Belleview Inn - Atlas Obscura

Belleview Inn

Belleair, Florida

This historic hotel has hosted the likes of Babe Ruth, Jimmy Carter, and the Vanderbilts. 

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The brainchild of Gilded Age railroad and steamship tycoon Henry Plant, the Belleview Inn dates back to 1897. Plant had a dream of developing Florida’s rail network and making the state a popular vacation spot. His idea worked.

In the early 20th century, guests would travel from parts farther north to vacation at the stately Queen Anne-style inn, with its romantic peaked gables and sprawling verandas. At 400,000 square feet, the Belleview was the largest wooden structure in the state of Florida. A telegraph in the lobby, electricity, and even the inn’s resident orchestra made it the pinnacle of luxury. 

During the Great Depression, the owners that followed the Plant family sold the inn, which was taken over by the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II to house troops stationed at nearby MacDill Air Force Base. After the war, the hotel owners updated the accommodations and nearly doubled the size of the inn to 820,000 square feet—the size of 14 football fields—to make it more appealing to prominent guests. Some of the Belleview’s most celebrated guests included Bob Dylan, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, Margaret Thatcher, and Thomas Edison.

Over the decades, the once-grand hotel began to fall into disrepair. By the 100th anniversary of its opening, the building needed a new roof and a better foundation. Though it seemed like demolition was imminent, the historic hotel found a second life. The entire structure was picked up and moved to a new location, where it was placed onto a stronger foundation. In 2018, the refreshed Belleview Inn opened for business.

The Gilded Age grandeur is still there, but now with modern amenities. Guests have access to the restaurant and golf course at the nearby Belleair Country Club. The hotel offers tours that explore the history of the Belleview, or you can take a self-guided audio tour using QR codes posted around the inn.

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