by Denise Weimer
|View of the dining room in 1924|
Were you aware that two competing tycoons opened Florida to the tourist trade in the late 1800s, Henry Flagler on the east coast and Henry Plant on the west coast? Each purchased and expanded rail lines following the Civil War and began building a series of hotels to beckon wealthy Northerners into the tropical wilderness. Even though I spent vacations visiting family in Central Florida during my childhood, I learned this interesting fact only after joining a research project with several other authors. How about a peek at Plant’s Clearwater retreat, The Hotel Belleview, the setting for my latest work in progress?
While guests enjoyed yachting, horseback riding, tennis, skeet shooting, bicycling, and swimming in the 1919 Olympic pool, a dozen cottages took shape on the 290-acre complex. These were constructed by the wealthy owners with the understanding that the hotel would assume ownership after five years, after which the owners could enter a rental agreement.
A unique draw of The Belleview was its golf course—purportedly Florida’s first. The original course, with greens covered in crushed shell, sand greens, and shelters with grass-thatched roofs, featured six holes. By the turn of the century, there were nine holes with sand greens. And by 1915, sportsmen flocked to The Belleview to enjoy two eighteen-hole courses designed by Donald Ross.
Today, only the original west wing remains. It is open to the public as The Belleview Inn, a boutique hotel surrounded by new townhomes and condominiums. Its grand façade still provides a glimpse of The Hotel Belleview in its glory days. Can you imagine ladies with pompadours sipping tea in the dining room surrounded by Tiffany glass? Couples frolicking in the waters of the bay in their navy-and-white swimsuits or waltzing at Washington’s Annual Birthday Ball? Keep an eye out for a story that will capture all of that, hopefully coming soon.
Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism
|Golfers c. 1900|
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