The Loop

A Florida resort tries to restore its historic charm (and its Donald Ross course won't hurt)

July 31, 2015

The Belleview Biltmore Hotel & Course, the venerable Florida tourist stop on the state's gulf coast, has been in the news ever since it opened in 1897. The news in 2015, however, hasn't been of facility's transition to a 21st century destination.

Not familiar with one of the grand ladies of early resort locales? Henry B. Plant was one of the pioneering Florida developers who were key to the infrastructure and growth of the state as a tourism locale. The main mode of transportation in the late 1800s was railroad, and Plant, who had developed a transportation system to the South after the Civil War, used the rails to build up the west coast of Florida as Henry Flagler would do for the east coast. Plant City, east of Tampa, is named after the developer. One of the hotels he built was the Belleview Biltmore in Belleair, on Clearwater Bay, and Plant, who died in 1899, had private railroad cars pull right up to the front door (see photo below) to drop off elite, wealthy and famous clientele, even presidents.