Gutting the former Grayl's Hotel by hand has taken construction crews more than three months. "It would have been a lot less expensive to tear it down," said Chuck Prather, owner of the 1920s hotel at 340 Beach Drive NE. It was designed by George Feltham, a leading architect in St. Petersburg in the 1920s, and very few examples of his work are still around. So Prather thought the shell of the hotel, which he will call the Birchwood Inn, should be preserved. The hotel has city but not national historic designation. Prather, who says he is spending $6 million on the renovations and additions, will get a tax break for 10 years on a percentage of the property taxes with the designation. But the savings are far from offsetting the cost of preserving the exterior, he said. He hopes the Birchwood Inn will be open by December.
Katherine Snow Smith, Times Staff Writer