Some places remain forever frozen in our minds. Seemingly forgotten by the relentless passage of Father Time, they provide a snapshot of life at a specific moment.
The Streamline Hotel is one of the places – and February 21, 1948 is one of those moments.
The Birthplace of NASCAR actually began 69 days before that date, when a meeting of 35 men commenced in the four-story, art deco building.
At the head of the rooftop bar gathering of racing enthusiasts was Bill France Sr., who laid out the rules and regulations of what would become the nation’s most popular racing organization.
The rooftop bar has long-provided the area’s best sightlines, with crashing waves and hard-packed sand of the beach racing days just a block to the east and the towering frontstretch of the new Daytona International Speedway standing proudly five miles to the west.
Undoubtedly an inspiring place to launch a dream.
And on February 21, 1948, that dream, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, was officially born.
While inextricably linked with that era, reality has proven crueler than the recollections to which our minds cling.
The Streamline Hotel has spent the better part of several decades toiling as a fond, yet distant memory, while the very real façades of NASCAR’s birthplace have crumbled beyond recognition. In fact, in an oft-mentioned quote, an old police chief once called the Streamline a “den of inequity.”
It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly precipitated the Streamline’s fall from grace. Perhaps its proximity to the beach made it that much easier for it to be buried by the sands of time.
Whatever the cause, that didn’t stop local businessman Eddie Hennessy and from an undertaking aimed at preserving a true piece of Daytona Beach history while honoring a beloved heritage.
“I’ve always viewed the Streamline Hotel as a part of racing history that needed to be reborn and have its story told, Hennessy said.” “Bill France, Sr. is legendary and this town wouldn’t be what it is today without him.”
Hennessy is a homegrown product, attending Seabreeze High School before beginning his career as a real estate investor/developer. A self-described “motorsports junkie”, Hennessy has ties to the racing scene in Daytona as he has raced in the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA as a gentlemen driver.
His local connections ended up bringing the opportunity of a lifetime into his lap. His realtor and childhood best friend, Dino Dodani, approached with a real estate deal; however, Eddie was skeptical.
It didn’t take much to change his mind; however.
“After seeing the view from the rooftop I was sold,” he recalled.
Despite having to learn as he goes in his first venture into the hotel business, Eddie’s vision for the hotel was in full effect from day one.
“I saw the potential and knew with the right team I would be able to bring it back to life,” he said. “I wanted to tell the world the story of how NASCAR was born.”
Before construction would start in September of 2015, his first priority was clear. The surrounding area needed a major clean up. Certainly, the lavish to-the-guts renovation would not be of much consequence if guests didn’t feel comfortable setting foot in the area.
“My team and I worked closely with the Daytona Beach Police Department to clean up the transients inside and outside of the hotel, he explains. “They helped us clean up the whole block and that actually helped clean up this whole end of town. We couldn’t have done it without DBPD.”
In fact, shortly after the purchase, it was clear that a new attitude was in place to stay after Hennessy closed the property and affixed the Streamline’s iconic signage with “Under New Management. Zero Tolerance.”
Hennessy soon sought out the help of “Hotel Impossible”, the Travel Channel series that does extreme-makeovers to struggling hotels. The show found holes in ceilings, stained sheets, rusted air conditioners and lapses in security before the show’s Anthony Melchiorri recommended a complete shutdown.
While Hennessy wasn’t fluent in the hospitality business upon purchasing the property, the businessman had abundance of construction experience that certainly was needed.
This property has shown me you know never what you’re getting into until you open up the walls,” he said. “Years of deterioration and negligence has made simple restoration procedures seem impossible, but we’re getting it done.”
This deterioration was made all the worse by widespread water damage. “We have all new plumbing, electrical and HVAC,” Hennessy said. “Only the structural walls and floors were left.”
The structure of the oldest standing building in Daytona Beach remains resolute as it was the first building in the area to be fireproof and was considered the city’s first air raid and bomb shelter during World War II.
This history is evident deep within the exposed brick.
“The architectural nature of the building sometimes prevents us from being able to install the simplest of things like Cat 6 cable wiring that runs to the fiber optic internet connection,” said Hennessy. “The walls are so thick contractors are constantly breaking drill bits.”
All of these challenges haven’t dull the excitement Eddie has for the renovation, least of all the restoration of the rooftop bar, his crown jewel of the entire project.
The bar will be built mere inches from the very spot the famous boardroom image of Bill France and his colleagues at the Streamline.
“The rooftop bar has its significance in history and I’ve always had it in my plan to bring it back to life,” he explained. “We want to share that feeling of the late 40’s with all of our future patrons and guests. It was truly the defining years that transformed Daytona Beach into what it is today.”
To honor those founding fathers of NASCAR, the name Boardroom Sky Lounge was chosen.
It’s fair to say that breathtaking does a disservice to the view atop the rooftop bar. Leaning against the stucco architecture with a line-of-sight that includes A1A, the Daytona Beach boardwalk and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean, the clang of construction fades away as one of the area’s most serene views unfolds.
After spending the last few decades existing without much of an identity, upon relaunch there will be no confusion as to what the vibe of the Streamline Hotel will be.
Using the original art deco architecture, Hennessey envisions a “1920’s to late 1940’s-themed upscale boutique inn” destined to be a modern, sophisticated establishment that honors its history, while setting a new standard for the future.
Central to the new Streamline experience will be a property bustling with modern amenities, yet retentive of a nostalgic atmosphere. 50-inch flat screen television in each room, along fiber optic cable and cutting-edge Wi-Fi throughout the property.
The lobby is set to be adorned with exclusive, never-before-seen Daytona Beach motorsports images. When pushed further about exactly how he will bring a sleek new design, while staying true to the Streamline’s nostalgic look and feel, the owner was tight-lipped.
“That’s something everybody will have to wait for,” he said. “I have quite a few tricks up my sleeve.”
Whatever surprises are waiting, the brand is clear. Hennessy plans to use his newly trademarked slogan “The Birthplace of Stock Car Racing” moving forward.
Eddie, for whom the Streamline has become more passion project than business deal, believes the facelift should put the Streamline at the top of the list for visiting fans, drivers, race teams and anyone looking for a unique mix of hospitality, history and high-end ocean views.
Certainly, the return to prominence of this sleeping giant is welcome news for all those in the Daytona Beach area.
“It’s going to add a lot to the community,” Hennessy predicts. “We will create jobs, a place where people can truly connect with racing’s past and provide momentum for beachside and other business owners.”
That growth should nicely complement the tremendous buzz and excitement surrounding the opening of the new Daytona International Speedway – the World’s First Motorsports Stadium.
For those excited headed to DAYTONA to experience the beginning a new era of racing, a quick trip to the Streamline Hotel at 140 S Atlantic Ave is highly recommended as a buzz is building for an expected launch of summer 2016.
“If I can get this place open by July 4th race weekend that would be amazing,” said Hennessy. “You have to remember that it’s not only a hotel; it’s a restaurant, bar, we have room service. Everybody is watching and I only have one shot to open this place the right way. You can’t make a first impression twice.”
The world has waited decades to become reacquainted with the Streamline Hotel. Surely it can wait just a few months more.