Restoring a historic landmark originally built in 1924, Ed Taylor Construction this month completed The Historic Birchwood Hotel, which opened last week in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg.
The five-story, 50,000-square-foot facility (on vibrant Beach Drive) includes a boutique hotel, restaurant, 8,000 square feet of ballroom/event space, and a nothing-else-like-it rooftop lounge with views of St. Petersburg’s waterfront and downtown. “The Birchwood” is garnering attention as yet another addition to the burgeoning downtown’s eclectic mix of culture, restaurants, entertainment, nightlife, creative businesses, and residences.
Ed Taylor Construction worked with founder/owner Chuck Prather, the City of St. Petersburg, and St. Petersburg Preservation to restore the building to a style that honors the past, with some major additions, and modern styles and amenities throughout. As part of the construction project, Ed Taylor added two new floors, roughly doubling the size of the building.
Like many historic preservations, The Birchwood was not built without surprises. For example, the demolition of the previous structure had to be done while preserving the historic exterior walls, so that was done by hand, over a three-month period. Then in maintaining the original perimeter walls, engineers encountered a potential stability issue. Ed Taylor and Urban Studio Architects designed new support structures with steel poles running through the walls of the existing building to ensure stability.
And to properly anchor new windows in the walls, which are constructed of clay tile, Ed Taylor recommended putting reinforced steel cages around each window frame, then filling them with concrete. During the process, Ed Taylor discovered human hair in the stucco (a practice from the 1920s, added for elasticity).
Mark Weaver, vice president of Ed Taylor, said the main factor in the extra time for historic renovations is the need for meticulousness. The process literally involves disassembling the building board-by-board. “Essentially putting a new building inside of an old building comes with extra challenges and needs” he said, “but the final product is worth it.”
A number of historical elements were removed, then returned to the building, including cast iron rails, original mosaic tile art on the main façade (discovered during construction by Prather), original awnings and vents, and refurbished balconies. Even the original crystal doorknobs (which aren’t compliant with ADA for use on doors) were saved, and are now part of a large decorative piece in the gathering area.
Key features and highlights of The Birchwood:
- 18 hotel rooms (second and third floors), modern with historic elements and inspirations.
- First-floor restaurant (“Birch & Vine) with well-known executive chef Jason Cline.
- Two entirely new floors for 300-plus-person (200 seated) event space, rooftop lounge, tiki bar, and terrace with private cabanas.
- Wine cellar along an entire wall of the restaurant. Decorative artwork using original doorknobs.
- Historic feel maintained throughout, with modern food-like colors and nature-inspired elements.
- Materials were garnered from England, Indonesia, the Philippines, Canada, and domestically.
- Hallways feature historic photos of St. Pete, curved and arched ceilings, and high-end detail.
- Full kitchens on the first and fourth floors, both state-of-the-art (compared to a previous microwave-and-hot-plate operation).
Prather’s longtime relationship with Ed Taylor started with his first development – the construction of a United States Immigration Office in Tampa – and he’s worked with the company on all of his Florida buildings since. “Ed Taylor embraces accountability, coordinates the various teams effectively, and is both proactive and responsive in their client service,” he said. “We work through the challenges together . ”
Other partners in the Birchwood construction process included: Abby Art, Arcus Architects, C1 Bank, Richard Adams Structural Engineering, Urban Studio Architects, and Wilson & Girgenti.
About Ed Taylor Construction
Over 20-plus years, Ed Taylor Construction has built or renovated thousands of commercial structures for top companies in the Tampa Bay area and Florida, accounting for well over a half-billion dollars worth of construction. Highly awarded and default-free through its history, Ed Taylor Construction takes pride in the way they build partnerships, manage the construction process, and maximize client dollars. Information available at www.EdTaylor.net.
About The Birchwood Hotel
Built in 1922, The Birchwood is a historic, Spanish Mission style building listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, and a long-time local landmark. The building has been completely renovated as a boutique hotel that offers fine dining, deluxe hotel rooms, a Grand Ballroom for events and conferences, and an open-air rooftop lounge overlooking the waters of Tampa Bay and downtown. Information available at www. TheBirchwood.com.