Belleview Biltmore Hotel

The Belleview Hotel, as it was initially known, was constructed by Henry B. Plant as a resort destination to boost tourist travel on his railroad line serving the west coast of Florida, which he had acquired in 1893 as part of his expanding Plant System network of railroads. The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, which absorbed the Plant System lines in 1902, continued to operate the Pinellas Special train from New York City to a siding on the hotel’s property in the 1920s.

During World War II, the hotel served as lodging for servicemen who were stationed at Macdill Air Force Base in Tampa. In the 1970s and 1980s, the aging hotel began to decline as changing travel patterns and intensified competition from newer beach-front motels caused significant losses.
In preparation for his 1976 Rolling Thunder Revue tour, musician Bob Dylan spent much of April rehearsing at the Belleview Biltmore with his troupe. Band members included Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, violinist Scarlet Rivera, and folk queen Joan Baez. Dylan would eventually play two shows on the 22nd in the hotel’s Starlight Ballroom.

A Japanese company, Mido Development, purchased the hotel in 1991 and made many repairs and additions, including a new spa area and entrance, later selling the property to hotelier Salim Jetha in 1997. The addition was made to create a more modern appearance upon entry, At the same time, the fifth floor of the building was closed off and left in a varying state[clarification needed] of disrepair. In 2001, attempts were made to restore common areas and guest rooms continuing on to 2004. During the summer of 2004, the hotel suffered a glancing blows from hurricanes Jeane and Francis, causing severe damage to an already deteriorated roof, setting the plans to fully restore the building into limbo. Tom Cook Construction Inc. was hired to place protective coverings over the building while plans were made to replace this part of the building.

In late 2004, DeBartolo Development Group offered to purchase the property from Belleview Biltmore Resort, Ltd., then owned by Urdang and Associates, to demolish the hotel structure and replace it with retail shopping and condominiums. The proposal was withdrawn in January 2005, however, after public outrage over the plan, the developers citing lack of public support. However, in April 2005, published reports said that the DeBartolo group was once again planning to purchase the hotel, and had it under contract with Urdang and Associates, raising concerns among historic preservationists when it was disclosed that DeBartolo had filed a demolition permit application with the town of Belleair to demolish the Belleview Biltmore.

Belleview Biltmore Hotel

Preservationists argued that measures to protect historic structures should be adopted by Pinellas County or the town of Belleair, citing hotels elsewhere of similar age which have been successfully restored while offering updated services and amenities, such as the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan, the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, and the Williamsburg Inn in Williamsburg, Virginia.

On March 9, 2007, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Legg Mason had entered into a purchase contract for the hotel, with the intent of preserving it. “Executives with Legg Mason Real Estate Investors would not disclose the proposed purchase price or the closing date, but said in a written statement they had a contract to buy the resort and intend to preserve the 110-year-old hotel,” the Times reported. Legg Mason engaged the services of historic preservation architect Richard J. Heisenbottle, FAIA to prepare restoration and re-development plans for the project. In May 2008, the Town of Belleair approved Heisenbottle’s plans to restore and expand the hotel, which included a new spa and underground garages, following purchase of the property by Legg Mason Real Estate Investors (now Latitude Management Real Estate Investors) for $30.3 million.

On January 29, 2009, it was announced that the resort would close at the end of May for the three-year, $100 million renovation project, reopening in 2012, the hotel’s managing director said. Following the hotel’s mid-2009 closing, however, an attorney for owner Latitude Management said that the renovation work has been stalled due to litigation by nearby residents, who object to some aspects of the re-development plans. Meanwhile, the Belleair code board voted on November 2, 2009, to begin fining the owners of the now-closed hotel $250 per day for failure to repair the hotel’s “dilapidated and deteriorated” roof.




Belleview Biltmore Hotel | Photo by James Davidson, 2012
Photo Credit: James Davidson, 2012

In 2010, it became very apparent that the Legg-Mason plan would not come to pass, due to the economy. Legg-Mason backed out of its plans to restore the Hotel and re-open it. The hotel went back on the market. In 2011, a group of investors, the Ades brothers, from Miami, had begun to purchase the hotel.

In December 2011, the new owners of the hotel had indicated that they planned to demolish the hotel to replace it with condominiums. Indications were given to the town government that a demolition permit to demolish the hotel would be applied for in January 2012. The government according to reports expressed unwillingness to attempt circumvent or halt the demolition and would be likely to approve the plan to demolish the historic hotel.

On March 3, 2012, architect Richard Heisenbottle and two partners formed Belleview Biltmore Partners LLC, and signed a sales option agreement with the current owner, Raphael and Daniel Ades, and the group is trying to raise capital to buy the hotel and restore it.

On January 30, 2013 it was reported that Tampa Developer Brian Taub bought the Cabana Restaurant and Grille for $2.1 million. It is no longer part of the Bellview Biltmore Hotel. Taub says the Cabana Restaurant and Grille will be demolished to make way for 23 condos he plans to build on the site. His new building will be six stories over parking. He said the new structure will not look anything like the Cabana Restaurant and Grille or the neighboring Cabana Club Condominiums. He plans, pending city approval, to begin construction sometime this summer.

On August 8, 2013 a newspaper article stated that the owners proposed a plan to demolish the hotel and replace it with 32 townhomes and 136 condominiums in an architectural style reflecting the original hotel. Owners later stated that plans to save the hotel form demolition are dead after Belleview Biltmore Partners failed to come up with the money to purchase the property by the October 31, 2013 deadline. Heisenbottle said he will continue with efforts to purchase the property.




32 Comments

  1. Around 10 years ago I had the privilege of working for a company that treated those of us ladies that worked in administration to a full day at the Belleview Biltmore Spa. We were transported via limos to the resort and received spa treatments, as well as an amazing meal. We had an amazing time and it was such a mystical, beautiful place.

    It was undergoing renovations on the upper floors at that time, and a few of us had heard about the hauntings, so we sneaked up a staircase that was blocked off to see what we could find. The rooms on the floor we stumbled upon were clearly being worked on…and creepy. I had my camera and started taking pictures. Then we heard a noise in one of the rooms we weren’t in and went to find out what it was. We didn’t find anybody in physical form, but we did see a shadow person. Nothing happened, so the apparition was friendly, but we were kind of spooked and decided to return to our group via another set of stairs. When we reached the spa level again, we heard somebody behind us; it was a lady in an old-ish hotel uniform. We don’t know where she came from, but she wasn’t there when we started down those stairs!

    I’m definitely a believer of spirits in that hotel, and it’s such a shame Pinellas is failing in its attempts to save such an amazing and historic landmark.

  2. The Belleview-Biltmore area is so Beautiful. Where is the old Hotel in relation to the golf course?

  3. I’ve stayed there twice and did the ghost tour. this was after part destroyed by hurricanes but was still open. I always felt like I was in the overlook hotel from the shining or mackinack (sp) hotel in michigan I know it will be expensive to fix. since thoughts are only to save part of the hotel, had anyone ever thought that if the roof is so bad and leaking, just remove the top floor. the 1st and 2nd might not be to bad. also be cheaper. I luv the bar. sat on the left side facing it. the hard wood and character is beautiful. it at least the 1st floor was saved with some of its rooms.beautiful place for a weekend away with a bar, restaurant, the white rocking chairs and peacefulness. also reminds me of hotel Conneaut in pensylvania. just peace and quite like the ‘good ole days’

  4. This is still abandoned? What a wasted opportunity.

  5. We’ve lost this beautiful place. It’s currently being demolished :(

    • Unbelievable, with all the money floating around Florida nobody lifted a finger to save this irreplaceable landmark?

      • I’m so sad. i even listed the hotel in a contest years ago t on HGTV to be saved. It was the largest oldest wooden structure in north america.

  6. Don’t bother trying to go in( or looking at it from the outside) its inside of a gated community. When we finally got our way in we were stopped by security guards almost immediately. We had just walked up to the hotel. Its beautiful wish I could have seen more. If anyone figures a way in, post it.

  7. For ten years, my morning destination was 25 Belleview Boulevard, I loved driving through the town of Belleair, and arriving at work each day. I spent 10 years checking guests in, sharing the history, making reservations, and my final stop was retail shops. It was a joy to work there and to say that I worked there. Prior to MIDO Corp. purchasing the hotel, I loved seeing Mr. Powell and even Ms. Peabody stroll down the halls from time to time. I met many famous people, Lisa Marie Presley, Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) and family, Billy Joel, the list goes on. The best was all of the friends I made; it was always exciting when the seasonal workers (friends returned). So sad to see this wonderful structure ripped away. Yes, an irreplaceable historic landmark. Shame on the town of Belleair.

    • Pam – I’m so glad you have special memories of the Belleview Biltmore. It always lifts my heart to hear that others also cherished this wonderful icon. I’m currently writing a series of novels set in the hotel. In each book, spirits share memories of the hotel’s glorious past. As a tribute to those who share my love of the hotel, I try to incorporate people’s names as minor characters. If you would be interested in having your name included in one of the upcoming books, send me an e-mail: BonSue@BonSueBrandvik.com

    • Pam – I’m so glad you have special memories of the Belleview Biltmore. It always lifts my heart to hear that others also cherished this wonderful icon. I’m currently writing a series of novels set in the hotel. In each book, spirits share memories of the hotel’s glorious past. As a tribute to those who share my love of the hotel, I try to incorporate people’s names as minor characters. If you would be interested in having your name included in one of the upcoming books, let me know

  8. Your not the Pam that used to work at the monkey club and did brunch with Brian??

  9. Thanks! I enjoyed the summary article & photos. I am a writer, currently writing a series of 4 novels that include some of the history of the Belleview Biltmore (Grand opening; Roaring Twenties; WWII, and the Original construction), as well as some of the spirits living there – especially Margaret Plant (2nd wife of Henry Plant.) I have been photographing & posting about the demolition of this historic icon on my Facebook page (BonSue Brandvik Author.) Copy this link if you are interested in checking out the pictures: https://www.facebook.com/BonSue-Brandvik-125933191378/photos_stream I am also interested in hearing any/all stories & memories people have of this hotel. Some may be included in future novels. E-mail: BonSue@BonSueBrandvik.com

  10. Does anyone know if I am able to still get a hold of someone so that I can do a photo shoot in the parts that have not been demolished yet?

  11. Wouldn’t it be grand to go back in time and see the Dylan, Baez concert held there in 1976?

  12. Stayed there during last year they received guests. Our room had 9 doors in it, counting the hallway from the hallway to the main room looking at the pool, ground level. One night after dinner and cocktails, we met a couple from Tampa who knew about some of the history and asked us if we wanted to explore with them. We did. What an experience I will never get to do again. We found the staircase behind the walls that the staff used to get about the hotel, made our way to the top floor and into the darkness thereof, somehow found a room that had a dim light coming from a door inside that room. Inside that room was a completely made up single-bed room with a small lamp on and a plate and cup sitting by it for some reason but no one was in there. This was about 4:00 a.m. Eventually made our way down through wall stairs to the basement underneath, also extremely eery. Wandered down to go out door and at that point the security guard jumped out of his office which was also down there and scared us almost to death. We screamed, then talked to him on our way out. Said goodbye to our friends, never got their names and never saw them the rest of our stay. My wife and I feel lucky we got to experience that with the mystery couple from Tampa.

  13. I loved the biltmore was s great place to work. I miss all my former employees great working there for 4years.my name is ziggy sndi miss it there.people were great martin smith snd diame were awsome to work for.miss the bilmore a lot

    • Ziggy – What was your job at the Belleview Biltmore? Since you knew Martin Smith, I figure you must have worked there toward the end. I was the last person to check out of the hotel. I wanted to be the first to check back in following the renovation, but unfortunately, I’ll hold the distinction of being the last to check out forever. …BonSue Brandvik

  14. What a shame… I was saddened to hear that they are demolishing it what a wonderful beautiful place! I was actually staying in the hotel during one of the hurricanes and I remember waking up in the middle the night with the building swaying from left to right … I didn’t know whether to run upstairs or downstairs… It was quite frightening. I look back often to that long weekend of getting away from the hurricane that was supposed to at Southwest Florida and decided to change course and chase me up to the Bel Air Biltmore. I woke up the next day to a tree on my car … No bother… I still enjoyed a beautiful weekend at the Bel Air Biltmore Hotel. May she rest in peace

  15. Breaks my heart to see it being torn down. My grandfather gathered our family there almost every spring of my childhood and beyond. It felt like having a family castle. Even if I did have to dress up and play at being affluent and respectable for the week. Many of my favorite memories are there. As for hauntings, If you think ghost tours are fun as adults, you can imagine what is was like as kids finding hidden passages, and daring each other to go to the dreaded “fourth floor”. Only stayed there once after the Mido takeover. Wanted to show my wife the place that was so much a part of my childhood.

  16. Jordan – I feel your pain. During which decade(s) did you stay there? I’m an author who’s writing a series of novels based in the Belleview Biltmore & I enjoy using names of people who loved to stay there whenever I need miscellaneous character names. Drop me an e-mail with your grandfather’s name & I’ll use it in one of the next novels.

  17. Bonsue, email choked so I messaged you on facebook. I haven’t read your work, but I appreciate your concern for the Bellview, and look forward to reading more.

  18. I have family connections, so 70’s: but too young to remember, 80’s 90’s until a few years after the Mido purchase.

  19. Thanks, Jordan! You can reach me at: BonSue@BonSueBrandvik.com or call: 727-447-6193. I’m always interested in collecting photos/stories of/about this hotel…BonSue