DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP)Vintage racecars crowded into the parking lot of the Streamline Hotel for a ”legends party” Wednesday, and hundreds of fans got up-close looks at pieces of NASCAR history.
They could have found even more by touring the historic building.
The Streamline, which opened in 1941 and has been widely recognized as the birthplace of NASCAR because it hosted meetings between drivers and officials during its formative years, has once again become a landmark overlooking the ”World’s Most Famous Beach.”
Reimagined as a boutique hotel with a distinct art-deco design, it’s filled with pictures and memorabilia from NASCAR’s early days and stands as one of the few remaining reminders of the series’ roots. It’s a gathering spot – maybe even a tourist attraction – for anyone wanting a glimpse of what those olden days of racing on the beach must have looked and felt like.
And there’s no shortage of curious customers this week as NASCAR celebrates its 75th anniversary.
”I couldn’t help but walk through there and put myself in the shoes of 1947, ’48, somewhere in there,” said 2012 NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski, who poked around the hotel recently. ”I couldn’t help but do that and think of myself as them and what that place must have looked like then. It’s interesting for sure.”
It’s a masterpiece to some, something of a marvel to anyone who saw what the dilapidated building looked like less than a decade ago.
Real estate magnate Eddie Hennessy bought the 44-room hotel in 2014. He spent upwards of $6 million restoring and renovating it. He delivered a Miami-inspired motif that includes lots of bright colors and intricate details that create the look of a bygone era and restored it to its original glory.
”Not too many people could have done what I did,” Hennessy said. ”It was the biggest mountain I’ve ever climbed.”
Hennessy gutted the building down to original concrete and beams, raised ceilings, added modern amenities and gave the hotel a definitive NASCAR feel with pictures the France family allowed him to use. Close friend J.C. France, the son of NASCAR chairman Jim France, gave him exclusive access to NASCAR memorabilia that now adorn the walls of the lobby, the restaurant and the rooftop bar.
”I’m a racer at heart,” Hennessy said. ”I was raised by NASCAR and all kinds of racing. And being so close to the France family, it was out of respect also. This place has so much heritage.”
He kept tributes to a masonic temple that was part of the original building, went to great lengths (and expense) to move and maintain a heavy vault door, and had racing-inspired murals painted on several interior walls.
His years-long effort was featured in an October 2014 episode of the Travel Channel’s reality television show ”Hotel Impossible.” The show ”put us back on the map,” Hennessy said, and created extra buzz surrounding the famed hotel.
Renowned gangster Al Capone frequented the hotspot in its heyday along with moonshiners who were among NASCAR’s first generation of racers. When they first started racing on the beach, they drove right by the hotel, which now sits on the western side of a scenic roadway.
Hennessy recently purchased several nearby properties and cleared the land. He hopes to eventually build on those and further revitalize an area decimated by two hurricanes in 2022. In the meantime, the hotel serves as the centerpiece of that section of Daytona Beach.
The rooftop bar regularly features live music as well as deejays and specially themed events such as Latin Nights, drag shows and yoga classes.
The hotel generates much of its income during Speedweeks, Bike Week and Spring Break – all staples of the tourism industry in Daytona.
Former NASCAR champion Chase Elliott has visited the hotel, and NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. rented out the entire thing for a private launch party for his High Rock Vodka last year. NASCAR also held a 75th anniversary celebration there last month.
The legends party was the latest draw. Jim France, Hall of Fame driver Bobby Allison and NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton were on hand for the event.
”You have to have a vision,” Hennessey said. ”People thought I was crazy when I bought this place. It was a lot of trial and tribulation, dealing with a lot of historical aspects, nationally and locally.
”The hotel was in bad disarray for so long. And for me to change that stigma and reputation was another feat in its own.”
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