The BELLEVIEW BILTMORE HOTEL and The Novel Series: SPIRITS OF THE BELLEVIEW BILTMORE

The setting for the “Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” novel series is the historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel, located in Belleair, FL. The hotel, along with the town of Belleair that surrounds it, was built by one of Florida’s founding fathers, Henry B. Plant, in 1895. The Belleview Hotel opened as a luxury winter resort on January 6, 1897, and for almost 120 years, it hosted people from around the world, including countless famous guests from every decade.

In 1904, an addition on the East end of the Belleview Hotel almost doubled its size and, after the hotel was sold to the Biltmore Hotel chain in 1920, the South Wing was added. Over time, other additions increased the size of the hotel to a whopping 820,000 sq. ft. – arguably the largest occupied wooden structure in the world.

The Belleview Biltmore closed on the last day of May in 2009 for a total renovation, but due to the collapse of the real estate market and subsequent financial crisis in the USA, the owners lost their funding, the renovation fell apart, and preservationists began a fight to save this wonderful hotel from demolition. Unfortunately, despite valiant efforts, the battle was lost in the summer of 2015. The developer who is currently in the process of demolishing this wonderful icon has promised to save approximately 5% of the original structure to incorporate into a small, 33-room inn on the property.

Hopefully, this token of preservation, along with the “Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” novels, will help preserve the glorious story of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, its incredible influence on the surrounding community, and the memories made by hundreds of thousands who shared special moments there.

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Pearls Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore (Book 1)

By: BonSue Brandvik

Software developer Honor Macklin believes she’s equal business partners with her philandering ex-husband, but when family responsibilities take her to Florida, she discovers her ex may have cheated her in more ways than one. Honor’s life becomes even more complicated when spirits at the Belleview Biltmore Hotel start invading her dreams.  The spirits share memories from the life of Darcy Loughman, a young Victorian woman with big problems of her own. When the two worlds collide, Honor and her steamy new lover, Josh, along with his clairvoyant four-year-old son, try to figure out if Honor can use lessons from the past to outwit her scheming ex-husband and change her destiny.

Purchase Links for

“Pearls Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” by BonSue Brandvik

Paperback and/or Kindle | Barnes & Noble Nook | Barnes & Noble Paperback
iTunes/iBook | Smashwords | Kobo Reader Read more on the Novels page |  Read the Reviews

Purchase in Audio format at Audible.com

Ripples Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore (Book 2)

By: BonSue Brandvik

Lilyanna Thorne still suffers from serious injuries she received in the car accident that took the life of her son three years ago, but when she learns her grandmother has only a few days to live, she grabs the first flight to Florida and checks into the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, near Morton Plant Hospital. Her marriage is in ruins and she’s plagued with horrific nightmares of the accident and ghoulish visions of her late son, so the last thing she needs is spirits at the Belleview Biltmore invading her dreams to share their memories from the Roaring Twenties. But soon the spirits teach her that death is not as black and white as she believed it to be… and neither is love or marriage.

Purchase Links for

“Ripples Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” by BonSue Brandvik

Amazon Paperback and/or Kindle | Barnes & Noble Nook | Smashwords

Purchase in Audio format at Audible.com

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Historic Photographs of the Belleview Biltmore

The Hotel Belleview, which first opened in 1897, was built on the highest bluff in coastal Florida, by shipping and railroad magnate, Henry Plant.  The hotel was fashioned after a great Swiss Chalet and was constructed out of heart of pine – a dense, sappy wood which petrifies over time, allowing the hotel structure to remain sound, despite its being well over one hundred years old.

A few years after the hotel opened, it was painted white and its roof was covered in green shingles, resulting in the nickname, ‘The White Queen of the Gulf’.  Most of these photographs were copied from the Town of Belleair and/or Heritage Village Historic Park archives.

If you are in possession of a historic photo that you would like to contribute to this collection, please contact me.

To view the Historic Photographs of the Belleview Biltmore Gallery —> Click Here

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2000-2009 Belleview Biltmore Resort Exterior Photographs

The exterior of the Belleview Biltmore Resort has changed little for several decades. Five of the original outlying cottages still exist on the property (though the East Gate Cottage is now privately owned.)

The surrounding neighborhood remains a tranquil setting for the White Queen of the Gulf; filled with palms, huge oak trees, colorful flowering bushes and trees, and an enviable assortment of tropical birds.

It is widely anticipated that, as a part of the renovation, the Japanese-style lobby and spa will be removed and replaced with convention meeting rooms and a lobby that is more in-keeping with the overall appearance of the Resort. A new spa will most likely be built elsewhere on the Resort property.

To view the 2000-Present Belleview Biltmore Resort Exterior Photo Gallery —> Click Here

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2000-2009 Belleview Biltmore Hotel Interior Photographs

Over the years, the ‘Hotel Belleview’ was renamed ‘The Belleview Biltmore Hotel’, ‘The Belleview Mido Hotel’, and most recently, ‘The Belleview Biltmore Resort’. Regardless which name was used, the hotel offered guests from around the world a remarkable stay from 1897 until she was closed for renovation in 2009.

These photographs offer a glimpse of the interior, but pictures can’t do justice to the beauty, scope and elegance of this magnificent building. Nor can they provide the sensation of walking down a corridor, knowing you are following in the exact footsteps of both famous and common people from several past generations.

They can’t provide the smell of old wood or the sound of an antique key rattling in a lock. But until the Belleview Biltmore Resort reopens, they are all we have to remind us how much we stand to lose, in the event we fail in our efforts to protect her, and restore her for the benefit of future generations.

These are just a few of the photographs I have taken of the Belleview Biltmore Resort over the years.

If you have a few pictures you would like to submit to this collection, please contact me.

To view the 2000-2009 Hotel Interior Photo Gallery —> Click Here

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Basement

Without a doubt, some of the most fascinating features of the Belleview Biltmore Resort are normally hidden from view; seen only by staff and those guests who take the historic tour of the hotel.To keep workers from inconveniencing wealthy guests in 1897, a basement and a labyrinth of tunnels was constructed beneath the resort. Guest’s luggage and steamer trunks, along with laundry, ice, food and other supplies made their way to the appropriate section of the hotel via inconspicuous service staircases, which provided access to all hotel wings, ballrooms and kitchen areas.

When the hotel was first built, the railroad tracks ran right up to the entrance of the hotel. In those days, workers used push carts to move supplies to and from the train on tracks that ran into the basement. Laundry and most of the baking was done down there, too. Even in later years, when the basement was mostly used by maintenance workers, the tunnels provided staff easy access to various sections of the hotel.

Today, the original boilers, ice-keep, ovens, railroad tracks, and freight lift mechanics are just a few of the fascinating historic features, still preserved in the basement.

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The Fifth Floor

The fifth floor is also an intriguing section of the resort. The top floor of modern hotels is usually reserved for the highest-paying guests, so it might seem odd that the fifth floor of the Hotel Belleview was originally constructed for the use of nannies and servants who were traveling with hotel guests. But when we are reminded there were no passenger elevators in 1898, the design becomes easier to understand.

The fifth floor as suffered damage from roof leaks, but the damage is mostly confined to the drywall/plaster walls and ceilings. Some floor boards are damaged in small sections of the fifth floor as well, but the primary structure beams/supports/lath remain sound

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The Attic

The attic is mostly empty, save a few screens and left-over mechanical equipment like the top wheel of the original freight lift.

Initially, the attic was an important feature to help control the heating and cooling of the old hotel and it held much of the electrical wiring (remember, in 1898 this hotel boasted three electric lights in every suite!)

But what’s most interesting about the attic today is the fact that it provides a good look at the structural beams of the hotel, which are in almost perfect condition, despite their age.

To view the Basement, Fifth Floor and Attic photo gallery —> Click Here

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2011 Belleview Biltmore Waiting For Renovation

These pictures were taken in May, 2011, and represent the current state of the Belleview Biltmore Resort’s interior. Plans for the fabulous Resort renovation have stalled, but hopefully, a new owner will soon step up to restore the Resort to her original elegance.  Before the property was sold in lieu of foreclosure, the previous owners gutted the entire Resort and began the interior demolition, in anticipation of renovation. All of the carpeting has been removed, and several exploration holes were opened in the walls and ceilings, to determine the soundness of the underlying frame, trusses and foundation. Fortunately, the vast majority of the Resort’s “bone structure” is in great shape.

Unfortunately, roof damage suffered during the 2004 hurricane season, as well as damage from normal wear and tear, has been largely ignored because the entire roof was going to be replaced as a part of the renovation (and in some places, raised a few feet.)  Although the roof leaks have caused some damage to the interior of the structure, including portions of the fifth floor plaster ceilings, walls and a few sections of flooring – so far, almost all of the primary structure remains sound.

To view the 2011 Belleview Biltmore Waiting For Renovation photo gallery —> Click Here

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2015 Belleview Biltmore Demolition

Despite pending preservation lawsuits, JMC Communities was granted permission to demolish the Belleview Biltmore Hotel in 2015 and replace the historic icon with four condo towers and a few dozen townhomes. Demolition began in May, by bulldozing those sections of the hotel that were less than 50 years old and not considered ‘historic.’ This included the lobby (nicknamed the Pagoda), the Candlelight Ballroom, the Spa, Indoor & Outdoor swimming pools and the Tiki Bar.

The historic sections of the hotel were constructed of precious Southern Loblolly Pine contain many other valuable components. These sections are being deconstructed, so its desirable parts can be sold as salvage.

By December, 2015, the South Wing addition, built in 1920, was gone and the East Wing addition, built in 1904, was nearly demolished as well. Most of the original Belleview Hotel, built in 1895-96, will also be destroyed to make room for condo towers. Only the original lobby, the rooms above it, and the Carriage Porch might survive, as the developer has promised to incorporate these small sections into the construction of a 33-room inn on the property.

Although it breaks my heart to think that this gorgeous, iconic hotel will no longer exist in the near future, I find comfort knowing that, like me, thousands of people around the world will never forget the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.

To view the 2015 Belleview Biltmore Demolition photo gallery —> Click Here

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Listen to this interview I gave on the radio program “Joy on Paper with Patzi” all about writing the “Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” series:

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