BELLEAIR, Fla. — While the 35-room Belleview Inn, a new boutique hotel near Clearwater, is relatively small, its existence signifies a monumental undertaking.
The inn, now serving as the focal point of Belleview Place, a gated housing community, is what remains of the landmark Belleview Biltmore Hotel. Built in 1897, the 145-room hotel was famous for being a vacation spot for celebrities, athletes, industrial tycoons, and US presidents. It was originally built by businessman Henry Plant, and later run by his son, Morton.
After it closed in 2009, the Belleview’s future looked bleak. But developer Mike Cheezam of JMC Communities decided to preserve its legacy by saving and restoring the elegant lobby — some 38,000 square feet of the original 820,000-square-foot structure.
The restoration began in late 2016, when the original lobby building was repositioned — lifted onto rollers, rotated approximately 270 degrees, and moved about 100 yards. Workers restored the original grand staircase, hardwood floors, fireplaces, guest room doors, and Tiffany stained glass — all kept intact from the original building. A nice feature in the new lobby is Mort’s Reading Room, a history room with displays and information about the Belleview Hotel legacy, as well as a short video about the restoration process.
Of course the hotel has been retrofitted with the usual modern-day amenities, along with a resort-style pool, veranda, and fitness center. Guests of Belleview Inn also will have access to the nearby Belleview Country Club. As the oldest course in Florida, it first opened in 1897 and was redesigned by Donald J. Ross in 1915. Both the inn and country club are housed within Belleview Place, about a 10-minute drive from Clearwater Beach.
25 Belleview Blvd., Belleair, 727-441-1774, www.thebelleviewinn.com, rooms from $179.Diane Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.