Editor: As a native of Pinellas County, proud graduate of Largo High School and ardent student of history, I cannot state in stronger terms how critically important it is that the Town of Belleair do everything in its power to save and restore the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
The town of Belleair would not exist were it not for the Belleview Biltmore. Henry Bradley Plant established what would become your fine town when he ambitiously constructed the hotel in the 1880s. Not only is the Belleview Biltmore the root of your community, it is perhaps the most famous structure in the entire state. As I am sure you know, “the White Queen of the Gulf” has played a crucial role in Floridian and American history, having hosted countless celebrities and even military troops during the Second World War. It is, by many accounts, the largest inhabited wooden structure in the world.
I cannot fathom my home state without the Belleview Biltmore. Unfortunately, that is precisely what Urdang and Associates (the current owners) have in mind. Even though the Biltmore is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as with the National Trust, these listings only “encourage” preserving the grand hotel. She is not legally safe from demolition – yet. Belleair Mayor George Mariani, Town Manager Steve Cottrell and the town commissioners still need to deny the redevelopment/demolition permit application to save the hotel.
Tell Urdang and Associates to leave the Belleview Biltmore alone. Since I live out of town, I will not be able to attend meetings, but I encourage all citizens to come to all Belleair town meetings in January – including the planning and zoning board meeting on Monday, Jan. 9, at 5:30 p.m. The board will review the application at this time. Please come out and encourage the board to save the Biltmore forever.
In an age and area which is so devoid of history (witness the recent sale of Calvary Baptist Church), the Biltmore must remain. It is the only connection we have to those who went before us, and the lone light to what the future portends.
I respectfully call on the citizens of Belleair to do the right thing and save the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. I will thank you, the people of Florida will thank you, and your children and grandchildren will thank you for the wise decision you made.