The 114-year-old Belleview Biltmore Resort and Spa in Belleair, Florida, is on its last legs. It is reported (by Lori Helfand, St. Petersburg Times, 11/18/11) that “a consultant for the owners is pitching plans to raze most of the hotel to make way for up to 86 townhomes. The fate of the historic resort may rest in the hands of Belleair’s leaders. In late October, Richard Heisenbottle, a Coral Gables architect who worked for the hotel’s previous owner, revealed plans of his own to save the Biltmore. He argued that a hotel on the site could be successful. And he urged residents to “think twice before they let the heart and soul of Belleair be ripped down.”
A new book, “Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York,” tells the stories about thirty-two hotels that defied the passage of time and are still in operation. For eighteen of them, it was the fortuitous creation of the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission in 1965. The landmarks law was enacted in response to the demolition of the iconic Pennsylvania Station in 1963.
Unfortunately, Belleair and Pinellas County have far fewer protections for historical properties. The residents should join together and protest, because a restored Biltmore could attract world travelers seeking a resort with history like the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, or the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.
Here’s a listing of the Biltmore’s famous guests: President Barack Obama, when he was a US Senator; Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, George W. Bush; the Duke of Windsor; British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Tony Bennett; Jerry Lee Lewis; Robin Leach; Cesar Romero; Billy Joel; Joan Baez; the Temptations; Gene Autry; Peter Marshall; Dr. Norman Vincent Peale; Joe Di Maggio; Dionne Warwick; Fred McMurray; Christie Brinkley; the Lennon Sisters; George Foreman; Norman Rockefeller; Jane Pauley; Gary Trudeau; Bob Dylan; Caroline Kennedy; Babe Ruth; Mickey Mantle; Dizzy Dean; and practically all the golf greats from 1900 through 1940.
The writer of this article, Stanley Turkel, is the author of the new book, “Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York.”