Belleview Biltmore Vintage Chest, Drawers and Mirror with Photos       Home    Email

Our nonprofit organization, Save the Biltmore Preservationists, is pleased to announce that we received a donation of "Old Hickory" vintage furniture that was in the Belleview Biltmore Hotel from around the 1920’s to the 1930’s. The chest and mirror and other Biltmore furniture were sold and removed when the hotel became a World War II barracks for military personnel.

We received the vintage furniture from Clearwater resident Dell Valentine Kelleher whose grandmother owned it after it was removed from the hotel. Information on her and her family are at the end of this page.

Here is the history behind the furniture. In the 19th century Bill Richard made and sold hickory chairs in the Town Square in Martinsville, Indiana. "Old Hickory" furniture (honoring President Jackson) came into being in a church in 1892. In 1898, a full line of furniture products was shipped to homes and resorts. There were multiple makers/owners of "Old Hickory" over time. Early Arts & Crafts mission furniture makers may have received many of their concepts while visiting the Martinsville "Old Hickory" production. The earlier woods used were hickory while later woods were oak, chestnut and pine. One of the most popular variations is rustic log style. Many homes, resorts and national park lodges use both old and new variations of "Old Hickory" furniture. A few owners of "Old Hickory" include Old Faithful Inn, Grove Park Inn, Camp David, the Disney Rainforest Cafe, and celebrities Dolly Parton, Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, and Oprah Winfrey.

The Belleview Biltmore hickory chest of drawers has an early mark (later variations had bronze and paper tags) and is an example of historic Mission/Arts and Crafts style furniture. Hickory is the heaviest and hardest of all American hardwoods, and it was used by the American Arts and Crafts movement, Amish furniture makers, pioneer wagon wheels and on the Wright brothers’ Flying Machine. The vintage furniture is a heavy, well built, solid wood, utilitarian chest of drawers with hand cut half-blind dovetails and solid glue joints. The finish is worn, with some small chips and various board-to-board glued edges have separated. The chest and mirror could be restored, but then it would lose the wear and tear history of life at the Biltmore. A woodworker experienced with hickory wood could duplicate this basic design.

Our vintage Biltmore chest has four drawers with carved, hickory nut knobs and the 31" x 25" mirror has horizontal sections (rails) with hickory nut incised carvings. The frame (carcass) has horizontal and vertical routed moldings, 43" vertical sections (stiles), 38" horizontal sections (rails) and is 20" in depth. The top-drawer front has opposing "rustic" style V shaped routings cut into the front face and measures 30x18x7". The next drawer measures 30x18x8" and the two bottom drawers measure 30x18x9". The piece is signed "Old Hickory, Martinsville, Ind. Dusty Acorn." The date is unknown but could be in the 1920's or 1930's but is before World War II. The entire package measures 20x38x43" and weighs approximately 150 pounds. Some early records of the first "Old Hickory" furniture were unfortunately destroyed when the original furniture company burned down. The chest and mirror are currently being kept in safe storage for future Biltmore preservation efforts.


This is the Old Hickory logo behind the mirror and the chest      One of the hickory nut knobs on the chest       One of the hickory decorations on the mirror


                   The side detail of the chest                                                      The detailed front decoration on the chest


Here is information from Ms. Dell Valentine Kelleher: "My grandmother Dell Valentine was a very connected (socialite) here in Clearwater. I am a fourth generation Clearwater native. One of her very dear friends was Billy Burke a golf pro, and I think he played with Babe Ruth on the Resort course at times. Also she was a great friend of Jim Smith who was another golf pro in the area at the time. Plus she was on the board of or one of the founders of every committee they had going back then. I really don't know how she ended up with the furniture but it was in the back bedroom of her house for as long as I can remember as a child . She had the set of twin beds and the dresser/mirror and maybe night stand but I happened to salvage the dresser when I needed one when I moved out of my parents' house. My grandfather Wilson "Rudy" Valentine was the founder and president of First Federal Savings and Loan downtown. My great -grandfather George Eichelburger was a builder, and he built some of the homes down in Harbor Oaks near the hospital. My grandmother graduated from Clearwater High School in the first graduating class on '38, Mom graduated in '58 and I in '78.


Top of page

Home   Email