While on our trip to Tampa, with Diane and Sue, we stopped by the University of Tampa. This is also known as the Henry Plant Museum. the Tampa Bay Hotel is not only a stunning example of Moorish and Turkish architecture, it also served as the headquarters for the United State Army’s invasion of Cuba during the Spanish-American War. The above statue was in the main hall and the one below is from the gardens.
the following is from the Henry Plant Hotel website – http://plantmuseum.com/henry-plant-museum/plant-hotel-1891
Henry Plant was a railroad magnate and he built a railroad to Tampa in 1884, which was described as the sand swamps. The railroad was the center of the city’s economy and when no one would back building a hotel of the magnitude that Henry wanted, he built it himself. He built a beautiful hotel, the Tampa Bay Hotel, which opened in 1891. It cost $2,500,000 to build and another $500,000 to furnish. It was advertised as fireproof due to the steel and concrete construction. There were 511 rooms, and all the rooms had electricity and telephones and most had private baths. It also had two of the first elevators in Florida.
Guests reveled in this atmosphere of heady opulence, surrounded by exotic furnishings, porcelains, Venetian-style mirrors, and sculptures handpicked in Europe by Mr. and Mrs. Plant. The décor was a collection demonstrating such exquisite taste that one writer described it as “a jewel casket into which has been gathered an infinite number of gems.”
Open from December to April throughout the 1890s, the Hotel was a lively place with magnificent balls, tea parties, and organized hunts during the winter social season. Guests enjoyed an array of diversions, including wild game hunting, fresh and salt-water fishing, sailing, rowing, and canoeing. Bicycles and carriages were at their disposal. Rickshaws were available for tours of the property or an afternoon ride to see and be seen. The Hotel also boasted a golf course, tennis and shuffleboard courts, billiards, croquet, and even a racetrack. The Music Room hosted grand balls and orchestra concerts during the week. The Tampa Bay Casino, Tampa’s earliest performance hall, seated 2,000 people and billed national and international performers such as Nellie Melba, Sarah Bernhardt, John Philip Sousa, and Anna Pavlova. The Casino also served as a spa with a heated indoor swimming pool located below the removable floor boards to reveal a relaxing oasis.
The Grand Salon, or parlor, was place of inspiration filled with European statues and Venetian-style mirrors. William Drysdale commented that, “gentlemen of the pen who can write a column or two about a snow-capped mountain peak and go into ten-page ecstasies over a sunrise should stand in the middle of the Tampa Bay Hotel parlor and let their immaculate English flow unrestrained.”
A sweeping veranda on the east side of the Hotel afforded guests with a tranquil setting from which to enjoy the view of the Hotel’s extensive gardens. Following a formal eight-course dinner of fine wine and haute cuisine in the Dining Room, guests could stroll along the serpentine walks that wove through an exotic landscape of tropical flora and garden statuary. The Flower House, filled with rare plants from all parts of the world, was one of three charming conservatories on the grounds.
With its splendid Moorish architecture, opulent furnishings, and spectacular tropical gardens, the Tampa Bay Hotel attracted a host of celebrated guests, from Teddy Roosevelt, Sarah Bernhardt, and even Babe Ruth.
Since 1933, the Tampa Bay Hotel has been home to the Henry B. Plant Museum and The University of Tampa, when it was given to the state with a right to use for 100 years at $1 a year. The building, renamed Plant Hall, is a National Historic Landmark.