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Army swarms into palatial Belleview-Biltmore hotel

Published May 30, 2005

BELLEAIR - Sale of the spacious and luxurious Belleview-Biltmore resort hotel by Ed C. Wright, retired St. Petersburg bond dealer, to the Belleview-Biltmore hotel company, a Florida corporation composed of a group of prominent Michigan men, was confirmed yesterday following the exchange of legal instruments.

Those comprising the new company are Bernard F. Powell, Detroit attorney, president; Roger L. Stevens, real estate and hotel operator of Ann Arbor, vice-president; H. Ellwood Peabody, Detroit insurance man, treasurer; and Frank W. Donovan, another Detroit attorney, secretary.

Although the consideration of the transaction was not disclosed in the announcement confirming the sale, it is reported to be well in excess of $500,000.

The hotel will open Jan. 10 and it is the plan of the new owners prior to that time to restore to this famous hostelry the atmosphere of elegance and grandeur which pervaded it in the years prior to being taken over by the army during the war.

The St. Petersburg contracting firm of Edward S. Moore & Sons has had a crew of workmen busy for the past several weeks making necessary repairs and thoroughly renovating the property. When this work is completed, decoration of all public areas will be in the hands of one of the country's finest interior decorators.

Reopening of this famous hotel will mean a lot to this section of Florida. Built by Henry B. Plant to be the best money could buy, it was one of the west coast's earliest bids for fame. At the turn of the century, rivalry was keen between two multimillionaire pioneers of Florida development, Henry Flagler on the east coast and Henry B. Plant on the west coast. What Flagler was doing for that section, Plant set out to do for the west coast and the Belleview-Biltmore hotel was one of Plant's answers to Flagler. Since the first structure was erected and opened in 1895 as the Grey Gables, many additions have been made, including a sprinkler system installed throughout the hotel building by the army at a cost in excess of $100,000, so that it is today one of the world's largest and finest winter resort developments.

Located in the small municipality of Belleair, which adjoins the city of Clearwater, it overlooks Clearwater bay. It is designed to provide complete privacy for wealthy guests. A guard at the entrance gates prevents outsiders from entering except on special business.

--Theresa Blackwell compiles the history column. She can be reached at 727 771-4305 or

[Last modified May 30, 2005, 01:38:11]

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