Then: Lantern Lane Apartments
Now: Birchwood Inn
One of Beach Drive’s most historic buildings was recently reopened as a boutique hotel featuring California chic flair and a South Beach-style rooftop lounge. Birchwood Inn is the brainchild of Chuck Prather, who bought the former Lantern Lane Apartment building for $1.8 million in May 2011 with the idea of marrying an upscale hotel with a high-end, farm-to-table restaurant to create a vacation experience that St. Pete has never seen before.
The original building was designed by architect George Feltham and built in 1924 as an apartment, which in those days was more like an extended-stay hotel. At the time, Prather says the Spanish Mission-style building was the only hotel overlooking Tampa Bay. The beleaguered Grayl’s Hotel occupied the building until 2003 when the owners filed for bankruptcy.
Enter Prather, who immediately saw the property’s potential. He met with the St. Petersburg Preservation Society and developed a historically accurate plan for his three-story, 18-room hotel. According to the Tampa Bay Times, he spent an estimated $6 million on renovations. And the results are rather spectacular. Chef Jason Cline, previously of Bin 27 in South Tampa, has taken the reins of Birch & Vine, the hotel’s flagship restaurant. The rooms blend modern amenities with historic features like bear-claw bathtubs that help place guests in the Roaring 20s era.
The Canopy Rooftop Lounge gives St. Pete guests a luxurious patio space with a great aerial view of Straub Park and the Bay. The lounge is furnished with living room seating, fire pits and a full-service bar. Combined with the upstairs ballroom, the Inn has two levels of balconies to enjoy St. Pete’s waterfront.
In the details
The hotel is named in recognition of a housing complex owner Chuck Prather’s father built in Tennessee.
The original crystal doorknobs were salvaged and used as decoration in the first-floor lobby.
A tile mosaic was revealed around the scaffolding during renovations. Prather decided to restore it for the first time in decades.