The Town of Belleair, Florida is a municipality located in Pinellas County on Florida’s west coast, bordered on the north by the City of Clearwater, on the east, by the City of Largo, on the south, by the city of Belleair Bluffs, and on its west, by Clearwater Harbor and barrier islands that contain some of the best beaches in the state.
The town government of Belleair is a council-manager form of government, consisting of a town council of five elected officials, one of whom serves as mayor, and an appointed manager. The council and mayor serve as the legislative or policy making body for the town government, approve its annual budget, and all the local laws and ordinances that define how the town operates. The day-to-day administration of Belleair is the responsibility of the town manager and his/her staff, who implement town policies and deliver services to the residents of Belleair.
The Town of Belleair is a residential community of approximately 4,100 people, containing the historic Belleview Biltmore hotel, three eighteen hole golf courses, and several commercial businesses and professional offices. Belleair is a busy, growing community with a unique sense of civic pride. Part of Belleair’s uncommon personality lies in its brief but colorful history. In the next few paragraphs, you’ll discover the Belleair you live in has changed greatly in its short lifetime.
As a community, Belleair started out at the end of the line. But what a line! In the 1890’s, railroad magnate Henry B. Plant constructed his showpiece hotel on a high bluff south of Clearwater, complete with a railroad siding for the private cars of his wealthy winter patrons. The Belleview Hotel had its grand opening in January 1897. Its location was on a peninsula west of Tampa Bay which was to become Pinellas County in 1912. Guests at the Belleview enjoyed the amenities of regal, rustic living; yachting on Clearwater Bay, horseback riding in the piney woods south of the hotel; golfing, tennis, skeet shooting and bicycling. The national craze for bicycling found a home at the hotel and at the turn of the century, Belleair was the scene of six-day bicycle races and many other national and international prominent cycling events. The Belleview’s original nine-hole golf course with sand greens had grown to two, 18 hole courses with Florida’s first grass greens by World War I.
In 1920 the hotel was purchased from the Plant Investment Company by John McEntee Bowman, international sportsman and owner of the Biltmore chain of hotels. Hence the beginning of the new name Belleview Biltmore Hotel. Directly to the north of the hotel, a casino added zest to the life of the snowbirds and hotel guests, operating until the mid 1940s.
The good life at the seasonal Belleview Biltmore naturally led to the desire among some guests to live in this pleasant place year-round. Some of Belleair’s first homes were constructed on North Indian Rocks Road, overlooking the Belleview’s golf course, and still stand today. This neighborhood developed and gradually moved south, resisting annexation moves by the City of Clearwater.
In 1925 the Town of Belleair was incorporated and the noted town planner, John Nolen, was hired to lay out the streets that constitute most of Belleair today. The grandiose plans of the early residents of Belleair crashed with the stock market in 1929 and the end of the Florida Land Boom.
In the early 1930’s, the town defaulted on more than $1 million of improvement bonds and the beautiful streets behind the bluff on the bay were rapidly reclaimed by weeds and undergrowth.
During World War II, the Belleview Biltmore became an Army Air Corps training post and its beautiful greens were used as drill fields. World War II also claimed another lesser known Belleair landmark – Eagle’s Nest Gardens. This popular attraction, which featured lovely gardens and a Japanese motif, was closed due to strong wartime public opinion.
The shallow waters below the bluff were the proving ground for then Clearwater (later Belleair) resident Donald Roebling’s wartime invention – The Alligator – an amphibious, tracked landing vehicle that gained fame on the beachs of Europe and the Pacific Islands.
Following the war, most of the land south of the Belleview Biltmore, including the never finished Pelican (now Belleview Biltmore) Golf Course, was purchased by two companies owned by the late E. W. Hallett. The massive cleanup to restore Belleair resulted in few land sales, leaving Belleair with its constant population of 300 pioneer souls.
In 1944, Mrs. Georgine Shillard-Smith, noted patron of the arts, donated seven acres of land to create the Florida Gulf Coast Art Center, an important regional resource in the creative arts. Due to the growth of both Belleair and the art center, the center relocated its facility in 1999 to the middle of Pinellas County – in the midst of the new botanical gardens.
The 1950’s saw the rebirth of Belleair with new construction bringing the population to approximately 2,200 by 1955. Young postwar professionals discovered the community and civic leaders established strong recreation programs, the sewage system, an expanded water system and the present Town Hall Building.
The next large growth in Belleair took place in the late 1960s to early 1970s when U.S. Steel purchased the land in front of the Hotel and the Island to the west of the hotel. A large community of condominiums was constructed and resulted in boosting Belleair’s population to approximately 4,000. Fortunately, far-sighed residents and officials had set aside land for the Belleair’s beautiful system of parks and paths, while elected officials created a strong set of codes to enhance and preserve the quality way of life we enjoy today.
Belleair Recreation Department For over forty-five years, the Belleair Recreation Department has been providing Belleair and Pinellas County residents with a wide variety of programs and activities for all ages. Now “The Rec” can offer even more for the community. In an effort to better serve the recreational needs of the community, the Town of Belleair opened a new multi-purpose community center building in October of 2006. The Dimmitt Community Center is a 14,000 square foot facility that houses all of the existing recreational programs while providing space for potential future programs and activities. The new center includes; indoor basketball courts, indoor volleyball courts, multipurpose room, conference room, locker rooms, Pilates studio, full kitchen, large game room, lounge, and office space. With the addition of the new building, Belleair‘s Recreation Department has been able to offer more programs to more people than ever before. The interest in this facility and department is unmatched in Pinellas County.
Most programs, classes, camps and leagues sell out. Our members are not only Belleair residents, but come from many surrounding cities and towns including Clearwater, Largo, Seminole, Belleair Bluffs, Belleair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Clearwater Beach and further. People come to our Rec. Center because of the unique atmosphere we provide. Large enough to offer a variety of activities, we are small enough to give personal service second to none. We make it a point to get to know our members and participants. Every year since the opening of the building the department has seen large growth in revenue and in support.
In the spring of 2008, we were very excited to add a youth tackle football league. In its inaugural season, the Belleair Bolts were comprised of two teams, doubling in size the second season. Next year, we plan on more growth, adding additional teams and a fall season.
The Belleair Rec. is proud to partner with Gulf Coast United Soccer Club in offering an excellent recreational and competitive youth soccer league for children four to eighteen years of age. Adult programs include cardio circuit training, cardio dance, karate, golf instruction, adult basketball, digital photography, Pilates, yoga and Jazzercise. The Belleair Recreation Department is dedicated to offering quality programs and to adjust to the market needs of adult programs.
Senior programs include such things as duplicate bridge, senior exercise classes, oil painting, Pilates, senior volleyball, golf instruction and the Belleair senior singles club.
The Singles club is a new addition that has been a huge success. Members meet weekly and take trips to local attractions bi-monthly. Some outings have included the Marie Shelby botanical gardens, Florida State Fair, local plays and performances. The Recreation Department provides transportation and assistance in planning and marketing.
Belleair is proud to offer its recreational service at one of the lowest prices in Pinellas County. Residents pay a fee to use the facilities of $30 per year; a recreation card is issued upon request and proof of residency. Non-residents pay only $95 per year; which entitles the cardholder the same membership benefits as resident members.