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The White Queen of the Gulf.


A hotel with six miles of carpet! Aceiling valued at $8-10 million! The world's largest inhabited wooden structure! Try telling that to someone who hasn't visited the Belleview Biltmore and you'll likely be considered a prime candidate for another Bellevue, whose tenants are said to be rowing with only one oar.

The Biltmore is located on a bluffoverlooking the bay at Clearwater, Florida. Included in the National Registry of Historic Places in 1980, this completely renovated national treasure has now been appropriately renamed the Belleview Biltmore Resort and Spa. And never have the old and the new met under more delightful circumstances.

It was on January 15, 1897, thatHenry Bradley Plant proudly welcomed a distinguished clientele of railroad presidents, steel magnates, public-utility tycoons, and other industrial barons to his winter retreat (January through April). As many as 15 private railroad cars could be seen at one time on the special siding east of the hotel. The Duke of Windsor would also find the Belleview up to his palatial standards, and the suite he occupied still bears his name.

The only unenthusiastic visitors tothis celebrated edifice are the termites. The structural timbers--of "heart pine' from northern Florida and southern Georgia--contain resins solidified with age until today, practically petrified, they still defy the jaws of those destructive little suckers (as well as carpenters' tools). Nor did the termites take kindly to the aluminum siding applied in 1975. Guaranteed not to need painting for 20 years, the siding also allowed the hotel to retain its century-old title, "The White Queen of the Gulf.'

For the 800-seat (1,000, if no onesneezes) main dining room, nothing would do but a skylight of 96 panels of precious Tiffany glass and original brass lighting fixtures. In the Starlight Room, the hotel's largest ballroom, dancers swing and sway or go bump in the night under a ceiling twinkling with hundreds of lights. And once the evening is spent, the 350 expansive guest rooms are waiting, many with 14-foot ceilings, all with ceiling fans, climate control, all-new Victorian furniture, and new carpeting, with drapes and wallpaper in the light and airy tones of green and rose.

Plant had good reason for locatingin upper Pinellas County--enjoying, as it does, more days of sunshine per year than any other area in Florida. And where better to apply that sunshine (in moderation, of course) than a swimming pool, golf course, beach, or tennis court? And the Biltmore now has them all--in spades.

Construction of the first pool in1917 was at the urging of Mrs. Morton F. Plant, whose husband had fallen heir to the hotel. A woman being behind the project, tile setters were imported from Italy to install more than a million ceramic tiles in the 200,000-gallon tank.

You prefer swimming in the gulf,where you can squish sand between your toes, look for rare shells, and drown your cares in the roar of the surf? No sweat. The Cabana Club, a private beach facility, features everything from dining in and out of doors, fireplaces, attractive cabanas, and private dressing rooms for, yes, another (heated) swimming pool.

If tennis is your game, the ball is inyour court. The resort, a recipient of World Tennis magazine's Five-Star Award, offens six Har-Tru courts on the south lawn and four all-weather, lighted courts at the adjacent Belleview Biltmore Country Club. Golf and tennis special packages are available, as is a "Fun & Sun' package rate for the family.

The original golf course began with"6 sporty holes of golf with shell greens.' When the handicap of shell greens failed to limit the course's popularity, Launcelot Cressy Servos was commissioned, in 1899, to construct a full 9-holer. And no more shell greens. The Servos greens were of 100 percent pure sand. It remained for Morton F. Plant to convert the Belleview into the golf mecca of Florida by bringing in tons of Indiana topsoil to create its two 18-hole courses. Many of today's and yesteryear's golf pros, from Walter Hagen to Arnold Palmer, have putted its greens, still treacherous but covered with 100 percent pure grass since 1915.

Except, that is, during World WarII, when the air force took over the Belleview and its adjoining leased private houses for a personnel contingent of 3,000. During those years, the fairways were allowed to go to waist-high weeds and the sand traps to grow palmettos. The one blessing of this four-year occupation came with the installation of an elaborate sprinkling system throughout.

Should you be coming directly frombehind your office desk to the Belleview Biltmore, you can warm up--by walking its two miles of corridors, perhaps by looking for the $1.8 million spa--before hitting the golf courses or the tennis courts. Here you'll find a lap pool, exercise rooms, whirlpools, you name it.

You may forget your cares, but noone forgets the Belleview Biltmore.

Photo: The Belleview Biltmore, the largest inhabitedwooden structure in the world, has amenities that will make your head swim.

Photo: With its skylight of precious Tiffany glass,the Biltmore's 800-seat dining room is as fancy as its food.
COPYRIGHT 1987 Saturday Evening Post Society
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Belleview Biltmore, Clearwater, Florida
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1987
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