The Belleview Biltmore Resort first opened her doors in 1897. By the mid-1920s, she had grown to be the largest occupied wooden structure in the world, and for well over a century, she welcomed visitors to step back in time and marvel at her historic beauty. A few years ago, when developers wanted to tear her down to make room for more condominiums, the Town of Belleair, which was literally built around the Resort, came to her rescue by incorporating a historic preservation ordinance into the Town Charter.
When the Belleview Biltmore Resort closed on 5/31/09 to undergo an extensive renovation, I established this website to both chronicle my efforts to write and publish a paranormal novel collection, under the title “Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore”, and to provide renovation updates. Unfortunately, while the restoration was delayed by two law suits, the real estate market collapsed. Investors backed out and the owners defaulted on the mortgage – but not before gutting the hotel and beginning the internal demolition, in preparation for the renovation. In lieu of foreclosure; the property was sold in January, 2011.
The current owners are not interested in repairing/renovating the Resort and have expressed a willingness to sell the hotel, golf course and beach property as separate entities, which would be a tragedy for the Resort. Saving the hotel will require a new owner and the joint efforts of supporters throughout the world. Therefore, in addition to offering updates, I want to connect individuals who share common goals related to saving and restoring the Belleview Biltmore Resort and provide information about fundraising opportunities.
The Belleview Biltmore Resort and Spa is a historic resort hotel located at 25 Belleview Boulevard in the town of Belleair, Florida 33756
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 Photograph of the Belleview Biltmore Gallery —> Click Here.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
January 15, 1897: Grand Opening – The 145 room Hotel Belleview opens for its first winter season, celebrated by a gathering of founder and transportation magnate, Henry B. Plant’s friends, family, and business associates. Also at this gathering are a host of area residents who watched in wonder, as an army of workmen toiled for a year and a half to construct the magnificent structure.
1898-99: The Belleview’s horse racing track, which is constructed of crushed oyster shell and includes a grandstand for viewing, is also used for international bicycle races. Boats offer sightseeing trips and beach excursions. A six-hole golf course with sand greens is designed and constructed by Launcelot Cressy Servos.
1898: Henry Plant commissioned Miss Stella Spurlin of Camden, Alabama, to compose “The Belleview Waltz,” dedicated to his second wife, Margaret Loughman-Plant.
1899: Henry Plant dies suddenly at his Fifth Avenue home in New York City. His will, which had left the entire Plant System to his four-year-old grandson, Henry, is successfully contested by his son, Morton, and wife, Margaret. Afterward, Morton dismantles the majority of the Plant System, but continues to run the Belleview until his death in 1919.
1900: Palm Cottage is built. It is the first in a series of twelve, individually named, kitchen-less private winter homes constructed on the hotel grounds by wealthy families in exchange for four seasons of free lodging. After four years, the cottage ownership reverts to the hotel and thereafter, the family that built it is given the first option to lease it for the season. If they choose not to winter at the Belleview, it’s leased to other guests.
Early 1900s: The entrance bridge provides much more than access to the hotel. It houses a curio shop, antique shop, and two museums (one exhibiting mounted fish from the area, and the other featuring mounted animals found in the tropics.)
The Belleview Hotel proves to be an ideal vacation spot for industry leaders such as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Ford must be in constant contact with his plant in Detroit even when he’s on vacation, so the Belleview, which has telephone and telegraph services available on the premises, as well as a post office that services the entire town of Belleair, is an excellent vacation choice. Hotel guests can even buy the Wall Street Journal and keep up with the stock market on a daily basis.
The Stone Crab Club is formed. Its membership consists of guests who have spent at least five winters at the Belleview. Members are given a silver buckle in the shape of a crab, and at the annual party, stone crabs and champagne are always served.
1904: The 120-foot East Wing is added, doubling the size and capacity of the hotel from 145 to 290 guest rooms. Although this wing technically faces north, as do the much larger kitchen and dining room that are built at the same time, it’s called the East Wing because the addition is built on the east end of the main building.
1909: The original wood exterior, which has faded to a dull color, is painted a bright white and the roof is retiled with green shingles (instead of red). The Belleview is nicknamed the “White Queen of the Gulf.”
1910 and 1914: Donald J. Ross is hired to design two golf courses and, even though it was commonly believed that grasses for greens wouldn¹t grow in Florida, Morton Plant experiments with grasses, fertilizers, and soils. The bicycle track is torn down in order to build the second golf course.
1914-1915: Less than a year after the death of his first wife, Nellie Capron-Plant, Morton marries May Cadwell-Manwaring-Plant (Maisie) and adopts her son, Phillip. At Maisie’s urging, construction begins on an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Dedicated as always to excellence, Morton Plant brings in tile setters from Italy to install the more than one million multi-colored ceramic tiles to line the seventy-five by sixty-foot pool. The partially covered bathing pavilion becomes quite popular with guests.
Young Henry Plant III is involved in a serious accident that almost costs him a leg (it’s unclear whether this was the result of an automobile or racing bicycle accident.) Morton Plant races a railcar operating room and surgical team to his son’s aid and he recovers fully. Afterward, Morton offers an endowment fund of $100,000 for maintenance of a hospital in Clearwater, provided the community can raise $20,000 to build one before the hotel closes for the season. Funds are raised within two months. Morton Plant Hospital opens January 1, 1916 with twenty-one rooms, one operating room, twenty patient beds and five bassinets. The two-story facility, built within walking distance of the Hotel Belleview, is the first hospital in northern Pinellas County.
1917: The Belleview Hotel purchases a 1917 American LaFrance fire engine. The hotel was one of the earliest hotels to have its own fire department and police force. The fire truck also services the town of Belleair and assists Clearwater (formerly Clearwater Harbor) when needed.
1919: Morton Plant dies suddenly of influenza. His estate is liquidated and his wife, Maisy inherits the lion’s share of his fortune (approximately 70%.) Morton’s son, Henry B. Plant II, and Phillip Manwaring-Plant (Maisy’s son whom Morton had adopted) inherit the balance of the estate.
1920: John McEntee Bowman of the Bowman-Biltmore Hotel chain purchases the hotel, and renames it the “Belleview Biltmore.” Bowman also purchases the Belleview’s sister hotel, the Griswold, in New London, Connecticut.
1920-1940s: The roster of Belleview Biltmore guests reflects the aura of extravagance and indulgence of the time. Railroad presidents pull up on the Belleview Biltmore’s side tracks in their private cars. The Studebakers, the DuPonts, the Pew family of Sun Oil, the Vanderbilts and others associated with “America’s aristocracy” check in, along with countless influential politicians, movie stars and sports celebrities.
The golf links are frequented by some of the most famous golfers and athletes in the country, including baseball player Rube Marzard, golfer Gene Sarazen, baseball great Babe Ruth and golfer Johnny Farrell.
When the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) becomes law, the Belleview Biltmore begins hosting an on-site speakeasy. Due to the hotel’s location, prominent guests, and elaborate basement tunnel system, no liquor arrests are ever made at the not-so-secret speakeasy, which remains a popular lounge long after the 21st Amendment ends Prohibition.
The Belleview Biltmore remains completely self-sufficient, with its own post office, police and fire departments (which also serve the town of Belleair.) The general manager of the hotel acts as postmaster general.
1924: The second hotel addition is built, which includes the South Wing. When complete, the Belleview Biltmore has a total of 425 rooms, of which 380 are guest rooms. The rest are used for entertainment, dining, and for staff and administrative purposes. James H. Ritchie of Brookline, Massachusetts, is the architect for this $1 million expansion which, in addition to the construction of the South Wing, includes an addition to the dormitory, and the expansion of the grand Tiffany Dining Room.
1924: The Belleview Biltmore hosts the Olympic Swimming Trials. Johnnie Weissmuller (who later becomes the first actor to play Tarzan in the movies) qualifies to swim on American’s Olympic Teams in both 1924 & 1928. He wins gold medals at both events.
1939: Arnold Kirkeby purchases the Belleview Biltmore. Kirkeby started his career as an investment security salesman in 1919. He moved on the become president of the K Corporation, the K Natus Corporation, Warwick Realty and then formed the Kirkeby Hotel chain.
1940: Kirkeby and his wife, known as “the most gracious hosts from coast to coast,” host the Brooklyn Dodgers for spring training. The upper deck of the pool house is removed, since sunbathing has become a popular pastime.
1942: The Belleview Biltmore enters the war effort when it is requisitioned by the U.S. Army Air Corps to provide extra housing for servicemen training at MacDill and Drew Air Fields in Tampa. The government requires the hotel to hook up to city electricity and water before it will allow soldiers to be housed at the hotel. Until now, the hotel had its own power plant and water pump system. The post office, police and fire departments are moved off hotel property and become the responsibility of the town of Belleair. The hotel¹s ledgers and registers, antique furniture, chandeliers, furnishings, supplies and equipment are removed and stored in warehouses, replaced with Army cots and metal desks.
1942: The hotel¹s interior walls are painted drab Army-green and its seventeen hundred windows are slathered with heavy coats of black paint to block escaping light, as are the glorious panels between the hallway and the Tiffany Dining Room (which serves as the Army’s mess hall.) Submarine scares are common as nervous soldiers and Floridians keep watch on the waters of Clearwater Bay and the Gulf of Mexico beyond. The golf courses are used for marching practice and other training exercises, and at times, as pup-tent quarters for overflow soldiers.
1943: August. After eighteen months, the U.S. Army Corp moves out. On the last day of their residence, the installation of a brand-new, state-of-the-art, $100,000 fire sprinkler system is completed. The sprinkler system is overbuilt to the point that the system still exceeds fire safety requirements in 2015.
The winter of 1943, the Belleview¹s corridors are silent for the first time since 1897. Some of the items stored in warehouses were used in other Kirkeby hotels or sold at auction, but the bulk of items that had been stored in the warehouses come up missing after the Army leaves, resulting in the loss of a major portion of the hotel’s valuable historic treasures.
1944: Kirkeby sells the Belleview Biltmore to multi-millionaire Ed C. Wright at auction for $275,000. Ed C. Wright made his fortune during the Depression dealing in municipal bonds and defaulted coupons. The purchase is a real estate investment, so the Belleview Biltmore remains closed. However, the fire truck is returned and remains on site to protect the hotel and town of Belleair.
1946: Wright sells the Belleview Biltmore and twenty+ acres of the surrounding property to a group of investors from Detroit headed by Bernard and Mary Powell, his sister, Nora Peabody, and Roger L. Stevens for $500,000. Mr. Powell was an attorney who argued cases before the Supreme Court. Mr. Stevens was a part owner in the Empire State Building in New York City and a Broadway theatrical producer. He was also the guiding light behind the Kennedy Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C. The Powell Group retained egress to the rest of the property, including the golf courses, in return for maintenance and upkeep. The first year is devoted to restoring the Belleview Biltmore to her original splendor, including new plumbing, new wiring, fresh paint, scraping the black paint off the windows and Tiffany panels, and reopening the golf courses.
January 10, 1947: Incredibly, the entire renovation is completed in time for the gala reopening of the Belleview Biltmore for the 1947 winter season. Once again, the hotel routinely hosts a wide array of wealthy and famous guests from around the world, including actors and actresses the likes of Bob Hope and Lana Turner.
Late 1940s – Early 1950s: For the next eight seasons, Cal Gifford, a popular band leader and music director, appears at the Belleview Biltmore. The band plays at the swimming pool every day for lunch, always opening with “Anchors Away.” The band also plays in the lounge before dinner, provides dance music in the evening, and often performs for stage shows in the Starlight Room.
During his summer breaks throughout college, Fred Rogers (later known as Mr. Rogers, of the famed children’s show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) provides swimming lessons in the Belleview Biltmore’s Olympic-sized swimming pool.
1953: The Duke of Windsor spends the winter season at the Belleview Biltmore.
1958: The Belleair Fire Department, which had been housed on the grounds since 1917, is relocated to town.
1963: The Powell Group builds and equips the Cabana and Beach Club on Sand Key Beach, across the Intracoastal Waterway from the hotel. In addition to a beautiful, white sand beach, the Club provides cabanas, showers and changing rooms, and features restaurants and a ballroom for special events. Every evening, a party boat ferries guests back and forth between the mainland and the beach for dinner, cocktails, and sunset viewing.
1975: Aluminum siding is installed on the Belleview Biltmore. A crew of fifteen men works ten hours a day, six days a week for four months to complete the job. They install 1,800+ squares of siding, and more than 5.8 miles of aluminum window trim. Previously, it took one thousand gallons of paint per year and a full-time crew to maintain the exterior of the “White Queen of the Gulf.”
1976: Bob Dylan stays at the Belleview Biltmore while preparing for his Rolling Thunder Revue tour.
1979: The Belleview Biltmore is honored by being added to the National Register of Historic Places.
1985: The Belleview Biltmore receives two very prestigious designations: Mobil Travel Guide awards it’s “Four-Star Award” and the World Tennis Magazine names it a “Five-Star Tennis Resort.”
1985: December: Powell and his co-owners sign a three-year lease option agreement to keep the Belleview Biltmore open year-round. The partnership, comprised of developer Charles Rutenberg, spa executive Salu Devnani, and Belleview General Manager Christopher Reyelt, spend $10 million renovating the guest rooms and building a luxurious, state-of-the-art spa and indoor pool.
1989: Due to poor financial management by the Rutenberg partnership, the Powell Group is forced to resume control of the Belleview Biltmore.
1990: Ed C. Wright dies suddenly and the executor of his estate lists all of his real estate holdings in the Wall Street Journal for sale. Within 24 hours, US Steel signs a contract to purchase the waterfront and golf course property surrounding the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. The Agreement between Wright and Powell survives the sale, so hotel guests are still permitted access to the golf courses and retain waterfront egress.
1990: A law suit is filed by the town of Belleair against US Steel, to stop them from building condo towers on the property. Eventually, the law suit is settled via compromise: US Steel is authorized to build some, but not all, of the condo towers they wanted to, and the buildings are limited to eight-stories (US Steel wanted sixteen-story towers) in exchange for allowing the two Belleview Biltmore golf courses to be rezoned as green spaces in perpetuity.
1990: US Steel sells the golf course property to a group headed by Bobby Bird, a local real estate broker, who forms the private Belleview Biltmore Golf Club, controlled by local residents. The Wright/Powell Agreement, providing hotel guests with limited access to the golf courses, continues to be honored.
1991: The Mido Hotel and Development Corporation of Japan buys the Belleview Biltmore resort and surrounding acreage from the Powell Group for $27.5 million and renames it the Belleview Mido Resort and Country Club. They hope to recreate “Pebble Beach” in Florida, but a cultural conflict immediately ensues between the property owners and local residents, over the change in the hotel’s name, the Japanese influence in the modern design of a new lobby entrance and restaurants, and the new owner’s desire to fly both American and Japanese flags on the property.
1991: The Belleview Biltmore Golf Club goes to court to sever its long-standing relationship with the hotel. They successfully argue that the Wright/Powell Agreement did not automatically transcend ownership, and the Golf Club had the right to determine whether or not they would continue to do business with the Mido Corporation. The Belleview Biltmore Country Club severs all ties and begins doing business as the Belleair Country Club.
1991: For the first time since 1897, the Belleview cannot provide golf to entertain hotel guests. The Mido Corp purchases the public Pelican Golf Course on Indian Rocks Road and renames it the Belleview Mido Golf Course. They built a clubhouse in the style of the Belleview Mido Hotel. Local residents continued to boycott the hotel and eventually, the enterprise falters.
1993: Hulk Hogan holds a press conference at the Belleview Biltmore to announce that he will star in a two-hour pilot for CBS, entitled, “Thunder in Paradise.”
1995: The Belleview Biltmore is filmed as a backdrop for a segment of ABC’s family TV drama, “Second Noah.”
1995: Urdang & Associates buys the Belleview Biltmore, hoping to demolish the hotel and develop the land. For the time being, the hotel continues to operate, but little is done to maintain or improve the property. The town of Belleair rejects all development plans that involve demolishing the hotel.
1997: The Jetha Corporation, a small, family-owned business, purchases the resort from Urdang & Associates, however, Urdang holds the $16 million mortgage. Jetha changes the name of the hotel back to the “Belleview Biltmore” and renames the golf course on Indian Rocks Road the “Belleview Biltmore Golf Club.” Operating on a shoe-string budget, Jetha attempts to slowly complete the renovations started by the Mido Corporation while remaining open for business.
1997: Lady Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, is a welcome guest at the Belleview Biltmore.
2003: Following the Twin Towers tragedy, the travel market slumps and the Jetha Corporation is unable to make its mortgage payments. The property is returned to Urdang & Associates via a friendly foreclosure.
2004: The Belleview Biltmore suffers damage when the area is hit by three hurricanes in one season. A few trees that are growing next to the spa topple, pulling decorative concrete landscaping walls over. Also, the roof sustains damage. Urdang & Associates cover the damaged areas with plastic tarps, but does not make necessary repairs, still hoping to demolish the hotel.
2004: The DeBartolo Development Company partners with Urdang and proposes to replace the hotel with a planned residential and retail community. Despite efforts to convince the local community to support this plan, resistance eventually forces them to abandon their efforts.
2005: The town of Belleair votes to institute a Historic Preservation Ordinance, aimed at protecting and preserving the historic hotel from demolition, either by intent or by neglect. The town pressures the owner to make repairs to the roof. In response, a new layer of green tarps are added to damaged sections of the roof and Urdang begins seeking a buyer willing to restore the property.
2007: On June 20th, Legg Mason Partners (quickly renamed Legg Mason Real Estate Investors or LMREI) purchases the Belleview Biltmore Resort, which includes the hotel property, golf course and Sand Key beach property, for $30.3 million. They put forth a plan to totally renovate all three properties, which is expected to cost $120 million. They gain community support for the project, which plans to return the historic hotel to its former 1930s glory.
2008: September: Just before his election to the Presidency of the United States, Senator Barack Obama enjoys a stay at the Belleview Biltmore. Unfortunately, he is forced to shorten his trip when he is called back to Washington DC to help address the crisis on Wall Street. He says he hopes to return for a longer visit following the renovation.
2009: In anticipation of a complete renovation, LMREI closes the Belleview Biltmore on May 31, 2009. BonSue Brandvik, a local writer who is writing a series of novels set in the hotel, is the last person to check out, and plans to be the first person to check back in following the renovation. The restored hotel is expected to reopen in January, 2012.
2009: LMREI stores all historic artifacts in the basement and sells the rest of the hotel’s furnishings and equipment to the public. Carpets are removed and inspection holes are cut into walls, floors and ceilings at various locations throughout the hotel, in order to inspect the substructure. The renovation plan calls for raising the ceilings of the top floor three feet and replacing the entire roof, so the hurricane damage is not repaired. Makeshift systems are put into place to control rain water that might penetrate the structure. Restoration plans begin to take shape and LMREI begins making plans to level the footings of structure prior to construction.
2009: Three area residents file two law suits against the town of Belleair and LMREI, claiming inappropriate variance requests had been approved that would negatively affect their neighboring properties. LMREI refuses to move forward with the renovation until they are certain the variance requests will be upheld. The renovation is stalled for nearly two years. The court eventually ruled in favor of Belleair and LMREI on both lawsuits and one appeal, but the timing was devastating to the renovation plan. By the time the legal issues are resolved, the real estate market has collapsed and the nation is in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. LMREI loses its financial backers and folds. Once again, Urdang & Associates takes the property back in a friendly foreclosure.
2010: KAWA Capital Management, LLC, owned by Raphael and Daniel Ades of Miami, buys the Belleview Biltmore property and the mortgage from Urdang & Associates for the remaining balance of the mortgage – $8 million. As a part of the sale, KAWA divides the resort into three, separate segments: The BB Hotel LLC, the BB Golf Course LLC and the BB Beach LLC.
2010: The Belleview Biltmore is featured in the background scenery of a new TV Show, “The Glades.” During several scenes of the pilot episode, detective Jim Longworth, played by Matt Passmore, attempts to complete a round of golf at the Belleair Country Club. The hotel grounds also provide parking for the TV crew’s trucks throughout several days of filming.
2011: The town of Belleair becomes increasingly concerned that roof leaks are not being addressed. Eventually, fines of $250/day are assessed to KAWA for demolition by neglect in violation of the town’s Historic Preservation Ordinance. KAWA refuses to complete the costly repairs. Eventually, the Town files liens against all three properties for nonpayment of assessed fines.
2012: Belleview Biltmore Partners LLC of Miami (BBP) signs a purchase and sale agreement to acquire hotel, golf course and cabana club and complete the renovation. Due to the poor economy, they are unable to acquire financial backers and the contract on property falls through. Preservationists continue attempts to find investors to complete renovation.
2013: A commissioner announces during a public meeting that the moratorium on developing the Belleview Biltmore Golf Course property has expired, creating pandemonium among government officials at the meeting, who are extremely concerned development could damage the towns’ primary aquifer, which is located beneath the golf course property.
2013: Seizing an opportunity, KAWA, which not only owns the properties, but also holds the mortgages on them, threatens to either foreclose on themselves, or sell the golf course property to a developer unless the town of Belleair agrees to lift liens placed on two of the three properties for non-payment of escalating fines (unpaid $250/day fines for demolition by neglect now total $277,250.) If KAWA forecloses on themselves, the Town would not be able to recoup any of the fines owed and obviously, if KAWA sold the golf course to a developer, the Town’s primary water supply would be in danger.
2014: The town of Belleair agrees to KAWA’s terms: 1) Reduce KAWA’s accrued fine to $50,000, 2) release liens filed against the BB Golf LLC and the BB Beach LLC, and 3) agree that future fines for demolition by neglect would only be assessed against the BB Hotel LLC.
2014: Once the liens are lifted, the town of Belleair purchases BB Golf LLC (the Belleview Biltmore Country Club) for $3.5 million and rezones the property as green space in perpetuity. The golf course retains the name “Belleview Biltmore Country Club” and the Town hires a management company to oversee the new asset.
2014: KAWA sells the BB Cabana Club LLC to developer Brian Taub for $2.1 million. The new owner demolishes the Cabana Club, had been built to look like the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, in order to make way for a 6-story/23 condo building on the site.
2014: JMC Communities, led by CEO Mike Cheezem, enters into a contract for the BB Hotel LLC. Execution of the contract is contingent upon receiving approval from the town of Belleair to demolish Belleview Biltmore Hotel and erect 132 Condos and townhomes in its place. The arduous process of overcoming the town of Belleair’s preservation ordinance and zoning obstacles begins.
2014: As the economy begins to recover, the Belleview Biltmore Partners (BBP) and others step forward, indicating interest in purchasing and restoring the hotel. JMC Communities refuses to consider offers and forms an alliance with KAWA and the Belleair Country Club (BCC) to achieve their common goals. Represented by a team of attorneys, skilled at overcoming objections of historic preservationists, the alliance maps out a plan to demolish the hotel and then build condo towers, townhomes, and a large parking lot on the property.
2014: Local residents and a preservationist group file lawsuits against the town of Belleair and KAWA, claiming governmental proceedings and decisions violated the Town of Belleair’s Historic Preservation Ordinance. Although these law suit are still pending, the Town moves forward, first adjusting the definition of Hotel Zone to require less acreage, then creating a new zoning category (PMU) that would allow the for mixed use of a property (allowing a combination of hotel/condos/townhomes) and finally, rezoning the Belleview Biltmore property to this new category.
2014 – 2015: The JMC/BCC/KAWA alliance uses a variety of tactics to gain momentum and community support for their plan to demolish the hotel and build condo towers, townhomes, and a parking lot. They present a one-sided presentation to the Town’s Historic Preservation Board, wherein paid expert witnesses claim that more than 50% of the hotel is unsalvageable, and that even if it were restored, the hotel would not be competitive in the local market. Preservationists attempt to mount a defense and refute these claims, but these volunteers are no match for the formidable legal team. JMC/BCC/KAWA manages to secure a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Board, eliminating the protection afforded to the Belleview Biltmore Hotel by the town of Belleair’s Historic Preservation Ordinance. The Town Commission issues a demolition permit on December 10, 2014.
2015: JMC Communities purchases the BB Hotel LLC for $6.2M + approx. $400K services in kind. CEO Mike Cheezem surprises and pleases many Belleview Biltmore fans by announcing that he has decided to preserve approximately 5% of the hotel (the original lobby, which has been known as the Lobby Lounge for several decades, the guest rooms directly above the lobby, one box-spiral staircase, and the Carriage Porch, but not including the basement pub or tunnels.) He plans to carve these pieces from the hotel, move the various sections to a more convenient location on the property and incorporate them into a 33-room inn. He promises to make a part of the new inn into a “living museum” to honor the hotel’s memory. To comply with its agreement with the Town, JMC must complete the inn before the second condo tower will be issued a certificate of occupancy.
2015: Despite ongoing litigation aimed at saving the hotel, JMC begins the demolition of the Belleview Biltmore in May, 2015. The round lobby (nicknamed the Pagoda), the Candlelight Ballroom, indoor pool, Spa, outdoor pool and tiki bar are bulldozed. In July, 2015, the process of deconstructing the South Wing (built in1924) begins. The historic sections of the hotel are deconstructed rather than bulldozed because the pristine Loblolly Pine beams (of which the entire substructure is built), windows, doors, the prized Tiffany-style panels and other leaded glass windows, wrought iron gates, box-spiral staircase, fireplace mantels, doorknobs, hinges, crown moulding and all other historic building materials and furnishings have monetary value. The majority of these items will be salvaged and sold. Lost will be all the wonderful parts of the hotel that possess only intrinsic value, such as its aura of magnificence and sense of history.
In October 2015, the deconstruction of the East Wing (built in 1904) begins, as well as internal demolition of original hotel. Built in 1895, the original section of the hotel contains its famous ballrooms and dining halls, the old lounge/speakeasy (with a hidden trap door to the basement behind the bar), box-spiral staircases, ornate fireplace mantles and tiles, the noted ‘door to nowhere’, wide verandas, intricate crown moulding, and the majority of the hotel’s other elaborate construction details and furnishings, including its exterior fish-scale and gingerbread trims.
Likewise, the basement, which contains a labyrinth of tunnels, fascinating work spaces, incredible historic relics, such as St. Andrews Pub, a shoe-shining station, the ice keep, worn workers staircases, several stone ovens, the original boiler, elevator lift wheel, railroad tracks, etc., will be deconstructed. Workers will salvage the Loblolly Pine beams, bar, fireplace mantles, doors, windows, doorknobs, hinges, and all other items of monetary value from the basement as part of the deconstruction process. Then the amazing basement tunnels and pub will be filled in as though they never existed.
2016+: This section of the hotel’s history will be modified after the demolition and, hopefully, the reconstruction of the little inn, are completed. In the meantime, photographs of the hotel throughout its history, from building the original Hotel Belleview, to the demolition of the Belleview Biltmore, the “White Queen of the Gulf,” and other historic information, can be found on the author’s website: www.BonSueBrandvik.com.
1897 – 1899 – Hotel Belleview
Ownership: The Plant Investment Company – Henry Plant
1899-1919 – Hotel Belleview
Ownership: The Plant Investment Company – Morton Plant
1920-1935 – Belleview Biltmore Hotel
Ownership: The Biltmore Chain – John McEntee Bowman
1935-1939 – Belleview Biltmore Hotel
Ownership: Hotel went into receivership, following losses suffered during Great Depression
1939-1942 – Belleview Biltmore Hotel
Ownership: Kirkeby Hotels – Arnold & Carlotta Kirkeby
1942 – 1943 – Belleview Biltmore Hotel
Ownership: Kirkeby Hotels but leased to U.S. Army Air Corps
1943 -1944 Belleview Biltmore Hotel
Ownership: Kirkeby Hotels but remained closed following departure of US Army Air Corps
1944-1946 – Belleview Biltmore Hotel
1944- 1990 – Property surrounding Hotel, including East & West golf courses
Ownership: Ed C. Wright ($275K).
1946-1990 – Belleview Biltmore Hotel
Ownership: Bernard & Mary Powell, Nora Mae Peabody & Roger L. Stevens ($500K)
• Note: Powel Group purchased hotel & 20+ acres of surrounding property. Also entered 20 year lease on remaining bluff property, including golf courses, and purchased property on Sand Key Beach
1990 – Bluff Property surrounding hotel
Ownership: Following sudden death of Ed C. Wright, U.S. Steel
1990-1997 – Belleview Mido Hotel
Ownership: Mido Development Company, LTD — Hideo Kurosawa ($27.5M)
1997-2003 – Belleview Biltmore Resort
Ownership: Jetha Corporation – The Jetha Family ($16M)
2003-2007 – Belleview Biltmore Resort
Ownership: Urdang & Associates of Pennsylvania
2005 – Town of Belleair institutes Historic Preservation Ordinance aimed at protecting and preserving the Belleview Biltmore Hotel
2007-2010 – Belleview Biltmore Resort
Ownership: Legg Mason Real Estate Investors Group ($26.8 Million)
2010 – BB Hotel LLC, BB Golf LLC, BB Beach LLC
Ownership: KAWA Capital Management – Daniel & Rafael Ades ($8M)
2012 – 2015– BB Hotel LLC, BB Golf Course LLC, Cabana Club LLC
Ownership: KAWA Capital Management – Daniel & Rafael Ades
• Note: KAWA, which both owns and holds the mortgages on the three entities, threatens to foreclose on themselves unless the town of Belleair agrees to lift liens placed on the properties for non-payment of escalating fines (unpaid fine of $250/day had reached $277,250) Town agrees to KAWA’s terms, reducing KAWA’s fine to $50,000 and releasing liens.
2012 – BB Golf LLC
Ownership: Town of Belleair purchases BB Golf LLC ($3.5M)
2012 – BB Beach LLC
Ownership: Tampa Developer Brian Taub purchases BB Beach LLC ($2.1M)
2014 – BB Hotel LLC
Ownership: KAWA Capital Management – but under contract to JMC Communities
2015 – BB Hotel LLC
Ownership: JMC Communities ($6.2M + approx. $400K services in kind)
• Note: JMC is in the process of demolishing the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, with the exception of the old lobby, rooms above it, and the Carriage Porch.