BELLAIR, Fla. (FOX 13) - There are few resorts in the sunshine state which allow visitors to indulge in modern-day luxury while paying tribute to Florida’s past.
The Belleview Inn, in Belleair, Florida tells a story of how the state’s No.1 industry got its start.
Walking into the lobby of the modern-day Belleview Inn, you’ll get a feeling of indulgence, but also a sense of respect for what the state of Florida has become known for - tropical vacations within driving distance from many parts of the U.S.
“It’s really neat working here because you get a sense of the vital links of Florida’s cultural past,” said Joey Vars, the hotel’s historian.
He says two railroad tycoons opened it as the Hotel Belleview in 1897. Their vision was to turn what was then viewed as a swamp into one of the first waterfront resorts, essentially starting the state’s tourism industry.
“It helped establish the seasonal culture of visiting the state for tourism, enjoying our year-round sunny climates,” Vars said.
The walls have hosted presidents, royalty, celebrities including Babe Ruth, and business magnates.
It has changed ownership many times, and in 2009 it was closed because the previous owners allowed it to fall into disrepair.
JMC Communities bought the property, demolishing a large part, but keeping the main structure, and in 2016, moved it three hundred feet to where it sits now.
The restored hotel is now the centerpiece for a luxury condo community and allows guest to enjoy all of the amenities, including a golf course designed by famed Scottish designer Donald Ross.
Rebuilding the hotel from the inside out cost JMC upwards of $13 million.