Before we made this trip, I recounted to Ursula an article I’d read about a recently moved and renovated grand hotel near Clearwater, Florida. A little research refreshed my memory, and we obtained off-season rates at a magnificent property on which we otherwise would have passed because of the expense. This is the Belleview-Biltmore Hotel, as it is called today, and it has quite a history.
This hotel dates back to 1897, and it was built by railroad tycoon Henry Plant. At its peak, the Belleview (see: Belleview-Biltmore website link) encompassed a phenomenal 400,000 square feet/37,160 square meters!
The Belleview was closed to the 2000s, however, and fell into disrepair. The cost of restoring the hurricane-damaged grande dame was prohibitive, and the ocean-side real estate upon which she sat was too valuable to leave idle.
Fortunately, the current owners saw something worth salvaging. Unfortunately, it would not be the entire massive hotel. So, most of the original 400,000 square-foot structure was demolished.
And the small remaining portion was to be relocated 230 feet/70 meters. You can see that move in the time-lapsed video below:
The restored hotel, now renamed Belleview-Biltmore Hotel, reopened December, 2018.
The property surrounding the hotel has been transformed as well, including this impressive swimming pool:
Inside are various artworks, including paintings commissioned from Christopher Still. In the painting below, titled Queen of the Gulf, every item depicted by Mr. Still is symbolic of the hotel or of past owners. This description of the work is from the Belleview-Biltmore website on the hotel’s artwork:
The end result is a depiction of two steamer trunks – like the ones visitors arriving via train to the hotel would have carried – that look as though the items are spilling out of them. While there are more than 50 artifacts featured (so many that a small guide had to be published to help viewers understand each reference), a few interesting ones to note: sheet music for The Belleview Waltz, which was composed in honor of the hotel opening in 1897; a double-stranded pearl necklace to symbolize those worn by Maisie Plant, the wife of Morton Plant; a circa-1920 golf ball from the hotel’s Donald Ross golf courses; and a Mumm champagne bottle, which was among the artifacts found in the basement of the hotel.
This next piece of art is from another artist, and depicts the Belleview from when Henry Plant ran a railroad line past the front entrance:
We’ll return to the Belleview on Wednesday, but until then let’s take a look at that inviting front porch: