroy America from without and developers wish to destroy America from within. It is obvious that there is not much difference between the two because the word destroy is synonomous with both. Our history was built by the strength of American resolve by people who had both pride in their work, beauty in their hearts, and pride in their country. Alas the idea of destruction of these ideals is un American and a spineless method of money mongering at it highest. I cannot beg because the developer won't listen but brute force of this country is what it will take to stop the destruction of the Biltmore. To curtail Al Queida the U.S. goes after its finances because that is their engine. Considering that developers and terrorists are one in the same the U.S. must go after their same engine.
The Biltmore must live on. If it is destroyed the terrorists will have won. Their first target will be the developer to see who is the big man on the block; can't have two destructive forces competing with each other can we?
Historic architecture is part of our culture. If we
destroy the architecture created in the past, we are creating a world which
has not regard to life's lessons or past treasures. If the mighty dollar
is the sole source for directing development decisions in the future, we
are building a shallow future for us and our children.
SAVE THE BILTMORE!
Thank you for all your help. I want to give special thanks to Diane Hein who started, owns and maintains this web site. This has been invaluable as our primary means of communication with both Belleview supporters and among us. While we have had glitches, given the speed at which things have been coming at us, everyone has done quite well. I also want to thank Chris Carter, Sam Casella, Lil Cromer, Molly Demarest, Ed Desmarais, Jeff Francis, Laurie Adams, Julie Kleckner, Midge Hathaway, Jo Houck, Cecily Kenny Bernie Pickett, Karen Platt, John Rich, Lyn & Owen Schlaug, Bill Stokes and the host of other organizers who have helped with community efforts.
We have received 1000’s of signatures on the Save the Belleview petitions. T-shirt and sign sales are strong. We are trying to find an easier way for supporters to buy these items. We have limited inventory, and it is difficult for financial reasons to spread them around to retail locations. We hope to soon be able to post locations where they can be purchased throughout the community.
A major battle was won Tuesday afternoon when the Historic Preservation Committee voted to accept the resolution to deny Urdang's demolition request. The town's new attorney, Nancy Stroud, advised the committee to take this action. We cannot get complacent -- the war is not yet won. Urdang has threatened to appeal this decision so this may turn into a protracted battle. Our best course of action is to buy the building and bring it back to its former grandeur. We are working on this possibility.
The Belleview needs your continued support. Our goal is for every household member to donate $25 to the cause and for each donor to spread the message to 10 other people. More would be even better. One Belleview supporter asked her children to donate in place of birthday presents. What a great idea! Not only this, both her children's names and her will go down in posterity as people who stepped forward to save this magnificent building and grounds.
Wouldn't it be wonderful for future generations to see how their relatives made a difference in saving this grand dame? Wouldn't children enjoy seeing their name in a book of donors? We have chosen a donation target that will make it possible for everyone to participate. Donations should be made to Friends of the Belleview Biltmore. This is a not for profit corporation. Donations are tax deductible. Please note on the check if you want it to go to the general fund or building fund. All donations will go to the general fund if they are not specifically allocated to a specific fund. You can also make a donation on this site.
We are also looking for people to help in other ways too. We are looking for people who can get this effort in front of civic organizations and other community forums. We are also looking for data input assistance, office support and marketing expertise. If you have any of these or any other skills you think can help, please contact us. The more help we have -- the more successful we will be.
For those of you who saw Parade magazine Sunday, you've seen where citizens can make a difference in preserving their communities. Due to the size of the Belleview Biltmore and the various properties, our challenge is a bit bigger than most. But the gains made in the past few weeks show that by banding together you can make a difference. Every one of you who have gathered signatures, signed a petition, showed up at a meeting, helped compile lists, brought a T-shirt or yard sign have helped. We wouldn't be where we are today without all of these activities. You are to be applauded -- but we need you to stay on board with your continued support. We are looking into the idea of having a biweekly get together, every other Friday night. This will be a fund raiser and a chance for us to bring people up to date on where things stand. Let us know what you think of this idea. Would you be interested in participating in this type of affair?
On Thursday, the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, will be announcing the placement of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel on the State’s 10 Most Endangered list. This recognition reflects the importance of this building on the State level. Once again thank you for your support and please send your donation today or donate on line!
Rae Claire Johnson
Thanks-It may seem that I am pretty rough in my statements but the same problem seems to surface over and over again. I think the attitude of eliminating dignity and other such intrinsic human values is what attracts people like bin Laden and other such vermin. Not being a student of history can spell disaster. If it not be the perpetrator that gets nailed up along the Apian Way, it shall surely be their children.
Erich B. Strong, R.A.
We've stayed at the Belleview Biltmore numerous times, and I must say I love the old fashioned ambiance. Reminds me of Churchill Downs in Louisville. Let's preserve some of our past traditions and architecture before everything looks the same.
I love it the way it is.
After having razed so much of 'Old Florida', I would think Floridians would want to save this beautiful old gal. My husband and I spent our 25th wedding anniversary there, and the ambiance alone made it a weekend to remember always.
Save the Biltmore.....
There's a hotel down in Belleair, built 'round 1895
Been a host to those in the early days 'fore the beaches came alive
The railroad fed the Biltmore and the ghosts live on to tell
Of elegant folk and Presidents and those it served so well.
And it's not just in Belleair where the history is
And commercial folks will knock it down whatever the cost
The dozers roar and the cell phones ring
We've seen it all before
As the history dies
As the history dies
In a local town
It's coming down
And there's nothing you can do
The money man
With a greedy hand
Looks down his nose at you
And it's not just in Belleair where the people are
And the folks have come together to show you all we aren't dumb
The people roar and the town hall fills
To preserve the White Gulf Queen
Before the history dies
Before the history dies
---Gayle Parker, April 2005----
I know there are lots of us that want to save the Belleview Biltmore my husband did not understand until I took him there this past weekend. Halfway thought the hotel he looked at me and said they cannot tear this hotel down.
I was also talking to his friend and mentioned the hotel. He indicated that it was a rich persons hotel that no one could afford to stay at. I told him my daughter and I had stayed at the hotel and that we had a wonderful time, also that my daughter planned to be married in it. I explained briefly about the architecture and the historical significance. I feel we have two more people who understand the significance of the hotel.
Have the news agencies done any interior shots, historical commentary, ghost tours anything so that people can see the interior of the hotel? What about some of the morning shows? Good Morning America, Kelly and Regis?
As you know the Grand Hotel in Michigan and the Hotel Del Coronado in California and other "Grand" hotels are busy and profitable and in the news more often can't they do the same thing here?
My daughter and I had a wonderful time at the hotel and will always cherish it. Even my 11 year old stepson fell in love with the hotel.
I am from the Cleveland, Ohio area and was thrilled to visit the Biltmore for the first time April 24, 2005. I love historical buildings and was excited to see the Biltmore. My husband and grandparents loved it as well! I am hoping my sister can celebrate her upcoming wedding this fall at the Biltmore. I have been praying that this beautiful structure will be saved every day since I saw it. I don't think any condominium complex would replace this most valuable piece of history. I am cheering Pinellas County on and hope that your citizens continue to stand up for what should be done. KEEP THE BILTMORE. Florida has so many slap stick buildings. This structure is an ART and must be preserved.
The following is a copy of the letter Gerald Higgens sent to the Town of Belleair, Mayor George Mariani
This is a sad development, which I am sorry I must witness in my lifetime. Please look inside for what is the greater legacy for your community. Please save the Bellevue Biltmore Hotel. Orlando still wishes it were able to save the San Juan Hotel. A city like Orlando, which derives its image from hospitality, could not, would not save many of its great hotels. Only the Biltmore Orlando still stands. Yet many of Orlando’s neighboring communities have learned. Lakeland, Longwood and Deland treasure their Historic Inns. The Destruction of the San Juan Hotel in Orlando was the reason we started the Preservation Society here. Now where the great San Juan held court stands an in descript office tower, of no particular grandeur. Don’t let your precious jewel of the Gulf meet the same fate as other great Florida Hotels like the Ormond Beach Hotel. Let it stand for the ages like the other great Biltmore Hotels, Providence, Phoenix, and Los Angeles to name a few. Even the Biltmore Atlanta, though not a hotel anymore, Beautiful restored ballrooms are still a premier address for weddings and special occasions. Look for guidance from Richard C. Kessler, his Kessler Collection formerly Grand Themed Hotels, has restored several historic properties, including the Mansion on Forsyth Park and Kehoe House of Savannah, the Beaver Creek Lodge, the Sheraton Studio City and His Crown Achievement The Casa Monica, St. Augustine. Please allow the Bellevue Biltmore to join the other great sentinels of the Central Florida Gulf Coast, the Tampa Hotel, the Don and the Vinoy. Please protect its Wood Victorian Charm, Coral Pools and enormous installed Tiffany stain glass collection, for my children and their children to see. Bellevue Biltmore deserves no less than to take its place next to the other Grand Florida Palaces of Hospitality. These grand hotels are the guardians of Florida’s Glorious Past and no less important to us than the great Palaces and Castles of Europe. The Breakers, the Biltmore of Coral Gables they along with the Bellevue Biltmore are free museums for all people to see and enjoy, not just for the rich and privileged. The Bellevue has been neglected more than most sure, but this means she needs more protection not less. I am not a resident of Belleair and I am only able to visit one weekend a year, but please realize that this battle you fight is larger us. You are a trustee, a custodian of all our heritage. Your 5,000 citizens have in their town a gem that communities across America wish they could protect and could foster. In 10, 20, 30 years what will you be remembered for, what legacy do you wish to leave. Thank you for your time, if any fundraiser activities are planned in the future please contact me so that my family and myself may participate.
Diane, please checkout the history of the lakeside inn, Mt. Dora, Florida. It was built in 1883 and this beautiful old inn was also slated for the wrecking ball. Thankfully it was saved and is now an integral part of Mt. Dora's economy and history. I hope you can use this for ammo! the website is www.lakeside-inn.com/history
Good luck!! Greg
This is a letter that I, John Kiebzak, sent to everyone
from Urdang to president Bush..........I hope it hits a nerve......I will
lend my knowledge of construction/destruction if needed.......there are
many points I have been reading that they are duping the public on, concerning
the "concerns".......lets call them out on them!!!!!!!
To all it DOES CONCERN...............
To tear the Biltmore down goes against every shred of human compassion, dignity, and sense of who we are.......to destroy and not remember our past is a definition of what our future will be........destroyed and without style
As an Contractor up north for over 30 years I vow you this........If the demolition goes through, I know every which way, and every loophole, and every shortcut that a contractor may take regarding demo........you WILL be held to every letter of the law...federal (hazardous waste....and the building without a doubt holds tons upon tons of hazardous waste, that will entail detailed intense work , heavily supervised, and done by only asbestos abatement specific licensed laborers, operators, and truck drivers........not to mention that only federally approved dumps can accept this type of waste, and only under strict supervision!!!!!!!) and state....the cost overruns will be tremendous.........
And as to the integrity of the "bridge" going into
the Biltmore grounds........it is laughable at best......the 23 ton limit
is a joke, and it should/will be lowered......even at 23 ton, it is far
too inadequate to accommodate construction traffic..........just a 10 wheel
dump truck grosses out empty at between 12 and 15 ton.........and there
is no way that a contractor is just going to load just 8-10 ton on
a truck.........and what about the big backhoes, loaders, and cranes etc.
........some of those alone will exceed bridge limits.....a very expensive,
temporary bridge way should/will be called for, if you can get the right-of-way
exemptive permits .....your group and your handpicked contractor
are in for a big awakening when/if demo begins.......all I can say is you
better have a blank check for all the extras
see you soon
John Kiebzak....a Biltmore member, and concerned citizen
How about if we require the builder to build in the same style?
An example is the Hilton Hotel in St. Augustine. It blends right in to the rest of the neighborhood.
Just found out about this tragedy. Which it really
is. This hotel is one of a few remaining heirlooms America has to her name.
While destroying all past, we have no substance, character, and thus no
Thank you for trying to preserve our character.
Please let me know how best we can help.
Lillian & Gregg Johnson.
I recently visited this AMAZING hotel and fell in love immediately. I am in my 20's and have a thirst for history. This was an experience I will always treasure. If it is at all possible to help save this beautiful hotel, I would love to help. Let me know what I need to do, and I will do my best. (still a college student so funds are limited) Please let me know- SAVE THE BILTMORE!!!
Hi! I am sorry :( Did not know how Rae does not
want the whole hotel up :( I did write her a letter because she wrote
I wish the hotel will stay the same:) It is beautiful!
I also want the whole history saved, not part!!!!!!!
Realistically the hotel is probably not commercially
attractive in its current condition.
But as a local resource it is a huge asset and potential a focal point to Pinellas County, Florida in general and its many residents and visitors.
The range of options open for its continued used appear to be huge - but until this is appreciated by Floridians its days could be numbered.
I have holidayed recently in Belleair and, with friends, used the hotel bar and restaurant on a number of occasions and was surprised at the modest number of other users - which is a shame as the place is great!
So, if local residents are not behind it then the local authorities are unlikely to 'do the business'
Regretfully, on so many occasions, people only miss the things that really affect their quality of life when they are no longer there to be appreciated.
Very best wishes for your campaign.
Just briefly ran across your site and we certainly
don't want to see the Biltmore destroyed. We visited it recently
Please do keep us informed on what is transpiring with the "plans".
Now that there seems to be a delay in issuing a demolition permit, it is time for those involved to assemble a group of buyers that will renovate the Belleview in it's entirety, not just a couple of wings. The renovation and proper marketing, could make this a very profitable venture, as is the Vinoy and the Don. Under NO circumstance should even ONE square inch be destroyed. Do no allow this to happen. We need our history and heritage to survive forever. Enough of developers sacrificing our heritage and history for the sake of the almighty dollar alone.
It wasn't until I was looking for a reception site for my younger sister's wedding that I heard about this most disturbing news.
The rich history that was once Florida is being stripped away little by little. I also wish for the preservation of the Biltmore to remain in it's entirety. What will become of our beautiful state if everyone continues to pave over our historical past! First our beaches, our landscape and now even more than ever, one by one our historical buildings. What will be left to our children!
I am glad for your work. I want to see the entire hotel saved.
Thanks, Jeff Hannie
I stayed at the hotel for the 4th time last week and saw the signs around town. As the owner of a home that was built in 1850, I always look for old or historic sites to visit or stay. When I found the hotel on the internet, I knew I had to stay there. I instantly fell in love with the architecture and the evident care that was taken to build a masterpiece. I just spent my fourth vacation there, and I will be utterly heartbroken if anyone tears down a single board. From what I can see, the town would be a different place entirely were it not for Morton Plant and his vision of greatness. I will proudly display a save the Biltmore sign in my yard, even though I live 8 hours away.
Kristie Haynes, GA
My sister and I stayed at the Biltmore June 17-19, 2005 and heard from another guest about the website and the plan to demolish the hotel to build condos. This historical hotel should be preserved by the new owner and upgraded, not demolished. It could be a 5 star hotel with its charm and location and make buckets of money--Over time, the millions of dollars put into preservation would be repaid in full and then some--Grant money could be obtained to help revitalize the Biltmore!
Terri Tutino Groton, New York
I worked as a historical docent there....my husband was the director of Heritage Village for 26 years. I heard about the Biltmore through the newspaper and a friend.
I live in Peachtree City, Georgia now, and having been the General Manager for over 15 years of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, I cannot believe it has come to this! We must stop the demolition and help this "Grand Lady" become her "grandest" yet. She has been the foundation for so many family memories....let's help her continue to do so!
I live in Sarasota. My grandmother, Iona Roberts was born in Clearwater in 1901. She married my grandfather John Collie Dean in Clearwater in 1920. My father Jack Dean, was born in Clearwater in 1930 on the property that was to become the Japanese Gardens owned by Dean Alvord. My great grandparent Claude Eugene Roberts, and Mary Alice (Allie) Crumpton Roberts lived on Rosary Road. My father grew up in the Belleair area and I have heard about the Biltmore all my life. I was born in Sarasota in 1963 and just in my lifetime have seen many of the historic buildings in this town torn down with little regard of any cultural or historical value, and replaced with postmodern ghastly ugly concrete and glass monstrosities. When will the natives of Florida, us "old-timers" say "Enough is enough!!" to developers and their money-grubbing investors? When will "big money" not always win and the "little people" actually get what they want? And when will local governments finally figure out that the traffic jams, the sewer system backups, the crime rates, the water shortages, etc...are due to overpopulating already an overstressed area? No more cotton pickin' condos. If they want to build something, how about affordable houses for working families and working singles who support the rich folks and their martini lunches and their golf games and their days at the spa! Thanks for letting me put in my two cents worth!!!
This speech was given to the Town of Belleair Commissioners' Meeting June 21, 2005
I am a Certified Public Accountant and a lover of history. I know business, balance sheets, and bottom lines. But as a person, I know there are things that you cannot put a dollar value upon:
The love between a man and a woman
The joy of seeing a baby smile
The magnificence of the Grand Canyon
The beauty of a sun coast sunset
As a lover of history, I know you cannot exist without a past. From knowing your name, from getting home from this meeting, from knowing how to act in life's situations; all are based on past experiences. Past experiences make up history, and history plays a role in everyone's present.
In the Belleview Biltmore, you have a gem, a true treasure. It should not be lost. It needs to be saved in its entirety, as a hotel and golf resort. It does not need to have its limbs cut off, or to be turned into some type of a condo/unit hotel hybrid. It needs to be restored to its historical grandeur. It needs to be managed well and marketed wisely. I had been to the hotel in the past, but I never stayed overnight until this month. I am glad I did. To drink in the history was wonderful. That present experience for me, the past experience for thousands, should also be available as a future experience for generations to come.
Although I have ideas, I don't know the exact mix of support from public, private, foundation, grants or other sources to make this a reality. But I do implore this commission to do all it can to make it happen with enough people with enough will, wonderful things can be accomplished.
I would like to add a little postscript. I walked on the porch of the Palm Cottage. That glorious house is in such disrepair also calls for restoration. It could be put to any number of productive uses.
I want to thank you very much for the opportunity to speak. If I were retired, my new nonpaying full time job would be to work to save the Belleview Biltmore in its entirety.
Again, thank you very much.
This news brings awful sadness to my heart.
As a resident of Belleair, Fl, I view this historical establishment as
a focal point in the development of Pinellas county and Florida.
A building with such prestige and beauty second to none in the county deserves
a little more recognition and consideration.
The potential buyer of this property has already purchased the elegant Clearwater Beach Hotel with similar mindset; for personal gains only. Hopefully someone will realize the true value of this estate and in turn save it from the demons of capitalism.
I've lived in Asheville, NC, for the past 30+ years, but I grew up in the Harbor Oaks area of Clearwater, not far from the Belleview Biltmore. I love that old hotel, and I'd hate to see it torn down. I've got reservations for mid-October so that, if they do tear it down, at least I'll have gotten to stay there once in my life. Please keep me posted. Thanks.
My husband, mother-in-law, mother and I were terribly upset with the fact the Belleview Biltmore faces the possibility to be torn down. What are "they" thinking?? Is everything about money? It is totally wrong for a historic and beautifully old hotel to be torn down. I'm appalled that anyone would want to destroy the hotel to put up those despicable condo structures. We have visited the Vinoy and the Biltmore wins hands down as far we are concerned. Please keep us posted as we live in Orlando. Sorry, we are unable to help you monetarily.
Save the Biltmore a part of Florida's history..........thank you
Kevin Cook, Palm Harbor
I suggest creating a foundation to support this effort at historic preservation.
I visited the Bellevue B. yesterday with relatives from out of town. I Live in Largo. They were very impressed with the edifice and grounds as well as with the excellent tour guided by Teddi. I felt so proud to have this historic place to show off.
We all enjoyed the lunch too.
Best wishes in the preservation efforts.
We are wondering just what the most recent news is on the Biltmore. We have been active in trying to save the Biltmore here in Belleair! The fact that all is so quiet now is not a good sign and we are afraid the enemy is just waiting for everyone to cool off and forget about the whole thing and then WHAM! Let us hear the most recent news!
Diane: I am a student at SCAD, living in Holiday, Florida, studying my Masters in Historic Preservation, I just started. But, I am very interesting is saving the building. I have to write on research paper on the demolition & why the NTHP is not stepping in, since it is list on the 10 most endangered list. Do you have any ideas, where I can obtain this info & if there is a meeting I can attend? Thank you for all your help. Denise Terwillegar
My husband and I, along with our daughter (age 9), stayed at the hotel the week of 7/9/05. I come across it on the Internet. We were so impressed by the history the hotel holds. It is absolutely beautiful. I didn't want to leave, and can't wait to go back. While on the daily tour of the hotel we seen a gentleman with a "Save the Biltmore" T-shirt on and asked him what it was about. We were devastated that any human being could possibly think about tearing down the hotel. I realize the cost for the up-keep is probably very high, but tearing it down for condos is not the answer!!! We support the "Save the Biltmore" team... GOOD LUCK FROM WAPAKONETA, OHIO
Thank you for all your hard work. I stayed at the Belleview Biltmore Hotel last week and was very concerned about the moldy smell on the fourth floor stairway landing. But, without a decent roof, I suppose that is to be expected. I wrote Governor Bush and asked for his help in preserving the hotel. Gosh, I hope he responds. Sincerely, Diane Hodill, Belleair
I attended a reunion at the Biltmore in July.
You might try contacting the Kessler group (http://www.kesslercollection.com/enterprise.asp)
- they restored the Casa Monica in St. Augustine which is where I live.
I would very much like to make whatever effort possible to support the preservation of the Biltmore. My mom is British and I have been to England many times in my life, and while wondering through the great halls of castles and cathedrals, have felt that immense sense of awe and wonder that only first hand experience of these historical monoliths can bring. I felt the same sensations walking through the Biltmore, and when I have children, I want to lead them down those same halls instead of pointing out a picture in a book of a glorious place that no longer exists.
While new genealogy sites pop up every day, indicating
peoples' interest in their origin is growing, the last few tangible links
to our historical identity are being destroyed in the name of development.
How can we as a country expect to know where our future lies when we are
cannibalizing all evidence of our past?
My question to you Ms. Hein is, I have strong conviction
to do something, but I'm a little at a loss where to start. I saw
your flyers. My husband's family owns a Harley business that draws
hundreds of people a day. I'm going to start there, but what else?
What else can you suggest to me?
Thank you for your time.
As a former Clearwater and Pinellas Co. resident, now living in Homosassa, Florida, I am very concerned that The Belleview Biltmore will become just another memory, if it can not be preserved. Too many of the special places in Pinellas Co. were allowed to be destroyed, in the name of "progress". It would help preservation efforts if our government leaders weren't developers who seem more intent on destroying our uniqueness. I will pass the word about the preservation efforts, as I still have family & friends in Pinellas Co. I don't know if Hulk Hogan could render any aid but maybe some of the Bay Area movers & shakers could help. Also, what about the Scientologists? They have helped revitalize downtown Clearwater. Maybe John Travolta, Chick Corea, Lisa Marie Presley or Tom Cruise would lend their name &/or money to the preservation efforts.
C. A. Dorsey
A speech given to Belleair town council, August 2, 2005.
My name is Brandi Conder
Though for some here today this may seem like nothing more than an ordinary Tuesday evening, I tell you this is actually the launching point of your legacy. After we leave this meeting tonight, we will return home ordinary citizens who tuck our kids in, kiss them goodnight and pray for their future, but right here, right now, we have an opportunity and a conscience obligation to impact that future and become the people our children’s children will read about with pride.
Let me remind everyone here today that this town, this state, the American way of life itself has always been shaped by the determination of its ordinary citizens. We must press on for the preservation of the White Queen of the Gulf. There are financial resources available now to save this hotel via tax credits since the Biltmore is now on the National Trust for Historical Preservation.
I would very much like to make whatever effort possible to support the preservation of the Biltmore. My mom is British and I have been to England many times in my life, and while wondering through the great halls of castles and cathedrals, have felt that immense sense of awe and wonder that only first hand experience of these historical monoliths can bring. I felt the same sensations walking through the Biltmore, and when I have children, I want to lead them down those same halls instead of pointing out a picture in a book of a glorious place that no longer exists.
While new genealogy sites pop up every day, indicating peoples' interest in their origin is growing, the last few tangible links to our historical identity are being destroyed in the name of development. How can we as a country expect to know where our future lies when we are cannibalizing all evidence of our past?
That is why I ask today that you put words such as impossible and unlikely out of your mind. Walk down the halls of the Belleview Biltmore in your heart. Do you feel that joyful swelling inside your chest? That’s awe, and no matter how much money you throw at it, a condo complex will never inspire the same instinctual reverence as the structure you have the chance here today to save.
A speech given to Belleair town council, August 2, 2005.
My name is Doug Mann.
I am one of the Directors of Save the Biltmore Preservationists, Inc. from www.SavetheBiltmore.com
I am here today to respectfully plead for you to immediately pass a preservation ordinance which would prevent the demolition of all or any historic portion of the Belleview Biltmore; with historic meaning the time from 1895 into the 1920’s.
By now, you must be keenly aware of the important heritage and history of the magnificent one-of-a-kind in the world Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa. We must NOT lose this most important crown jewel of historic Victorian architecture, that lies within your boundaries. The Belleview Biltmore is not only a treasure in your town, it is a treasure for the entire United States and world!
The saving and restoration of hotels such as this has been extremely effective and successful in other locales such as San Diego's del Coronado Hotel, Michigan's Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, among a host of others. The Belleview Biltmore Hotel is just as significant to save and restore as those mentioned.
The same can and will happen with our "Grand Dame", with your approving an ordinance to prevent destruction in any way. When a preservation ordinance is put in place, purchasers will step up and make their presence known.
I know for a fact, there are two buyers (including a major hotel chain) extremely interested in purchasing the Belleview Biltmore and turning it into a destination resort with a complete restoration to its pristine glory. There would be no demolition or gutting of wings, as a couple of developers have proposed.
Compromise is not acceptable concerning this issue. If it is gone, there is nothing possible that could replace its splendor and historic magnitude. Our future becomes our history. The Belleview was someone’s future. Now it is our history. We must not allow the Belleview Biltmore to become simply a “Lost Landmark” on someone’s historic list in the future. We must not allow only Pictures be left to show what the Belleview Biltmore WAS.
It CAN happen, IF you take the initiative and pass a preservation ordinance disallowing ANY demolition as described.
Remember, we have two serious buyers, extremely interested in purchasing the Biltmore and restoring it to its original grandeur, for all future generations to enjoy as it was intended, a destination RESORT.
PLEASE save the Belleview Biltmore Resort and Spa, and allow it to prosper. Future history is in your hands.
Thank you. Doug
Mann, Secretary/Treasurer, Save the Biltmore Preservationists
A speech given to Belleair town council, August 2, 2005.
My name is Ed Jameson.
Today is an important day in that attorney Nancy Stroud has come from Ft. Lauderdale with her report to the town council and Mayor. We all want to thank her for the time and attention she has given preserving the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
I am a member of the nonprofit organization, Save the Biltmore Preservationists, Incorporated. We are a dedicated Bay area group that will continue to work hard to save the Biltmore in its entirety, including all four hotel wings and all hotel guest rooms. We will continue to oppose any development that destroys the historical significance of the Biltmore.
I was one of the canvassers to gather signatures on two petitions for a referendum that if passed, would allow citizens to oppose adverse zoning changes destroying the historical significance of the Biltmore. Approximately four hundred people signed these two petitions because they wanted to save the Biltmore in its entirety. They wanted to save the hotel guest rooms and keep this landmark hotel "as is" in their community.
At the May 3rd meeting approximately 400 people expressed their desire to save the Biltmore. We must remember the enthusiasm that these people had for saving the Biltmore and that they came from across the entire Bay area. The Biltmore is a essential part of the entire Bay areas history.
Because of community and nationwide interest in saving the Biltmore, we MUST have the town council and mayor urge Nancy Stroud to write a STRONG preservation ordinance as soon as possible.
Our new nonprofit organization has groups interested in saving the Biltmore as a historical landmark hotel. One group is a financial trust fund who can restore it historically. The other group is a large hotel chain with a master portfolio that owns and manages historic hotels.
I urge the town council to write a strong preservation ordinance. We need to insure that the Biltmore stays as a true hotel while still retaining its historical Victorian past. We need to keep the hotel in its entirety regardless of whoever buys the hotel. All hotel guest rooms should retain their historical significance.
We do NOT want to see taxidermy performed on the Biltmore! We do not want anyone to gut the north and south wings of the Biltmore under the guise of remodeling. This would destroy the historical significance of the north and south wings for future generations. We want to see all the guest rooms retain their historical character. No one would ever consider gutting the wings of the White House and call that preservation!
The Biltmore is a true historical treasure for the entire bay area and should be maintained as a true hotel. The Biltmore is not like a trophy that someone can gut and mount on a wall!
We all know Disney World as a fantasy experience. We all know the difference between walking in Disney World and walking the two miles of historic corridors at the Victorian Belleview Biltmore. Fiction is written into a Disney World walk. History is written into a Biltmore walk.
Let's continue to walk into history by writing a strong preservation ordinance to save the Biltmore in its entirety.
Once historical objects are radically changed they lose their historical significance. Remember no generation truly owns historical objects. All of us are only caretakers for future generations to enjoy history.
Ed Jameson, Vice President, Save the Biltmore Preservationists
I live in Clearwater. Have we done all we can in the way of petitions? Willing to help.
Dear Mary: Mary Ruffin Hanbury, Program Officer
of the National Trust, November 22, 2005
I'm a big fan of the Biltmore...and I just heard about it's possible destruction. In Clearwater this is just about the only truly "historic" building in the area. I grew up in Clearwater and now live in Orlando. I know as much as you do from reading the article. I am willing to help with any effort to save it... I need some guidance and some help from folks that know how to do this... please help!
Douglas M. Guetzloe, Orlando
I only have access to computer at this time at the library in Clearwater. Gosh if the Europeans had the same mentality as the Americans what would have become of the London Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, I could go on and on. Perhaps we should turn the Grand Canyon into a landfill and build Canyon Condos. Or maybe Yellowstone ala Spa and resort. What is wrong with us! What can we do as Americans to stop profit versus preservation. All that glitters is not gold. I have stayed several times at the Biltmore. What a wonderful experience and the history that you feel when you are there is very exciting.
I think I could be a cheerleader again PomPoms and all to cheer on the Preservation of this GRAND HOTEL.
In full support of saving the Biltmore!!!
As the former owner of two Bridal Shops in two different
States ... I have put together several Bridal shows and events including
some at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana as well as some private events.
Let me know if I can assist you in any way. Warm regards,
Council Meeting Speech to the Town of Belleair on August 16, 2005
Comments: Barbara Walters Arnold, Clearwater, Florida.
(Barbara is a Director on our Save The Biltmore Preservationists, Inc. from this web site)
I wish to address the Town Council concerning the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
At the Aug. 2 council meeting, Atty Nancy Stroud presented criteria and issues she deems important to include in a historic preservation ordinance. Reportedly Ms. Stroud will be presenting a draft of the ordinance in the next few weeks.
And so, I urge the Town Council under Ms. Stroud’s guidance to be resolute in putting in place, a strong ordinance and infrastructure to protect and preserve this historic site in it’s full integrity.
As you undertake this endeavor, I know you are lending yourselves to considerable research and may I recommend examining the recent testimony of Steven L. McClain, Director, National Architectural Trust before members of the US House Committee on Ways and Means on June 23, 2005. In said testimony you will find the executive summary of Anthony Robbins. In Mr. Robbins’ discussion of municipal ordinances contained therein he reminds us - "most landmarks regulation takes place at the local level". And, "In general, commissions are only as effective as their political support allows them to be". Mr. Robbins also observes that historic preservation in the U.S. has grown "into a major cultural and economic force at the local, state and national levels. www.waysandmeans.house.gov/hearings
I hope that in your pursuit of establishing sound preservation protocol that the standards of the Secretary of the Interior will be closely examined and considered. www.cr.nps.gov/hps/tps/tax/rhb/stand
It is fortunate that the hotel has long been recognized for it’s historic significance.
It is also fortunate that according to a recent report,
it has been found to be structurally sound in its entirety.
Surely in light of the outstanding legacy of the hotel, in particular the legacy revealed this weekend in the St. Petersburg Times, current owners and prospective buyers alike must be aware of the manner in which the hotel has served the community.
Yes, perhaps our queen has been sleeping without Belleair’s beloved resident Bernie Powell to keep her awake.
But there are models of wide awake "grand dames" which have a shared history with our Belleview Biltmore. Both models are thriving internationally acclaimed hotels. Both models flourish under owners that above all value their integrity, local governments that protect them, and communities that support them.
A most exemplary business model is The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. I mention this model to bring the website to your attention, as knowledge of the similiarities to the BB may aid in discussions in the fall. A quick look at the website will tell you that it is a wooden structure built in 1887 and has 385 guest rooms in full use.
A second model, a former sister if you will is the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, FL. www.biltmorehotel.com The role city officials have played is inspiring. In 2001 during economic difficulties, Mayor Don Slesnick told the city commission "I want to make sure the Biltmore is our flagship for our city …" www.miamitodaynews.com/news/011025/story2
And so I look to the Town of Belleair to lead this great effort, remembering that the cause is greater.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
Council Meeting Speech to the Town of Belleair on August
My name is Ed Jameson, and I live in Clearwater, Florida.
(Ed is Vice President on our Save The Biltmore Preservationists, Inc. from this web site)
I would like to thank the Town and Nancy Stroud for working on ordinance preservation efforts.
I would like to ask the Town to please follow Nancy Stroud suggestions that were mentioned at the last town council meeting. Nancy's suggestions would strengthen the ordinance for historic preservation.
A tree needs strong roots to outlast storms. The roots of preserving the Belleair Biltmore hotel exist in having a potent historic preservation ordinance.
A powerful preservation ordinance will stop “Demolition by Neglect” of the Belleview Biltmore. Owners of historic properties should follow building and fire codes governed by the state.
The average citizen would never have been allowed to keep tarps on their roof for almost a year. Recently I saw some Biltmore roof tarps coming down. I however did not see roofing repair crews working on the roof.
The town has the authority to enforce codes. Potent enforcement tools such as fines and liens already exist to insure everyone abides by town codes.
To insure Belleair's history is preserved, some “teeth” needs to be put into the town code enforcement. Even though hardship cases were mentioned at the last town meeting ordinance changes must remain strong and enforceable. Tough ordinance changes for historic preservation need to be implemented.
At the last meetings it was mentioned that legally tested 'standard' procedures and criteria would insure 'state certification'. Beneficial State certification would lead to significant monetary funds, grants and technical assistance. This would help to preserve Belleair’s historic Belleview Biltmore Victorian hotel.
A flood of developers and other groups want to tear down or gut wings of the Biltmore.
A powerful preservation ordinance will act as a dam to stem the tide and insure preservation of the Belleview Biltmore hotel for future generations.
Thank you. Ed Jameson
As a fifth-generation Floridian, Tampa native and former Pinellas County resident, now living in Sarasota, I support maintaining the Belleview Biltmore in its entirety! Beware the shortsidedness of building so many condos that vacationers stop coming because they have nowhere to stay! It will be our ultimate undoing as a tourist destination.
I have no money to offer, just an unbelievable commitment and admiration for the Belleview. I visit the Belleview at least once a year with my family and stay there when I'm in the area for business. I would also like to have my wedding there in April of 2007, however, I'm nervous to even book that or would they book it? Who knows. All I know is that I would be just crushed if something was to happen to the hotel and am a strong supporter of saving the Belleview even here in Crest Hill, Illinois!
Our stay at the hotel was fantastic. I stayed at the Biltmore for a wedding in April, 2005. The group that we were with are from all over the country. I am from McHenry, Illinois. We would like to go back every year for our reunion. Hopefully this grand hotel can be saved.
This is a speech given to the Town Council and Mayor of Belleair, Wednesday, September 7, 2005 by:
Barbara Walters Arnold, Director of Save the Biltmore
Preservationists, Inc, (this web site's nonprofit organization)
First let me say that in light of the mass destruction that took place last week due to a natural disaster, the fact that we are here discussing the destruction of this magnificent structure, this sense of place is at best hideous to me. It is beyond the scope of reason.
But we are here. Issues about Rights and Responsibilities have brought us here.
We are here because the current owner (Urdang and Assoc) has exercised their right to ask for permission to demolish this historic site.
We are here because the Town of Belleair has exercised its right to deny permission to do so. The Town of Belleair is not trying to deny owner property rights, it is trying to preserve the vital part of its heritage around which its comprehensive plan is designed.
We are here because as the owner of a historic site, Urdang has chosen to disregard the privileges and responsibilities associated with such ownership.
We are here because the Town of Belleair is responsibly seeking solutions to this crisis and the Town has engaged Ms. Stroud to draft preservation protocol.
Even though the Town’s Comprehensive Code was built around the hotel – even though the hotel was long ago designated a historical site, requests for demolition suggest that rather than being viewed as an expression of the human spirit that it is, the hotel’s only value is seen by some as the land on which it rests.
While economic growth, development, capital gain, return on investment are all tenets of our way of life. While strengthening business and private portfolios alike are sought after and admired goals, the bottom line that this Town needs to make clear once and for all is that it will not allow the integrity of it’s historic sites to be compromised to achieve said goals.
Historic properties such as the BB offer numerous economic benefits to their owners as well as the communities wherein they exist. Designation as a local historical landmark makes these benefits more readily available and I strongly urge the Town to seek this designation through one of its boards or if necessary, passing ordinances giving this jurisdiction. I also urge the town to apply to certification as a Certified Local Government.
Perhaps through the public support of saving this hotel the current owner will begin to appreciate the intrinsic value of their property – as well as the economic benefits yet to be realized. Perhaps Urdang through the course of these discussions will be inspired by the likes of Dan Musser, Gene Prescott and Steven Marcus all dedicated stewards of hotels similar in magnitude and history to the BB. Gene Prescott’s Coral Gables Biltmore was slated for demolition more than once and had endured numerous bastardations. Today of course it is flourishing as it was intended to - as a 4 star hotel. (Interestingly Gene’s Seaway Group also owns the Sheraton Sand Key.)
However, the Town needs a strong preservation protocol in the anticipation of any repositioning of ownership of the BB. It needs a design/review commission capable of and dedicated to distinguishing between the impossible and the difficult but do able when presented with intentions to modify or alter it. And, intentions need to be stated not assumed.
Finally, we are here because we care. Public awareness and support of saving the BB is growing every day. I applaud any and all individuals and groups who value its integrity and are committed to saving it. I am lending my time and efforts to one such group Save the Biltmore Preservationists.
Barbara Walters Arnold, Director of Save the Biltmore Preservationists, Inc, (this web site's nonprofit organization)
Dear Belleair Town Officials: The magnificent Biltmore Hotel is an American historic treasure! It is most important to save from demolition. Buildings are sculptures created by architects and artisans. Like important sculptures such as Michelangelo's Venus de Milo and David, the Biltmore is, in it's own way, just as significant in the role it has played in American history, and the statement it has made for 107 years by gracefully and magnificently occupying the bluff above Clearwater Harbor. Would you want a 107 year old work of art attached to your family destroyed? Consider the Biltmore part of our "family". We must NOT lose this most important crown jewel of historic Victorian architecture and legend in our community. Our future is our history. Our history is our past future. It is imperative to save the entire structure, including all wings and the interior. There is NO compromise concerning this issue. If it is gone, there is nothing possible that could replace its splendor and historic magnitude. Destroying the Biltmore or any part of it, would be like murdering or maiming a loved one. The structure is steeped in local and international history, and provides a most important glimpse of our past. For these reasons, it is most important for you, the Town of Belleair officials, to adopt the strongest possible preservation ordinance to prevent the demolition, and/or gutting or removal of any wings of the Belleview Biltmore. This matter is in your control. Please step up and take a stand to save the Biltmore in its entirety. Remember, there is only one Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa with such a significant legacy. Please don't let its heritage be forever vanished. Sincerely, Doug MannSecretary/Treasurer Save the Biltmore Preservationists, Inc.www.SaveTheBiltmore.com
My extended family, 6 of us total stayed at the hotel
and we just fell in love with the place. We have never experienced anything
like it. It would be a shame for anyone to tear this National treasure
down. The 6 of us are from Michigan, Ohio, and New York and we are spreading
the word to friends and family to write letters to preserve this wonderful
It would be such a loss for not only the residents of Belleair but all those who have enjoyed the the Biltmore and the golf course to see it go the way of developments of Celebration or other formula developments. Last night we heard the representatives say they could create an identity and heart of Belleair which would be pedestrian friendly.
Well, we all know this town is very special because of the open spaces and many parks and ,of course, the Biltmore Hotel and resort golf course. We do have an identity and heart and that is precisely what they would love to sell.
This development company wants to trade the true heart and identity of Belleair for the money it can make in selling the condominiums and homes it proposes.
The residents and friends of Belleair would only be
left with a memory of what Belleair was.
Let us unite for the common good in defeating this at every step. Thanks for coming out to the meeting last night.
Paul Farley, Belleair, Florida
My wife and I have stayed at this amazing hotel several times. Our European friends are always awed and delighted that such a magnificent building in the USA is still in use and still delightful. We all love the restaurants, decor and gentility of this unique part of Floridian history. What does Jeb Bush (or Carl Hiaassen) think about the plans to destroy this piece of American history? Would he allow the demolition of the Art Deco parts of Miami? Will the French Quarter of New Orleans become a part of history. The Biltmore is in the same league.
Richard Hamill, Vinca, France
Preserve the Belleview Biltmore and its history
I can hardly believe Florida residents would want to demolish the Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa. The history around it should be preserved. Money could never buy the history surrounding the magnificent edifice.
Surely, the National Trust should step in and save
it. We are from England, and demolishing it would never be allowed there.
-- Susan and Robert Bartlett, England
HELLO, I AM FROM OHIO BUT, SAVING SOMETHING FROM THE PAST HERE OR THERE THE GOAL IS SAVING SOMETHING FROM BEING TORE DOWN WE ARE WORKING ON A BUILDING IN URBANA, OHIO THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE TORE DOWN UNLESS WE GET SOMEONE TO STABILIZE THIS BUILDING WHICH MEANS BRINGING IT UP TO CODE. IT IS THE DOUGLAS INN BUILD IN EARLY 1800'S. IT HAS BEEN AN UP HILL BATTLE SO I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. TRY BRINGING A RESTORATION GROUP TO TEACH STUDENTS HOW TO RESTORE AND YOU CAN SAVE THE BUILDING AS WELL. FOR THE BUILDING SEE WHO WILL DONATE THEIR TIME AND SKILL TO HELP FIX IT UP. ALL YOU CAN DO IS ASK PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO HELP. THANK YOU. WE ALL NEED TO NETWORK. OUR PASSION FOR SAVING OUR PAST.
SUE BLAINE MECHANICSBURG, OHIO
As a native of Largo, Florida, and an ardent historic preservationist, I was simply outraged to recently learn of the plans to raze the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. How relieved I am, however, to find your site and know of your efforts.
While there is nothing I can do locally, as I now live in the upstate of South Carolina (having attended Furman University), nor do I have much money to spare, I would be more than happy to put my talents as an amateur writer to use in whatever fashion you see fit. Be it letters to officials, newspaper articles, etc., etc., it is the least I can do.
The Belleview Biltmore is the finest piece of Victorian architecture in the state. In fact, it is the root of my own fascination with history. I cannot imagine a Belleair, let alone a Florida, without it. I will do all I can to help preserve the hotel in its original and entire state.
Please keep me posted via email on all developments, and let me know whatever I can do to help.
Mark B. Horner
This speech was delivered at the Belleair Town Commission
meeting on December 20, 2005 by our Vice President of Save the Biltmore
Preservationists, Ed Jameson
I want to wish everyone a happy holiday season and again to thank you for all your efforts to Save the Biltmore.
On October 26, 2005, the preservation ordinance was passed with flying colors with a vote of 4-0. Also an amendment to this preservation ordinance was passed to help protect the interior of the hotel.
The ordinance was passed to save the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, and preservation attorney Nancy Stroud was hired by the town of Belleair to revise the preservation ordinance.
The newspapers reported that attorney Nancy Stroud said that the town manager and commissioners have the legal power to deny or accept this redevelopment permit application.
The newspapers also reported that the redevelopment/demolition permit application is going to be reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Board.
Could the town commissioners please explain why they are having this extensive review when the preservation attorney they hired to save the Biltmore stated that the commissioners and town manager are able to make the decision?
What will happen if this additional review board decides to demolish and there review was not necessary to begin with?
If the preservation ordinance was passed to save the Biltmore and the preservation attorney hired by the Biltmore was to handle preservation matters, why is the town having this extensive review and why are they going against the advice of the attorney they hired??
Thank you. Ed Jameson
I live here in Belleair and just wanted to share this with you. I moved here about 2 years ago from Los Angeles and while I was there I lived in an apartment that overlooked the old Ambassador Hotel. You've probably heard of the hotel. It is where Bobby Kennedy was shot back in the 1960's and is also the home of the famed Coconut Grove Nightclub. I used to look out of my window and wonder how the city could let such an important piece of Los Angeles history fall into ruin. It had been left to deteriorate over the years and I just read that they are demolishing it as we speak. What a shame! It was a beautiful old place and part of our history. When I moved here I couldn't believe that the town I was moving to also had a grand old hotel. Imagine my surprise when I read that it too was going to be demolished! I am including a link to the Ambassador Hotel website and there are links to a site with photos of the demolition. Maybe you could use the photos on your site to show people how sad it will be when this starts to happen. www.theambassadorhotel.com. The one thing that I think the Biltmore has going for it that the Ambassador didn't is the fact that the area it is in is still very beautiful. The neighborhood around the Ambassador has declined over the years. Anyway, sorry for the long email. Just thought you might be interested. BTW, are the yard signs still available and if so, where can I pick one up?
Frankie Hill, Belleair
We are very happy to receive visitors from the US in England every year. Many of them say that they come for the sense of history in places like London, Cambridge and Edinburgh. So why is the Biltmore under threat? It is a living, breathing piece of history that is not just a monument for people to look at, but also a thriving business. Thousands of people have started their married lives together there, thousands more flock there every year for vacations and breaks. The world wants to come to the suncoast, so invest, renovate, and let the Biltmore continue to be the pride of Pinellas for years to come.
Jay Dermott, Welwyn Garden City, United Kingdom, Very satisfied hotel guest 3 times
This is a speech given by our Vice President, Ed Jameson, of our nonprofit organization Save the Biltmore Preservationists,
There are five buyers who have contacted our Save
the Biltmore web site. We have given them information to contact the hotel
owner. A sixth party we contacted was Marcus Hotels and Resorts.
Any holding patterns or delays are detrimental to selling this hotel to prospective buyers. It appears that the selling of this hotel may be linked to the approval or denial of the redevelopment and demolition permit application.
Urdang has stated in their demo permit that that they intend to replace the Biltmore with sod. As early as 1995 according to Sunbiz.org Urdang filed corporation papers under the name of Allied Biltmore, Inc. In 1997 Urdang took out another corporate filing called Allied Belleview, Inc. Urdang’s web site www.urdang.com states under “Investment Overview” that they ‘intermediate hold for 4-7 years, convert value added properties to core and then exit.” and that they “focus on quality location with supply constraints.” In other words they focus on locations where land is undervalued and there is a high demand. Replacing the Biltmore with sod definitely reduces it to core value!
It is obvious that demolition by neglect has been going on for years with the Biltmore Hotel. Articles concerning the fire control system and the roof illustrate this point. All of these issues could have been fixed. Other hoteliers have stated after looking at the Biltmore that when historical hotels are kept up, they are easy to maintain.
For example, the Del Coronado Hotel in California is a large Victorian wooden structure. They maintained their wooden structure. That state landmark became a popular destination. Wood once properly sealed and protected can last thousands of years.
Do NOT be fooled by propaganda meant to denigrate to justify the destruction of historic structures.
The members on the Planning and Zoning Board here today will be judged by their decisions concerning the history of Belleair and Pinellas County by all future generations. Your names will be forever recorded as either destroyers of history or saviors of history.
Do NOT let Pinellas County’s history become pirated or pillaged.
Do NOT deny future generations their heritage!
We urge the Planning and Zoning Board members to abide by the Comprehensive Plan and DENY the demolition of the Biltmore to SAVE Florida’s history.
Thank you. Ed Jameson
Barbara Arnold Walters
I have my own website www.support-christian-interests.com, live in Zephyrhills, Florida, and I will be more than happy to add a link to your site to help save this historical treasure. I hope and pray that the greed of mankind does not destroy this beautiful place. How may more condo developments can we possibly need in this state?
I live in Garfield Heights, Ohio and I was a guest there a few years ago. I looked up the hotel to bring back memories.
This is so upsetting to me...As a very young child to today, I have been coming to the Belleview. My family started coming to the Belleview in the early 70's when it was owned by The Peabody Family. We would meet 5 families there each year and spend 2 weeks swimming, golf and at the beach. The old pool was fabulous, we were so sad to see that torn down and condo's put up in it's place! As a child, we used to go underground through the tunnels, play Bingo in the Starlight Room, sneak down to St. Andrew's Pub, we knew every nook and cranny in the hotel along with all of the staff, who were the best! We used to have "coketales" with Pat, the former pool Activities Director, while our parents had "cocktails" with the other adults...we had coin dives in the pool each day, the most incredible scavenger hunts you could imagine, movie nights...it was the BEST vacation a child could ask for. When it was bought and transformed into the Belleview Mido and they added the new entrance, new restaurants...they took away from the old fashioned feel. There are so few places left in the world where you can go and feel as though you have stepped back in time, back to the 30's, 40's and even 50's, where manners actually matter, where you have a formal family dinner as we did in the big beautiful old dining room, (that is now used as a conference center room-what a shame), where families can feel safe having their kids run around and have a blast...I hope they save these traditions and SAVE THE BELLEVIEW BILTMORE!!! I would be heartbroken to not be able to bring my kids there to enjoy a wonderful piece of history. I would hope they would restore it to it's original beauty and original activities. It is a "Golden Piece" of the past that should be preserved!
Wendy Hanser Huml and family
I have just heard about this latest threat on this Magnificent Old Lady! I cannot believe it possible that such a wonderful treasure of American History will be sacrificed on the "altars of progress". When will we realize that destroying our past limits our future?
I was privileged to have been accepted as an exhibiting artist in the new Mido Gallery in the late 80's. I had just generated a new technique radically different from what I had been comfortable and modestly successful with. I received invaluable support from the collections curator and the courage to press forward in this new direction. I remain forever grateful and will profoundly mourn this sad loss to our world of culture and history.
Daisy Pratt, Chattanooga, TN
To Whom It May Concern:
I stayed at the Belleview and fell in love with its charm! It would be a shame to let all the wonder of that fabulous structure be ripped apart! I believe it carries with it spirits of past guests which only adds to the charm! I don't live in Florida but, I do think that this is one piece of history that needs to be preserved!
Thank you for your time!
LaShonda Crislip, Springfield, Ohio
My husband and I just relocated here in Florida 2 years ago from southern California. Of course, we soon heard about the Belleview Biltmore and the fact that it might be demolished. We were sickened by such a thought, and immediately drove down there for a Sunday brunch. It was WONDERFUL! And we thought the hotel was, and is, WONDERFUL! Of course, there is a discouraging amount of deferred maintenance...shocking, really...but we could certainly see that with, unfortunately, a TREMENDOUS amount of money needing to be invested, that the resort could be rendered POSITIVELY WONDERFUL once again! Top drawer in the nation!
What an incredibly CHARMING place! It just so happens that we went down there late yesterday afternoon for an early dinner. It was so heartening to see so very much activity there...so many people patronizing the hotel. There was a wedding, a huge sheriff's gathering, and the dining room was full...everyone eating the fabulous fare that the Biltmore offers...wonderful quality food, and totally delicious!
And, of course, everyone was telling us of the very recent great news...that a group from California/Maryland, apparently with capital of more than $800 billion dollars, has entered into a contract to purchase the hotel! How fabulous! And we, too, hope and pray that these new owners will have the VISION to see how magnificent the Belleview Biltmore can ONCE again be in central Florida...a WORLD CLASS RESORT!
We KNOW that, not only would MANY people from around the country, and outside, Canada, etc., cherish coming to stay at such a charming, historic resort...many, many of us here locally will be willing, and thrilled, to regularly patronize the hotel for its terrific amenities...the wonderful dining...cocktails around the GREAT swimming pool...the spa, etc. We already do so now, so can hardly wait for an even MORE wonderful and improved facility. We all should fight to protect and preserve some of the SPECIAL things from our American history! The Belleview Biltmore is one of those special, irreplaceable things!
In southern California, as you undoubtedly know, we have a similar resort near San Diego...the Hotel Del Coronado. My hubby and I drove down there OFTEN...for drinks and dinner...or for an entire weekend. That type of resort facility, and the Belleview Biltmore, or the Grand Hotel on Mackanac Island, etc., are unparalleled places to visit and stay. All the Marriott's, Hilton's, etc., are just big boxes with lots of little boxes inside called "rooms". There's no comparison.
So, we're with all you other supporters! We'll LOVE being on your email list so we immediately hear all the news as things develop. And thank you for all your hard work toward preserving some of our cherished "Americana". We salute you! BRAVO!!!
Ruth Duncan, Palm Harbor, Florida
Biltmore full of happy memories http://www.sptimes.com/2007/04/04/Northpinellas/Today_s_Letters__Unhe.shtml
I've only known the Belleview Biltmore for 60 of its 110-year history, but I feel it was always a rewarding friendship.
I had my first view of the "Queen" in 1947. At this time she was capable of supplying her own electricity or water and even had her own firetruck. My dad was the paint contractor to help restore her once again to her original beauty after the Army had just vacated the hotel and had spray-painted almost everything pink. My first job was to paint the strips along the sides of the carpeted halls. I didn't know there are 71/2 miles of halls!
I was with the Belleview Biltmore from 1947 until 1961 - with two years off in the Army and two years away to start my family. All of these years were in the service department as a doorman.
The hotel was only open during the winter months. The rest of the year was spent keeping her beautiful. I spent two summers with the painting crew - the halls, the suites of rooms, the dining room ceilings, the many dormers, the vast porches and even the elevator shafts above the six-story roofs - all had to be painted. At that time all of the sidings were wood. Many times we were the only ones there, and to put rumors to rest, I never saw a ghost.
What a wonderful life the Belleview provided, not only for its guests, but for all the employees who came back year after year.
We were privileged to use the golf courses (two at that time surrounding the hotel), the tennis courts, the Tiffany Ballroom for dances and movies and even go to the private beach. Bernie Powell and Don Church took wonderful care of their employees.
Over the years many important people visited the Queen, including Norman Vincent Peale, the Duke of Windsor, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, the Lennon sisters and movie stars galore.
Each year my friend Lois Cormier of Clearwater - her husband and I worked together - and as many of my family as I can get together visit the hotel. This year a friend who had not been back there in 40 years called and we took a tour.
The kitchen is still as big and useful as before. We toured the dining room where so many well-dressed guests had great meals prepared by Andy Spence, the chef.
What a joy it was to read that once again the Belleview will survive with the glory it deserves. We thousands of employees say thank you. It deserves the respect.
Don Audibert, Largo
How are you today? I'm staying at the Biltmore
when I come to town for my wedding.
How much are they saying it would take to buy it and also
to restore it to it's former glory or close to it's former glory?
LeTanya Thomas, Denver, Colorado
I have visited the Belleview Biltmore on many occasions and I absolutely love the building!
Alice Harrison, Cleveland, Ohio
My father was Antoon J. Khouri and he operated a store with
fine linens, lingerie, children's clothes and oriental rugs during the 50's,
60's and 70's. We have many fond memories of the hotel, the owners at that time
and made life long friends with some of the guests. My family hopes that this
beautiful hotel can be saved it is truly a historic treasure.
Arthur Khouri, Massachusetts
Congratulations! My husband & I stayed at the Belleview Biltmore a few years back and had a wonderful time! We enjoyed a room with a balcony overlooking the pool and had our first massages at the Spa. We even enjoyed the ghost stories from the bartender and took a trip up the children's staircase to scare ourselves silly! I was distressed to learn that this magnificent gem was in jeopardy. And, now, thrilled to learn it has been saved. We will return next month for my birthday and celebrate your hard work! I can't say it enough, I just adore the Biltmore! I loved the charm of the uneven floors, old door handles, the spa, etc., etc. We've stayed at the Casa Monica in St. Augustine which was renovated by the Kessler Group. Mr. Kessler targets old hotels around the country and breathes new life into them. I only hope that the new owner will preserve some of the original charm at the Biltmore. Best Regards,
Sally Boggess, Pompano Beach
This speech was given at the Belleair town meeting after the Legg Mason presentation for their renovation plans for the Biltmore.
My name is Ed Jameson, vice president of Save the Biltmore Preservationists.
Good evening Mayor and commissioners.
I want to thank the commissioners for inviting Legg Mason, and I want to thank Legg Mason for their presentation.
It will be helpful if Legg Mason can get a tax abatement and a reduction of their building permit fees for their
extensive renovations since this could help them in their restoration efforts.
I understand that renovations could take awhile (up to two years). Hotels and other vacant property can be more
vulnerable to damage from fire, gas, water, damage, electrical, hurricanes, vandalism etc. during renovations. We
have researched and found 16 Internet links which show a number of vacant hotel properties, some of them historic,
that have encountered problems with fires; and these hotels have either burned down partially or fully. We hope that
either the town of Belleair and or Legg Mason will provide 24 hour round the clock security of the Biltmore while it is
vacant during the renovation period to minimize the impact of any of these issues.
I would like to thank Legg Mason and wish them every success in their renovation of the historic Biltmore.
September 19, 2007
This speech was given at the Belleair town meeting after the Legg Mason presentation for their renovation plans for the Biltmore.
Greetings Honorable Commissioners. I am Bill Stokes speaking on behalf of SPPI. (St. Petersburg Preservation) I have testified through various town commission administrations for the past few years. The preservation community is hopeful that Belleair is finally saving this landmark.
It is now time to put this issue to rest. You, as the leaders of this town have two choices:
I am speaking strictly as a preservationist. The Vinoy and the Don Cesar were far closer to the wrecking ball than the Biltmore has ever been. The vision that saved these two nationally renowned hotels can happen here if you, as town Council realize incentives are necessary to get this project going. This would complete the Pinellas County trio of nationally renowned historic hotels. Please grant these necessary concessions to give the developers the added assistance to go forth and spend the necessary millions and millions of dollars that are essential for rehabilitation that will be mandatory to make this a viable entity for any prudent investor. The end result can create an updated crown jewel for the town as was created for St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach when the towns stepped up and provided the vision and various incentives to refurbish and create these nationally renowned landmarks.
Please expedite the following decisions:
Thank you for your indulgence. Please be mindful that this could be the last chance to save a treasure that cannot be replaced. Incentives are essential to acquire a nationally renowned company who has demonstrated a historical preservation consciousness in other projects. Make them welcome and walk the talk via sweetening the pot for an investment in all our futures as to an improved quality of life in our community.
St. Petersburg, Florida
We really feel that this special place deserves to be persevered and protected for years to come. We enjoy going there.
Roberta Dugas, Brandon, Florida
I am so happy that the Belleview Biltmore has been saved. I have visited your hotel twice and thought what a shame to tear down this beautiful hotel and all of it's history. But it will be preserved. Hurray!!!!!!
Sarah Healey-Loucks, Tampa, Florida
My family and I stayed with you last year for a week and had a great time as everybody was so nice especially the lovely old gentleman who used to drive us to the beach hope he is doing well. So glad to here that the Hotel is now being restored all the best in the future.
Albert Sorrie, Greenock, Scotland
We just returned from spending four nights at the resort and had a very relaxing and enjoyable time. We are amazed at the history surrounding the Belleview Biltmore and that some would want it demolished. I truly hope LMREI-Legg Mason restores the Grand Dame to what she was in the past. I am eagerly looking forward to the unveiling of the plans for her on Sept. 19th.
Barb Scott, West Farmington, Ohio
Visited the Biltmore with relatives recently.
Donald Neau, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
I am in love with the hotel and was just searching for information on it.
Chelsey Squitieri, Palm Harbor, Florida
I can't tell you how excited I am to find that the Belleview Biltmore will be saved and restored to it's early 1900's beauty!!! I have stayed here many times since the mid 1980's, and have some kind of emotional connection with this grand hotel. My first memory of her is of the beautiful pink and green lobby, as it was, not as a dining room. I cannot wait to come back when it is once again it's splendid self. Thank you, to all who have worked on this project.
Cynthia Watson Winter Park, Florida
We spent a few days at this delightful hotel last January. We would very much like to return before long, so your 'Save the Biltmore' campaign has our full support.
Dick and Shireen Shuster York, England
When we first moved into Sunset Cottage, there were no obstructions to the
west; only the sea and a little island where bicycles raced on a shell track.
Even the majestic Live Oaks that adorned the vista when we first lived there
were likely not there when the construction of the cottage took place. Henchman
of US Steel came in and plundered them in the middle of the night while we were
in residence. Then of course the ugly condos were built obstructing the
enjoyment of any sunsets. I loved to sit on the porch and watch the sun go down
over the bay back in the early seventies.
There were always wild stories flying around that hotel. When we were there at first, it was only a seasonal operation and much of the staff would work at summer resorts up north and then come down for the winter season. They lived mostly in the dorms. They told all kinds of tales and it may have been from one of those old timers that I heard about a steam ship sinking. As the story goes a wealthy resident of New Orleans had the Sunset Cottage built as a second home. Upon its completion the family was coming to Clearwater from The Crescent City by steamship to enjoy the completed cottage. A big storm took the ship and its passengers down and the family never got to take pleasure in even one sunset from the porch of Sunset Cottage.
I don't know if there is any truth to this tale or not, but, I sure did reflect on it a number of times. My niece, Dawn, had an imaginary playmate up in the servants' quarters.
Jim Knaff III, California (his father was a former hotel manager in the 1970's)
May 20, 2008
It has been a protracted journey to finally arrive at this juncture in
your historic icon's struggle to survive. This is an international
treasure that needs your utmost consideration as to complying with the
necessary requests for reasonable variances. This will be essential to
accommodate the proper restoration and capitalize on this opportunity to
get the job properly done to achieve what will be a renowned town
gathering spot as it was in it's glory days.
Please seriously weigh the developer's requests to ensure they not be
repelled by unreasonable denials. Granted, variances are rarely
welcomed, but in this case of a virtual island of history with abundant
green space, the requests should be non intrusive. It will be inevitable
that a few will always be distraught that some perceived intrusion will
be present. Please use your prudent judgment for the benefit of the
tens of thousands of future visitors from local to international that
will eventually grace the halls of the hotel if this project materializes
as the developer envisions it. I feel confident that you will carefully
weigh any objections as to relevancy when it comes to such a potential
icon that will contribute so much to the common good for generations to
come. Your town is fortunate to have someone with the vision to restore
this structure in the manner it deserves. This magnificent jewel is an
irreplaceable asset to Belleair and beyond.
Thank you for your consideration.
St. Petersburg Preservation
This is a speech written by our Ed Jameson, Vice President, Save the Biltmore Preservationists. It was written for the final renovation site plans by Legg Mason presented May 20, 2008 to Belleair town council:
The Biltmore Hotel is the soul of Pinellas County’s history. This Victorian treasure belongs to everyone. Large numbers of citizens throughout our County and State support the renovation. The owner has put a lot of thought into making the hotel profitable. They have been very accommodating in presenting their plans to the community and making changes to accommodate reasonable citizen concerns.
The owners must be able to capture conventions and other events to insure the profitability of the Biltmore far into the future. To reach this goal they need new convention space, a state of the art spa, new pool, pool cafe, underground parking, expanded green space, expanded room size and additional large rooms to accommodate over 400 guests and other hotel historic renovations. This renovation will retain the historic nature of the Biltmore. The East hotel addition and the new spa replace the footprints of the old dormitory and swimming pool complex with complementary historic designs.
In prior meetings some citizens stated various reasons and some accusations. We need to support the renovation and accommodate the owner's plans to make the hotel profitable. The owner will be investing over a $100 million to renovate the Biltmore and they have a reasonable right to expect a profitable venture.
This has been a long fight, and those of us that want to save the Biltmore understand that some accommodations have to be made. Now is the time to act and support the renovations.
Save the Biltmore and our county's historical soul by supporting the renovations.
Thank you. Ed Jameson, Vice President, Save the Biltmore Preservationists
Re: Three litigious men stand behind hotel delay
It has recently come to my attention that a group of three individuals have jointly filed an appeal that challenges the Town's decision to support restoration of the historic Belleview Biltmore Resort. I am a 28 year resident of Pinellas County and a neighbor to the Biltmore property since 1992. We have seen everything from foreign owners renaming the hotel the "Belleview Mido" to plans to raze the entire site. Using common sense, it seems to me that the proposal of the current owners to preserve much of the historic features of the property while adding additional features and enhancements to bring the hotel up to par with other luxury resorts seems like a "no brainer." This beautiful property has sat in disrepair for far too long. It is time for the opponents to step aside and allow the necessary repairs and restoration to move forward. What would be the alternative? Let's allow our fair city to be known for something other than the headquarters for the ever expanding "Church" of Scientology. This historic hotel is a vital anchor in our community that should be restored and preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Jason Aquilar, Clearwater, Florida
Sad to see this classic lady go into a long slumber...we feel so fortunate to have stayed there in April, 2007.
Kurt D (last name not given) Jacksonville, Florida
I just spent Mothers Day Weekend May 09th & May 10th, 2009 at the
Beautiful Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa. What a historical, beautiful
magnificent treasure for all of us. I am so glad I got to visit it before the
next restoration June 1st, 2009. I hope everyone who has the opportunity visits
this historic place for future generations to come. I look forward to visiting
again in the future. Thank you so much for this web site, it is great!!
Sharon Rummel, Zephyrhills, Florida
I moved to Clearwater in 1977, my parents came shortly after and lived there for 18 years. I moved to Gainesville in 2002 after my daughter graduated from U F and decided to stay here. I almost died when I just saw the article online to tear down the Biltmore!!! My father ,Robert E. Nichols Sr , would roll over in his grave!! He did an ink rendering of the Biltmore 20 some years ago that was given to the retiring owner, before it became the Mido I think. I'M SO THRILLED TO SEE IT WILL BE RESTORED!! THANK GOD!!! How could they dare think to take down this historic building, money hungry ignorant B******s!!! >: ( Are there still any of his work in the gift shop? They were made into post cards, placemats and signed copies were sold. God blessed you for your fight to save it, THANK YOU!! Dawn Nichols P.S. I voted for Pres. Obama and am thrilled he was there. I'm sure he'll be back!! So glad it's being restored to original state!! My children were born in Morton Plant Hosp, his story too touched me :
Dawn Nichols, Past resident and daughter of Robert E.
Nichols Sr. Gainesville, FL
I have attended 2 holiday parties at the Biltmore and enjoyed seeing the wonderful Christmas decorations. I was lucky enough to receive as a Christmas gift in 2008 a one night's stay at this lovely place. I am delighted that it has been saved and will be renovated. It is so important to preserve an historical place that has provided so many people with so many wonderful memories. Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to save the Biltmore.
Mary Hager Kahl, Palm Harbor, FL Originally from Mankato, Minnesota
Live in the condos and really hope the renovation takes place !
Ed Donahue, Belleair, FL
I am trying to find somebody who remembers the small
schoolhouse on the Biltmore property circa 1952. I went there that year, and
have fleeting memories of it, but can not find any information about it.
I worked here as a waiter in 75, 76 and 77
Jeff Martin, Seattle Washington
I simply want to state that this initiative is fundamental to supporting the notion that there are still real people out there that have a vision for long term prosperity, whom oppose quick, short-term, money driven thinking (which has led to much destruction in our world). I fully support the restoration of the Biltmore, and the rebuilding of an inspiration for generations to come. Try and put a price tag on that...
Mark Bellino Toronto, Ontario
My parents have a condo in Largo, FL. I have a passion for the Victorian era. Have a collection of fine Victorian antiques throughout my condo. Enjoyed the movie "Somewhere in Time" with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. I wish I could go back in time to that era. Please keep me updated on the progress of the hotel. When will it re-open? Thanks!!!!
I just spent Mothers Day Weekend May 09th & May 10th, 2009
at the Beautiful Belleview Biltmore Resort & Spa. What a historical, beautiful
magnificent treasure for all of us. I am so glad I got to visit it before the
next restoration June 1st, 2009. I hope everyone who has the opportunity visits
this historic place for future generations to come. I look forward to visiting
again in the future. Thank you so much for this web site, it is great!!
(Note to the reader: We give a big thank you to Dell Valentine Kelleher, Clearwater, Florida for donating her grandmother's chest of drawers and mirror which were in the Belleview Biltmore Hotel around the 1930's, 1940's to our nonprofit organization Save the Biltmore Preservationists. This hickory wood furniture was unfortunately removed from the hotel right before it was used to station World War II military personnel. However we are extremely grateful she wrote and donated this wonderful piece of Biltmore history to us. Photo coming soon and more history on the furniture.)
My grandparents were very involved with the Biltmore back in the 1930's and
40's. I have a chest of drawers and matching mirror that came out of the hotel
when the troops moved in during the war. It has been used lovingly ever
since then. Wondering if anyone wants it for the hotel interests now?? I
appreciate the work you are doing to preserve our history!
Thanks, Dell Valentine Kelleher
Here is more information from Ms. Kelleher: "My grandmother Dell Valentine was a very connected (socialite) here in Clearwater. I am a fourth generation Clearwater native. One of her very dear friends was Billy Burke a golf pro, and I think he played with Babe Ruth on the Resort course at times. Also she was a great friend of Jim Smith who was another golf pro in the area at the time. Plus she was on the board of or one of the founders of every committee they had going back then. I really don't know how she ended up with the furniture but it was in the back bedroom of her house for as long as I can remember as a child . She had the set of twin beds and the dresser/mirror and maybe night stand but I happened to salvage the dresser when I needed one when I moved out of my parents' house. My grandfather Wilson "Rudy" Valentine was the founder and president of First Federal Savings and Loan downtown. My great -grandfather George Eichelburger was a builder, and he built some of the homes down in Harbor Oaks near the hospital. My grandmother graduated from Clearwater High School in the first graduating class on '38, Mom graduated in '58 and I in '78.
I took my husband to the Biltmore for his 50th Birthday. It was right before they closed. We have been looking forward to the reopen. We hope that someone sees fit to preserve this part of our history
Janet & Russell Wilson, Mobile, Alabama
If it becomes a Hotel again I will be across the pond to visit,even to see if the ghost on top floor is still there. having read newspaper reports it looks as if the soul has been strip from it , why get rid of historic artifacts.
Joan Langston, Eastbourne, England
I am in the process of researching a women's golf tournament played at the
eastern point summer colony in Troton, ct 1919-1940. the Griswold Hotel, a focal
point and sponsored of the event, had been owned by Morton F. Plant. upon
Plant's death John M. Bowman acquired the hotel and golf course, along with the
properties at Belleview that Plant had retained an interest What year did bowman
sell his interests in the Belleview property?
Thanks in advance for your help!! Dick Voyer, Mystic, Conn.
I had the great pleasure of staying at this fine hotel a few years ago. I
selected the Belleview Biltmore because I was intrigued by its history and I
was not disappointed. At the time of my visit talk was of demolition/ selling
out to a consortium in order that the site might be used to build an apartment
block. One feared the worst. How wonderful to read of the preservation and
renovation of this beautiful building. May it not be too long before I can think
of visiting The White Queen of the Gulf again.
Monica Berry, Cambridgeshire, England
My family and I use to stay here at The Bellevue Biltemore Hotel while visiting family in Clearwater. We lived in Oviedo, Fl. for 7 + years, and we will be moving back soon... I am hoping whoever is renovating this grand master will keep it's original Victorian flare alive! Shelley Fowler, Fox Island, WA
My husband and I got married there in 2004, we loved the hotel. I was wondering if you knew the baker who made the Belleview's wedding cakes. It was a special kind of layered cake that was wonderful and I would love to get it again for our anniversary. Can you help me out or do you know someone who might be able to help me? Thanks.
Misty Keough, Odessa, FL
I KNEW THE BELLEVIEW IN ITS 2ND HEYDAY, AFTER WW 2 , WHEN BERNARD POWELL OWNED IT. DON CHURCH, THE MGR, HIRED OUR CHEF, ANDY SPENCE, WHO WAS SUCCEEDED BY HIS SON TOM, WHO ALSO WORKED FOR US AT BASIN HARBOR CLUB IN VT, WHICH HAS BEEN IN OUR FAMILY SINCE 1882. I VISITED THE HOTEL MANY TIMES AND AM DELIGHTED THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO RESTORE IT TO ITS FORMER GLORY.
Robert Beach Naples, FL and Basin Harbor, VT
My husband and I stayed at the Belleview the last weekend it was opened. What an amazing and beautiful place. I've been trying to hunt down photos of the restoration progress. I'm shocked and severely dissapointed that it may not be re-opened as a hotel. What a shame. I was under the impression that it was purchased by a company for the sole purpose of preservation and re-opening? Would love to be kept in the loop. Thank you. -
Stephanie Wilson, Riverview, FL
I have recently started working at Morton Plant Hospital and through research I've done, I have realized the connection of the hospital to the hotel. I have fallen in love with this old hotel and want to do whatever I can to help make the voices heard that want to save it. It's so important to keep this tremendous piece of history and beauty.
Jane Damoiseau, Clearwater, FL
My husband and I are sad to hear that they want to turn this into a senior
housing center. We stayed at the Biltmore in 1996 and just fell in love with
the place. We thought it was great to actually find and stay in a place with so
much history in the state of Florida. When we came back to Cincy my husband's
mother had mentioned that his father had actually stayed at the hotel during the
war and that all the glass windows were painted black. If we ever come across
any of those pictures we will be glad to send them to you. We stopped in to
show our kids the Biltmore only to find out that the auction was occurring at
that time. We will hope and pray that someone will come forth to restore it
back to it's original glory.
Sorry to hear about your husband's passing. We hope that his dream as well as yours to restore the Biltmore will come to fruition. Keep us posted.
Janet Gates, Cincinnati, Ohio
We have vacationed at the Biltmore in Clearwater for years and loved it
there. We met Billy he use to come and eat our sausages in the morning with the
kids and we miss the place terribly. I keep checking to see when we can book
our next visit and nothing on your website as of today. Please can you send me
updated on the progress and when they will be done. I will send you pictures
that we have taken of the lovely hotel. What a great place to stay and
visit. Can't wait to come back.
Lilly Vezmar, Munster, Indiana
My name is Andrea Wright, I am a student at the Unversity of Central Florida and am currently completing my Masters Degree in Communications. For nearly 20 years now, my mother has told me stories about the Biltmore and her time she spent there growing up in St. Petersburg. I remember going there for birthday party teas, weddings and just to stay while i was visiting family. I grew up in Clearwater and have always held a special place in my heart for the Biltmore. When I was little I dreamed of getting married and having my reception in the Tiffany Ballroom. I am finding it hard to keep updated on the endeavours of the renovations and was hoping that you could give me the juicy details - I am newly engaged and have my eyes on the opening date.
Aside from fulfilling a childhood dream, I have been infatuated with the Biltmore for quite some time. At UCF I study Community relations and Fundraising and am gaining valuable experience in these areas as well as planning large scale fundraising events for charities. I know the open date is far away but I would love to work at the Biltmore, working in marketing, PR, Community Relations and Fundraising. All of which I know are very important to such a historic landmark. Would you be able to point me in the right direction?
I am frequently in the Clearwater area- as I have lots of family there still, and would love to meet you.
Thank you for your time...
Andrea Wright, Orlando, FL
Keep up the hard work...
This is one of my favorite places in the world.
Julie DeStefano, Venice, Florida
I remember my father ( now 92 ) telling us about how he met our mother while
stationed at the Belleview Biltmore in 1942.
He was an Army physical instructor during WWII and would take his men down to Clearwater beach for daily exercises.
He said that during that time the hotel opened up its doors to the servicemen and as a result my father married my mother and raised his 4 children in Florida.
I frequently have gone to the Belleview once for a class reunion a wedding and I routinely went to the incredible spa for a day of relaxation.
This hotel changed people's lives back then and still today.
There isn't much left to remember those days, please don't destroy such a treasure.
No name given
I have very fond memories of vacationing at the Belleview Biltmore in the 1960's as a child with my family. The golf pro from our local club in Albany was the pro there in the winter and that is what brought us to that memorable place. I am sure I visited again in the 70's and 80's with my mother. I would have loved for my family to have the wonderful experience that I did. Please add me to the mailing list.
Lisa Roberts, Saratoga Springs, NY
I can't believe this is happening to this awesome historic hotel. It really
saddens me to hear this!!!! I LOVE the Belleview, I remember I was 12 and
walking through this cool hotel. I didn't know that this was happening until I
took a big interest in having the Belleview in a film I'm about to produce
locally in Tampa. I was trying to reach someone a higher up to talk about
possible filming in this hotel. It didn't occur to me until I researched this
hotel, and now I am upset that such a cool place is being threatened. Maybe by
filming and using the hotel will do some benefit to saving the hotel by reaching
to others about it. Something needs to be done. If someone is out there I could
speak to, it would be great, because now it makes me want to film in this place
even more than my other location possibilities.
Terminal Of The Mind, Riverview, Florida
I stayed at the hotel a couple of years ago before it was closed and was blown away by its history and beauty. I was checking to see when it was reopening as I would certainly like to stay there again. It appears it is closed indefinitely at this point? I would like to be added to the email mailing list for updates and hope I get to stay there again one day.
Melody Ray, Fort Walton, Beach, FL
Last week the news of the Belleview Biltmore could become the site of
townehomes was preposterous. It seems the true intentions of the owners came
forth. Will this historic and important part of Florida past and its future
become over priced eye sores.
Carl Lingenfelter, Seminole Florida
My husband & I stayed at the Biltmore MANY times. We attended the private party on the lawn and were 2 of the last guests to check out of the hotel the day it closed. Our names are in the guest registry that was in the museum. My husband passed away last year, but I definitely plan to be a frequent guest again when it opens.
Jeanne, Hondlik, NEW PORT RICHEY, FL
As a local resident I have been on several tours at the Belleview Biltmore and would love to see it restored like the Don CeSar, St. Pete Renaissance and Tampa Bay Hotel. It is unbelievably beautiful with a one of a kind old soul worthy of preservation.
Dana Bruce, Florida
I was there on October 31st, 2007. I made a note to go back. I couldn't
believe how beautiful the hotel was and how classically elegant. I learned the
next year that it had been "closed for renovations" and was devastated. I've
been checking back yearly but now their website is not even running, it just
goes straight to the golf club. I really hope they preserve this amazing part of
Brandy Macaluso, West Palm Beach, FL
We have visited the Biltmore in Clearwater several times and we love it! Even old and rundown as it has been in the last several years before it closed for renovation. Waiting and watching for news of the fate of the hotel. Would love to visit again. My only hope is that it is restored to its original beauty and not modernized. Did not like that glass front that was added by the Japanese in the 70's. Would like as much original as possible and to not change the structure. Will help in any way that I can to save the hotel!!!! Also my husband is a roofing contractor and would love the opportunity to put a bid in on the roof if it would be of help.
Jeff and April Garrett from Portland, Tn.
I am a home owner in Belleair, FL and previously worked at the Belleview Biltmore & the club.
I HAVE STAYED AT THE BELLVIEW BELTMORE MANY TIMES . I LOVE GOING THERE FOR THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS . THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE THE BELTMOR IN THE WORLD I HAVE EVER SEEN . IT IS TRUELY A ONE OF A KIND . IT WOULD BE A GREAT LOST TO PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD THAT WOULD NOT GET TO COME AND STAY THERE AND ENJOYING THE EXPERINCE .
ELZIE MAHONEY, ST. PETERSBURG, FL
My family vacationed at the Belleview Biltmore during and every winter in the 1950s. We have numerous photos and movies of the hotel.Many of our family friends from New York vacationed at the same time. We have quite a few movies and pictures. I have fond memories of the little school house where I caught up on my school work, and of my nanny while on vacation, Viola Gentry, who was a friend of Amelia Earhart. I remember Mac the wonderful pool attendant who took such great care of the guests. So many fond memories of Bingo in the Starlight room, the children's dining room, live music at the pool, and dressing for dinner each night. It was a home away from home. Each year we would arrive and be greeted by the same staff....from the front desk to the wait staff. It was truly a special place and should be preserved.
Gloria Griffin, Canton, Georgia
West Palm Beach, FL
My husband and I spent a wonderful time there several years ago!
We stayed at the hotel just before it closed in 2008.
Steve Bramble, England
My name is Petra and I am with the Florida
Suncoast Paranormal Investigation.
I have been keeping up with the Biltmore preservation news and I am eager for it to be opened to the public. I had a chance to visit this magnificent hotel before the shut down and I must say it is remarkably a beauty that has left a impression in my heart.
Petra Skerritt Clearwater FL
Wonderful, beautiful, grand hotel. A piece of history.
Valerie Pekarek Gulf Breeze, Fl
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Laurie Anderson and I am a member of the Seekers Paranormal Society of Florida. As a group we have been interested in the history of this beautiful historic hotel for many years.
Laurie Anderson, Auburndale, Florida
Over 3 years ago I visited the historic Biltmore in Clearwater and was entralled with it. Can't wait to see it again after the renovations. Looking forward to hearing the current status and updates.
Cheryl Maloney, The Villages
Would you please add me to the mailing list
for Belleview Biltmore
updates? This hotel has been my favorite since I was a young child. My
family and I would often go just for the weekend. My brother and I would
have a fun time pretending we were in a haunted hotel and then explore
the hidden passage ways. This is truly a hotel that must be saved.
I have wanted to take my own children there but each time we have gone,
it has been closed. I sure hope that it is completed and open in time
for my own children to enjoy it as well.
Thank you. Allison
Used to go to hotel and am sorry to see the state it's in and hear of possibility of demolition. Glad you are here!
Keith Goodrich, Largo, FL
My friend and I went there to purchase a chair, headboard, pictures and few souveniers when they had the liquidation sale. It was like going to a museum! It was beautiful.
Debra Simar Treasure Island, Fl
To whom it may concern, to include, Mayor Katica and the Belleair Commissioners:
Let me first introduce myself. My name is Armando Cologna, 19 years old and from a neighboring county. My hobbies are volunteering at my local Historical Society, visiting historic buildings, collecting antiques and collecting classic Cadillac’s, studying its history and more.
It has only been a few years ago that I decided to get involved more with the Belleview Biltmore Hotel and its preservation. I am young person having just graduated high school and I think how wonderful it would be to actually experience a Historic Hotel from the Victorian era. This has been one of my dreams to do since I was very young. I can guarantee that many young kids like myself would love a place like this to enjoy because most of my generation has not been around or seen anything like this. I never had the opportunity to visit the Hotel property in person yet however, I am just amazed at the hotel’s scale and size needless to say the beautiful historic details that cannot be replicated in any new construction today. In my opinion, everything today is about Quantity and not Quality!!! Craftsmanship is no longer recognized as it once was.
I urge you to please save the beautiful and historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel for my generation and for future generations to enjoy. Please remember that this hotel is the last of its kind. Florida needs this hotel. There is nothing else quite like it anymore. The Belleview Biltmore Hotel in my opinion, placed Bellaire Florida on the map back in the day. I urge you to vote "NO" on any zoning changes that would allow for condo, townhouse high rises in place of the Biltmore. The next expense that everyone will be scrambling with is the cost of infrastructure needed to support this type of development. As for the Belleair Country Club wanting the Biltmore to be demolished just so they can add more parking space to their current spot is a joke. I can’t believe anyone could be that naive.
You can always build a new high rise or townhouse anywhere but you can never replace the Belleview Biltmore Hotel!! Pinellas County is already full of tall high rise buildings. Take a look at Sand Key where once beautiful beaches and natural beach resources existed. Gone! High rises and Condos, when viewed from a distance, it takes on the appearance of multiple pigeon coops. When viewing the Biltmore, I see Luxury, class, prestige and a lost art called CRAFTMANSHIP. How can anyone destroy all this in the name of PROFITS and GREED. (referencing some property developers) A lot of historic places in Florida are gone as a result of over development.
So for tonight’s Commission meeting, please vote NO on any zoning changes to the Hotel and leave the Hotel for a preservationist who cares about history and is willing to Save the Historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
This Outcome directly affects Harbor Oaks , either way , It affects our Historic District , and will eventually cause Problems , if developed, with Increased Traffic demanded on Druid Road.
The Harbor Oaks Home owners Association has always kept a strong Stance on Preservation first. Preservation is key in maintaining our historical status .
The Hotel was built in 1897, by Henry B Plant , it was 16 years old when Harbor Oaks was Developed in 1913. It is featured in the new ”Clearwater’s Harbor Oaks” Book on pages 77-79
Name withheld on request
Dear Honorable Mayor, City Council Members and Town Manager of Belleair
I have stayed at the beautiful Belleview Biltmore hotel on numerous occasions, and have brought friends and sent clients there over the years. I am a travel agent who loves historic hotels.
This hotel is such a treasure to your city and to our community. Its historic presence is an important piece of our past and something that gives us a sense of place. It is not your average hotel, but a shining example of what the area used to be. The heart and soul of Belleaire!
I believe the hotel can still be saved and renovated. There are still people who want to do that, such as the Belleview Biltmore Partners. It can still be a viable economic driver as a hotel. They have a plan that will save and protect the entire hotel.
The idea that this historic building with all its stories and claims to fame and possibilities might be DEMOLISHED breaks my heart. Once it is gone, it will be gone forever and there is no turning back
I feel like the hotel represents a terrible case of DEMOLTION by neglect since the roof has been leaking for years and nothing was done to protect the hotel property. This is a huge lack of stewardship and responsibility on the part of the City of Belleaire, to allow the hotel to fall into this condition.
I implore you to NOT change the zoning, not issue a demolition permit and to allow the regeneration of the hotel to its former glory. You can have condos anywhere. You cant have the Belleview Biltmore built again if it goes away.
Thank you for your attention to my request. I am unable to be there due to my travel schedule. I look forward to staying once again at the historic and beautifully restored Belleview Biltmore, open to the public for all to enjoy.
Rebecca Falkenberry, CTA, ATC, DS St. Petersburg, FL
I think it is an absolute crime what is happening to this hotel! I am a Californian, and all one has to do is look at the Coronado Hotel San Diego and the the popularity of an old wooden hotel!! In California they would never allow this to happen! Florida wake up!!
IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO SAVE THE BELLEVIEW BILTMORE HOTEL!
This was a three page flyer created by Belleair citizens and
distributed to Belleair homes on Saturday January 18, 2014
Contrary to recent media reports, the condition of our wonderful Belleview Biltmore Hotel has not deteriorated to the point that it cannot be restored. In fact, within the last sixty days, two separate legitimate groups have made offers to buy the Hotel property for the expressed purpose of restoring and operating the Hotel.
It has been common knowledge since a study conducted by the Town approximately three years ago, that restoration of the Hotel to full operations is the best solution for the town. In addition to preserving the town's unique landmark, a fully operating hotel would generate revenues for the town and the county well beyond those created by any residential development plan. Mayor Katica, members of the Town Commission, as well as other members of the current administration, have acknowledged this fact on numerous occasions.
The current owners of the Hotel property need to understand that the community wants to keep the Hotel and that they should sell it for a fair price to a group dedicated to saving Belleair's historic structure. Demolishing the Hotel and replacing it with 150+ condominiums and/or townhomes would further depress an already floundering real
estate market within the RPD, It would be foolhardy to add additional housing stock to a market still reeling from the effects of a severe depression.
Just recently, a proposal was placed before the Town Commission to restrict residential unit density in the town to ten (10) units (condos? townhouses?) per acre in a sincere desire to ensure that no part of our community - including the Hotel property-
would be over-built.
Sound_policy. But Premature. If the Commission were to adopt the pending initiative now, it would be sending a clear signal to the current owners and potential developers that the town approves of residential development on the Hotel property.
The Town wants the Hotel to be restored. If the time should come when there are no longer interested buyers who want to restore the Hotel, or the property has been sold to developers, the pending ordinance would be in order. That time has not yet arrived.
We ask that you attend the Commission meeting this Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.in„ January 21st, and urge the Commissioners to delay the vote on the RM -1 0 proposal until all legitimate possibilities of restoring the Hotel have been exhausted.
The number 1 Goal of the town’s Comprehensive Code is to "ensure that the park-like, residential/family character of the Town of Belleair is maintained and protected, while supporting the continued economic viability of local resorts and the preservation of the Bellieview Biltmore Hotel"
Owners of the Belleview Biltmore believe they can build a multi-unit complex on the hotel property because it borders the RPD condos. The RPD also includes residential estate homes which the hotel property borders; the owners have no interest in this option. Ed Armstrong wants a new multi-unit zoning option and has consultants assisting in writing of the code.
The RPD developer was restricted to 5 units per acre and was required to maintain the town's “park-like" character by complying with a defined "green space" ratio. This "green space" is the Belleair Golf Club course. If the club ceases to exist the property reverts to the Belleview Biltmore Homes Association and may not be developed. The code the owners consultants helped to write is R10 (10 units per acre) and does not have equivalent green space provision.
This type of zoning action caused the beaches to change from residential to condo communities. We have 1363 homes and 805 condos in Belleair, Allowing more condos will turn our town from a family to a retirement community. This would violate the Comprehensive Plan which the county and state have approved and the Commissioners have sworn to uphold.
If our commission establishes an R 10 zone they will be responsible for setting Belleair on the beaches development path. This needs to be stopped.
Some will say this will never happen. By looking at 50-year-old beach photos it's clear that it will. As citizens, we must work to ensure that our commission upholds the laws and ordinances of the town and takes the action necessary to protect Belleair from becoming over developed. Instead of adding an R 10 zone, the town would be better served by removing the R15 (15 units per acre) option and by adding a restrictive condo to home ratio to assure the protection of the park-like, residential/family character of the Town of Belleair.
If consulting experts are needed they should be engaged by the town. Work done by any other group should be destroyed and the town should not re-engage the same organization and/or people.
Contact the commissioners (email@example.com) to let them know that you don't want the R10 zoning option put in place, that you want the park-like setting of our town protected, and that you do not want any more condos built in Belleair!
Please attend the Commission Meeting on Tuesday, January 21t at 6:30 P.M. too.
Do you think your taxes are too high?
In the past 24 months the commission has:
• Increased water fees twice
Created a new storm water tax
• Created a new permeable surface tax
• Increased our real estate taxes (millage)
And will have to address our failing water system soon.
Years of poor decision making, by previous commissions, caused
these tax increases - don't let this happen again! The hotel is the town's largest commercial asset, which is the only means to controlling residential taxes in the years ahead.
Attend Tuesday’s town meeting and encourage the commission to vote against the R10 Zoning proposal. The quickest path to improving the property is for the owners to put the property in the hands of developers who will adhere to the preservation ordinance and restore the hotel. Contrary to what people are being told, the hotel is savable and there are investors that are willing to do so. Creating the R10 Zoning category will hinder their effort to have meaningful negotiations with KAWA.
Protect this Valuable Asset - Stop the R10 Zoning Effort!
Attend Tuesday's Town meeting
January 21, 6:30 P. M. at Town Hall
Below from: Annette
Vedsegaard-Ross, who sent this letter to her
Vedsegaard-Ross,Hula Hula Productions
who sent this letter to her mailing address
The Floridiana Festival & Highwaymen Artist Show
Our family knows a thing or two about preserving history. For about a decade I’ve operated the Floridiana Festival & Highwaymen Artist Show, the state’s largest antiques and collectibles show and sale celebrating Florida’s rich treasure of memorabilia from our historic past.
PLEASE READ THIS EMAIL. PLEASE ATTEND THE MEETING THIS TUESDAY.
Only once before have I ever utilized our extensive email list to reach out to you. This is URGENT! I am sending this email as blind copies to everyone on our email list, so your email is not disclosed to anyone. You will only see my address in the “cc” line.
One of the grandest icons of Florida’s history is the Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Belleair, Florida (next to Clearwater). Many of you will recall that I held the Floridiana Festival there in 2005, in their grand ballroom. If you attended that show, you’ll recall the majestic hotel. NOW, that beautiful hotel is in imminent danger of being replaced by a condo developer. A condo developer! What a short-sighted decision that would be to allow that to happen. The struggle has been going on for years to try and save the hotel. It is now down to a vote by the Town’s Commissioners who are leaning towards giving permission FOR the hotel’s destruction!
Think about our state’s legacy and how wonderful that building will be in another 100 years. Compare that to what those condos will look like in 100 years. Which would you rather see? The grand historic Biltmore or a bunch of condos?
I am asking each one of you to change whatever plans you may have had for this Tuesday night, January 21, and come out to the URGENT Town Hall Meeting in Belleair. The commissioners are about to vote to allow the hotel to be destroyed. They have allowed political pressures ($$$$$$$$$$) to sway their judgment. PLEASE ATTEND THE MEETING TUESDAY EVENING!
STRENGTH IS IN NUMBERS. I am asking you to attend this meeting. My husband Stephen and I will be there, along with our 11-year old daughter Stella. Stella is in a wheelchair for the next 5 or 6 weeks (surgery on her ankle) so you’ll surely recognize us even if we’ve never met in person. YOUR presence is important – please don’t think that just ONE person won’t make a difference. STRENGTH IS IN NUMBERS. Come out as a show of support. In the “A” section of the Tampa Bay Times today there is a full-page ad regarding this important meeting. BRING A POSTER, EVEN JUST TEAR OUT THE AD AND WAVE IT. MAKE A POSTER WITH “VOTE NO to RM-10.”
There may not be room inside for everyone to have a seat. In fact, it is likely that there will be more people outside than inside. I anticipate that is where we will be too. DRESS IN LAYERS IN CASE IT IS COLD. PLEASE COME TO THIS MEETING, EVEN IF YOU ARE JUST A FACE IN THE CROWD – STRENGTH IS IN NUMBERS. MAKE TUESDAY NIGHT THE LARGEST ATTENDANCE AT THEIR MEETINGS THAT THIS TOWN HAS EVER SEEN. THEY WILL KNOW THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE OUTSIDE AS WELL AS INSIDE. YOU MAY ALSO REQUEST TO SPEAK, BUT MUST MAKE THAT REQUEST IN ADVANCE OF THE MEETING (See email content at the end from Save the Biltmore Preservationists for specific directions on what to do in order to speak).
You do not need to be a resident of the Town to care about this hotel – in fact, more support for preservation of the hotel is coming from outside the area. Support from those who know a thing or two more about the importance of historic preservation than the Town’s Commissioners appear to – people like YOU who have attended the Floridiana Festival throughout the years.
PLEASE – CONTRIBUTE YOUR TIME! ATTEND THIS MEETING TO SUPPORT PRESERVING THE HOTEL. LOOK FOR US AND SAY HELLO. WE WILL BE SOMEWHERE IN THE CROWD. WE RECOMMEND ARRIVING EXTRA EARLY TO MAKE SURE YOU CAN FIND PARKING ON AN ADJACENT STREET. WE WILL PROBABLY BE THERE BY ABOUT 5:30. SEE YOU TUESDAY NIGHT!
BELLEAIR TOWN HALL
901 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
6:30 p.m., Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Thank you for your support now for saving the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
Hula Hula Productions
The Floridiana Festival & Highwaymen Artist Show
Anne Peery, Executive Director of Florida Trust to Belleair Officials January, 2014 wrote a letter to Belleair officials before the January 21, 2014 meeting. To read her letter click this link: LetterBiltmore Supp Ltr FTHP 1-21-14.pdf
My wife and I were fortunate enough to stay at the Belleview Biltmore in October 2005 when on vacation from the UK. I became aware of the hotel prior to our vacation through research on the internet and the history of the hotel was the main reason for booking our week's stay. After a hectic week cruising the Caribbean and a few days in Key West we wanted somewhere to relax. The Belleview Biltmore was perfect. Whilst it had suffered hurricane damage, I believe the previous year, you would be a fool not to be able to appreciate what the hotel represented, its charm and understand its importance. We were told of plans to renovate the hotel and restore it to its former glory with a view to completion, we believe, by 2009 and we vowed to come back to stay at the "new" Belleview Biltmore. We are truly disappointed to think that this may not happen. It would be such a waste if the history of the hotel cannot be preserved. Unfortunately, we are unable to write out a check and save the hotel, but, the Belleair authorities should understand the importance of what they risk losing. It would be bordering on the criminal to let developers demolish such a piece of American history. There must be someone in the US who would want to Save the Biltmore.
Steve Hargreaves, Isle of Wight, UK
Mayor Katica, Deputy Mayor Fowler, Commissioner Wilkinson, Commissioner Shelly, Commissioner Piccarreto:
The reason I am writing this letter, instead of speaking to you directly, is because we Southern gals can't say “Howdy” in 3 minutes!
In our country, everyday 8 to 10,000 people turn 65 years of age. Our older citizens like quaint, traditional atmospheres with sophistication. They PAY.
Many companies want to sponsor events that require gatherings with sophistication. Real architecture can be crippled but is worthy of restoration. The uniqueness of the Biltmore site can easily be lost because of money. Greed can and has killed tradition and beauty forever. This special historical site can become a working establishment like other cherished places. For example, the Ashville Biltmore Chautaugua, NY, Abbington, Va. And many others. These places have personalities to us.
Many of the folks fighting for the Biltmore monument live here because of it.
Restoring and exhibiting an adaptation of old with new will be interesting, valuable and a profitable feat. Various hospitality industries, i.e. bistros, tea rooms, winery and gourmet shops, art galleries, and fine dining for orderly lifestyles will bring funds. How do we teach manners and behavior to our youth if only MacDonalds gets our money?
There isn't another Mona Lisa and when the Biltmore is gone away with there just ain't no more boys!
By keeping and caring for the artifacts that generations were motivated to create; our historical buildings and stories will live on and these bonds and experiences will never be forgotten but bear witness to the grace, class and sophistication that was evident with etiquette.
In our, ever increasing, technological world, our rude/crude social media – we neglect showing our best light to our youth and normal folks. The Biltmore itself IS class.
Hopefully, the last supper has not yet been served in our Belleview Biltmore hotel.
Sue Dillon, Belleair, Florida
Re: Biltmore rezoning talks are back | story, Feb. 9
Hotel needs TLC, not removal
It's most unfortunate that companies in the United States can coerce municipal and state governments to demolish edifices that have attained historical status. Such atrocities do not occur in foreign countries that
revere their heritage.
The Colosseum in Rome is nothing but a pile of stones piled on top of each other in a circular pattern. Do the Romans say, "Tear it down for a modern structure"? Definitely not.
The Pantheon in Athens is nothing but a bunch of columns on a hill. Do the Athenians clamor to tear it down? No, they wouldn't think of it.
Apparently, only in the United States do we have individuals who are ready to destroy anything for a profit. The Belleview Biltmore Hotel owners deliberately shut down the hotel and fenced it in for the sole purpose of letting it deteriorate in time by the elements and lack of upkeep.
Their sole purpose was to have the property condemned and demolished for multi-story dwellings at a handsome profit.
Should the residents of Belleair tolerate such behavior? Many will not. Belleair residents should stand fast and persevere. The property is designated as a historical site and should remain so.
The main building of the hotel can be restored with only the wings being removed. The hotel is conveniently adjacent to a prestigious golf club, and a shuttle van could transport guests to and from the beaches.
As a Belleair resident who lives as close to the hotel property as you can get, I don't consider the property an eyesore, but a place that requires reverence and care. Without the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, Belleair will be a small dot on the map as another small, insignificant town.
Al Vacca, Belleair, Florida
My husband and I are seasonal residents from Chicago, who own a condo for the past 8 yrs in Bayshore II on the Hotel property. Even though the new signage gives solo billing to the Belleair Country Club, it is the HOTEL that bequeaths the CLUB , and gave the TOWN it's notoriety, and I will ALWAYS consider it as such....
When deciding on a place here, we searched up and down Pinellas county from Dunedin to Tierra Verde. We fell in love with our Belleair condo because of it's a small town feel , a lovely gated, and gracefully mixed residential, "hidden gem."
It was such a pleasant contrast to most properties we viewed, which were "cookie cutter condo clusters.".. And then there was the Hotel... center stage to this Rockwell setting, despite showing it's age, and sporting a funky Godzilla entrance, it oozed history and grander times....
We were so excited in '09 at it's closing, that this Sleeping Beauty would awaken in '12, to it's restored glory. But people being people could not let preservation architects proceed...lingering law suits, delaying the process till the economy tanked...
We now have another chance with a proven preservation architect in the wings, that is SO close to raising the capital needed to give Belleair a world class resort again. It CAN be saved despite the Ades brothers atrocities...
Give him the 6 months you originally agreed to.,before everyone started drinking the Cheezem kool aide.
The town graciously bought the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club in
order to preserve the surrounding resident's "green space", and their property
What about the rest of your constituents? The Hotel property residents who are trading a prestigious resort, to Cheezem's cheesy cookie cutter condo clusters!!!! We are the victims here, as we were at Tuesday night's meeting.
This was the first meeting I was in town to attend, and have been a preservation advocate from Chicago. I was appalled at what I witnessed ....
The obnoxious, rude and arrogant behavior of the Country Club members that were in mass...heckling, and sneering, as well as commissioners telling "preservationists" to "Go sit down..." They all politely respected Belleair Country Club 's presentations.. Which only shows you that "money can't buy class ...."
REALLY?? We teach our children not to bully, but here in our tiny little town, well dressed adult bullies were in abundance.
I applaud commissioner Fowler for his vote against selling off the Hotel one acre at a time.
I encourage the rest to consider the impact of their decisions on ALL their constituents, not a select few....
Bring Belleair back to bring synonymous with Home to the Prestigious Belleview Biltmore.
Please give a potential "Prince Charming", a 6 month chance to awaken this Sleeping Beauty you are in trusted to,...
The Vinoy slept for 18yrs., and now is St. Petersburg's MVP....
Below is a flyer that was written and distributed by the ad hoc committee of Belleair for the February 18, 2014 commission meeting.
"The best solution for the Town is to restore the Hotel." Mayor Gary Katica, on several occasions when responding to questions about the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
The Mayor is right on. The Hotel is the best solution for a variety of reasons: fiscally for the Town; financially for property owners throughout the community, but especially in the RPD; aesthetically for all who want to preserve the tranquil, park-like quality of the community; and practically to minimize the disruption due to the time required to develop the site residentially: demolish the Hotel; get required permits, zoning changes, etc.; extended construction time on the site required to establish new water, sewage, and utility lines, parking areas, roads, etc. and the possibility that units will not sell immediately and the developer will not want to invest in and build units that are not selling. As a result, residential development of the property could extend for years, well beyond the time needed to restore the Hotel.
As a commercial entity, the Hotel would be subject to valuation increases and forms of taxation (tangible property, Pennies for Pinellas) that doesn't apply to residential property. In the long run, monies generated for the Town by an operating hotel would nearly double those from residential development, according to the Town's own study.
Adding more housing units, while residential real estate prices are still distressed from the recent depression, would force property values down even further. Because of land and other high development costs in the RPD, developers need to offer high-end condos with a view of the water. This could only be done if zoning changes are made to allow construction above the tree canopy. The RM-10 zoning district proposal would permit high rises up to 80 feet (40 feet above the tree canopy) on what is the highest point in the community. That is the real reason why potential developers of the Hotel property are so supportive of RM-10. They want to know they will be able to build high-rise condo towers before they commit to buying the property. They need the full 80 feet to build the suggested 130 to 140 condominiums in two buildings to maximize the number of units with a view.
Not only would such a development require tearing down the Hotel, Aesthetically those two towering structures would destroy the unique park-like atmosphere that has always surrounded the Belleview Biltmore.
The fate of the Belleview Biltmore is one of the most important, if not the most important, issue to face the Town in decades. The Commission should seek and abide by the voters' opinions. A town-wide referendum is in order.
know a thing or two about preservation in Florida. “The Belleview Biltmore can
be restored for the enjoyment of all Floridians and visitors for another
Rick Gonzalez, President of Florida
Trust, Vice chair of the Florida Historical Commission, and a practicing
historic preservation architect.
Recent publicity appears to have been designed to convince residents of Pinellas County that the beloved Belleview Biltmore cannot be restored, but Mr. Gonzalez and two groups that have approached the current owners within the last 73 days to purchase the Hotel property with the expressed intent of
restoring the Hotel, believe otherwise.
Those groups should be encouraged and the Commission should not pass legislation prematurely, such as the proposed RM-l0 zoning district proposal, that instead, would encourage those who want to tear the Hotel down and discourage those who want to save it.
“We will probably be judged, not by the monuments we build, but by those we have destroyed." Ada Louise Huxtable
* * *
“ . . . . ensure that the park-like, residential/family character of the town of Belleair is maintained and protected while supporting the continued economic viability of local resorts and the preservation of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel."
Upon taking the oath of office, Commissioners swear to uphold and enforce the laws and ordinances of the community. The above excerpt from the Town's comprehensive plan could not be more clear: it is the duty of the Town to preserve the Hotel. That duty is not qualified by such phrases as "based upon its condition" or "only if it is convenient". It is the duty of the Town to preserve the Hotel.
Please join us at the Commission meeting next Tuesday evening (February 18) at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Hall,
901 Ponce de Leon Blvd., to remind the Commissioners that their duty to the Hotel is still in effect and ongoing.
My wife and I were fortunate enough to stay at the Belleview Biltmore in October 2005 when on vacation from the UK. I became aware of the hotel prior to our vacation through research on the internet and the history of the hotel was the main reason for booking our week's stay. After a hectic week cruising the Caribbean and a few days in Key West we wanted somewhere to relax. The Belleview Biltmore was perfect. Whilst it had suffered hurricane damage, I believe the previous year, you would be a fool not to be able to appreciate what the hotel represented, its charm and understand its importance. We were told of plans to renovate the hotel and restore it to its former glory with a view to completion, we believe, by 2009 and we vowed to come back to stay at the "new" Belleview Biltmore. We are truly disappointed to think that this may not happen. It would be such a waste if the history of the hotel cannot be preserved. Unfortunately, we are unable to write out a check and save the hotel, but,the Belleair authorities should understand the importance of what they risk losing. It would be bordering on the criminal to let developers demolish such a piece of American history. There must be someone in the US who would want to Save the Biltmore.
Steve Hargreaves, Isle of Wight, UK
My wife and I are in the process of
purchasing a home in Belleair.
We love the area with its lush greenery; sense of community and neighborhood, and of course, its proximity to the Gulf Shore. We are from the Atlanta, Georgia area with deep roots; 4 generations currently living in Cobb County Ga. One of our daughters moved to Redington Shores, which gave us reason to come and visit. With each visit, we became more interested in changing our life style and surroundings.
Belleair is a Gem of a town, we would hate to see short sightedness and the quick fix mentality take the place of logic and sense of history, allowing the demise of The Historic Great White Queen of The Gulf. Y'all need to embrace your elegant past much like Jekyll Island, Georgia did, making it a tourist destination point.
Bob Braude, Belleair
How_Heard: Researching my great grandfathers buildings in Florida
Comments: The name is Francis J. Kennard not Kinnard. In 1897, Michael J. Miller was the senior architect and Kennard was the junior. Later my great- grandfather designed many buildings throughout Florida. Great buildings like this are rare in Florida and should be preserved.
Jeff Bell, Lake Forest Park, Washington
First let me thank you for your public service. Although we are often critical of those in your position it takes a special individual to do this important job which many us would ourselves be unwilling to do.
I’ll leave you with a very prophetic quote from Pulitzer prize winning writer and the first architecture critic for the New York Times, Ada Louise Huxtable. Her quote is in regards to the demolition of Penn Station.
Good Afternoon Commissioner
First of all let me say that I did appreciate your explanation of
WHY you voted the way you did. Thank you for that.
As you can imagine, years of effort behind trying to save Belleair's
National Treasure has become so very frustrating. To actually have
someone step forward with the desire and ability to save the ole
girl really was exciting but alas it was pretty evident that you all
had made up your minds on the 2.3 acre piece even before the
meeting. I can understand that the RH group was so last minute that
it gave no time for reflection but they did not want to present
anything until they had the full commitment. As I said to you
afterward, each step that the commission takes that encourages a
developer to put up their 80+ ft towers on the grounds, makes it
more difficult to move forward toward restoration . The Mayor says
that it is out of the commissions hands when, in fact, it is
squarely in the commissions hands. If the commission does not
promote demolishing the hotel, with their actions, the hotel can be
and will be saved.
I did love reading in the TBT this morning that you did appreciate
the efforts of the RH group and their visit with you and the paper
quoted you as stating that you were satisfied with the financial
information they provided. I had understood that they offered to
have you speak to the lender directly as well.
There is only one opportunity left for restoring the hotel and that
is if the commission denies (or at least delays) the RM10 zoning.
It can be said (all day) that the RM10 zoning has nothing to do with
the developer...... but we all know it does. it gives the green
light for the developer to go ahead and throw up condos. If the
commission is truly interested in restoring this national treasure
and providing the town with the best tax base, as you all have said
many times over, then you will not pass the RM10.
It has been very frustrating for us, who reside on the property,
to have the RPD Board represent that we all are in favor of passing
the RM10 when, in fact, our building was never polled or asked their
preference, it was just our President (who sits on the Board) who
was for the RM10 so he threw our building in (unfairly so).
I find it doubtful that all the hands that were raised as Belleair
residents actually are residents and for the Mayor to tell
Commission Fowler that " this is not important " is totally out of
line. Please consider a referendum vote of the Belleair residents
before you do anything. I sat in on some of Micah's visits to other
buildings and I feel the whole issue has been misunderstood as the
RM10 was presented to residents as the ONLY WAY TO CONTROL HIGHER
DENSITY, when, in fact, is quite the opposite and does not offer
that protection at all.
Please give this RM10 vote your very careful, heartfelt consideration.
Thank you Michael. Once again we ask for your vote.
Karmen Hayes, Belleair
How_Heard: Was looking for a venue for my daughter's wedding in 2006 and came across the Belleview Biltmore
Comments: Was very disappointed that this venue was not available in 2006 for my daughter's wedding. I have periodically checked back since we had other opportunities to host gatherings and always loved this hotel and its grounds. It would be a crime to destroy this facility or its grounds or to renovate it in such a way that it would lose its historic integrity. The design is beautiful and timeless.
Hughes, Valrico, FL
Vintage photo is from 1920. Scroll down to see current front entrance photo.
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