The Rise and Fall of "The White Queen of The Gulf"
Once known as 'The White Queen of the Gulf,' the historic Belleview-Biltmore Resort and Spa was, for over 100 years, one of Florida's most celebrated vacation destinations - an iconic symbol of the golden age of American entrepreneurship, travel, and optimism.
Built in 1897 by railroad giant Henry Bradley Plant, the Belleview-Biltmore was a massive feat of resort architecture, crafted in a Queen Anne and Shingle style. Constructed of native Florida pine, the hotel also featured hand-crafted Tiffany Glass. Eager to increase Florida's tourism and railroad use, the Bellevue-Biltmore was, 'often billed as the largest occupied wooden structure in the world.' Mr. Plant even had special rail service to deliver guests directly to the Belleview's front doors (see above, the image second from the top). In 1979, the hotel was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
According to a 2015 profile on the last days of the hotel by The Tampa Bay Times, the Belleview-Biltmore hosted a wide range of impressive celebrities and dignitaries over the past eleven decades, including "Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford...Margaret Thatcher and Barack Obama." In April of 1976, Bob Dylan and his band played two concerts inside the hotel's Starlight Ballroom.
But, despite visits by numerous notables, in the decades after WWII, this grand old resort faded significantly - due in large part to the construction of countless newer, beachfront resorts up and down both of Florida's coasts. In recent years, and after a lengthy debate between preservationists, local officials, and developers, it was decided that the majority of the crumbling hotel would be demolished to make way for new condominiums and townhouses.
Luckily, 36,000 square feet of the Belleview-Biltmore Hotel is being saved. A portion of Mr. Plant's original 1897 hotel is being relocated locally, and renovated into a boutique hotel. The 'new Belleview-Biltmore' will feature a restored 21st-century version of the hotel's original lobby, grand living spaces, 33 guest rooms, and ice-cream parlour. You can watch a video of the project's developer Mike Cheezem walking through the vision for this restored portion of the hotel here.
CAREFULLY RECLAIMING 100-YEAR-OLD HEART PINE FLOORING, JOISTS, AND BEAMS - PIECE BY PIECE
Meanwhile, the demolition of the 820,000 square feet portion of the hotel's structure is being done with precision, piece by piece, "taking the time to salvage 118-year-old heart pine floors, stained glass skylights and wrought iron stairway railings."
Currently, The Hudson Company is taking part in the enormous and careful demolition of this historic architectural treasure. Rather than being added to the waste stream, The Hudson Company is redirecting the Biltmore's still valuable and sustainable wood architectural materials to our mill in Pine Plains, NY. Once reclaimed, this inventory of high-character, high-quality, century-old wood will be custom milled into elements for new construction and design projects.
Below you can see photos of the process of reclaiming tens of thousands of board feet of century-old heart pine floors, paneling, beams, columns, and other wooden elements.
Stay tuned to www.thehudsonco.com.news for more updates on this reclamation preoject and about Reclaimed Heart Pine.
Click here to learn more about The Hudson Company's Reclamation Process.