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My Belleview Inn Memory: Secret Service, the Cabana Club, and Golf & Glamour

If these walls could talk, they’d whisper stories about past presidents wandering these halls, weddings taking place generation after generation within the ballrooms, special anniversary dinners, and more. But alas, walls cannot talk. Luckily, these longtime locals can.

A Run-In with Secret Service

“My father would hold education conferences at the hotel. One such day, sometime in the late ’70s, I tagged along. I was 17 and liked to do ink drawings of the hotel. Little did I know, Gerald Ford was on-site for a private lesson with Bill Conway, who was the golf pro for the property. The whole place was crawling with Secret Service, and I’m just wandering around randomly and end up in this seldom-used area. I figured no one would mind if I look around. Well, I open the door to this room and there had to have been 20 Secret Servicemen. They all turned to look at me like, ‘how did you get here?’ They had shut the whole place down to keep the press out to the point that the local paper couldn’t even deliver to the residents in the area. They must have thought I slipped in somehow so I could meet the president. Needless to say, I was escorted off the property.”

–Christopher Still, 59, a Clearwater-area native who has since become known as “Florida’s Artist in Residence”

Living at a Grand Resort

“Think of it kind of like the movie, Dirty Dancing. Everyone who worked at grand resorts like these in the 1960s and ’70s also lived at them. But the staff would also move around seasonally – meaning we’d work up north on Cape Cod for summer, then for the winter, we would come down to Florida to Belleview Inn [then, known as The Belleview-Biltmore Hotel]. I was the golf pro, and I did that for years, moving back and forth between the Cape and Belleair, where I would work four to five months out of the year. So when the Belleair Country Club – part of the Belleview-Biltmore – opened full time, I decided to stay on year-round as their head pro (in 1971). This was back before they even had a proper clubhouse. There was just this little building where you could store your shoes and get snacks. But it was still such a great opportunity: I didn’t have to move around anymore and I was living at this beautiful resort, home to not one, but two Donald Ross–designed golf courses. I think I lived there for a total of almost 10 years.”

–Bill Conway, 80, the original PGA pro for the Belleair Country Club and The Belleview-Biltmore Hotel


Various postcards from the ’40s and ’50s of Belleview Inn (then known as The Belleview-Biltmore Hotel).

Golf & Glamour in the ’60s

“My husband and I lived in Cleveland for a while, but we would go down to the Belleview Biltmore for two to three weeks every winter. It started in 1962, when his brothers-in-law invited him to join in a seniors’ golf tournament, even though he wasn’t even 55 yet. After that first one, he got invited to more, so we would go down for a few weeks at a time, so he could play. The men would spend the day golfing and they would arrange for little events and activities for the wives. In the evening, we would have a big fancy dinner and a cocktail party and dancing. Of course, in those days we would wear long evening dresses. The evenings were always so glamorous in the Tiffany Room or the Dining Room. Sometimes we would take a little boat out to the Cabana Club on Sand Key, long before there was anything on Sand Key. In about 1965, we moved down to Belleair and become some of the original members of the country club when it opened. I’m so glad they’ve opened the hotel back up. It will connect the community back to its memory.”

–Donna Howley, 91, a Belleair local and original member of the Belleair Country Club

A Family Affair

“I worked at the Belleview Biltmore for 16 years – and held just about every position from wait staff to executive secretary. The only thing I didn’t officially do was housekeeping, but on busy days, it was all hands, so I think we can include that one, too. I had kids, so during that time, my kids basically grew up at the hotel – it was like a second home to them. In fact, when my son got married in 2004, it was at the Belleview Biltmore. We did the dinner at the old Cabana Club and his ceremony was done at the Heart Tree. The whole day was beautiful. I have so many great memories of that place. Sure, I met so many celebrities, but that – my son getting married there – is my favorite memory.”

–Sharon Delahanty, 81, a Belleair local and former staff member at the resort

Have a Belleview Inn memory – new or old? We’d love to hear it. Share it with us through our Facebook page or message us through our Instagram account.

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