History and hipness are beautifully blended at The Birchwood Inn on St. Petersburg’s popular Beach Drive NE.
Chuck and Dr. Kathy Reilly Prather bought the former Grayl’s Hotel two years ago for $1.85 million cash.
Tampa-based Ed Taylor Construction began gutting the three-story, 19,000-square-foot building in January 2012.
Two floors have been added to the original 1924 structure, creating spectacular over-the-tree-tops views of the North Straub Park bayfront.
The Prathers opened the 230-seat Birch & Vine restaurant this weekend. The experience begins with casual outdoor dining on the sidewalk and terrace and moves inside to a cozy lounge and formal dining room.
The fifth-floor Canopy lounge, with room for about 300, also attracted long waiting lines.
“The first weekend was exciting and exhilarating, especially since it was only word of mouth,” Chuck Prather said during a Monday morning tour of the property.
The first guests to the inn’s 18 rooms will begin arriving this weekend as the Birchwood also opens its fourth-floor ballroom, which can seat 210 and holds 340.
The non-flagged boutique hotel is taking bookings through its website and soon will reach out to three online booking engines, Prather said.
Prices range from about $180 to $250 a night.
The stucco hallways feature black and white photographs of early 20th century St. Petersburg.
The rooms are California cool.
Each of the rooms feature oversized four-post beds and porcelain, claw-foot bathtubs.
About 100 people have been hired to work at the Birchwood and Prather expects to add about 20 more in the coming weeks.
Prather won’t say how much the transformation cost, but the figure undoubtedly is north of the $6 million he originally estimated. The inn’s historical designation provided eligibility for tax credits.