Monday, July 06, 2009

Marvel at the minarets of the amazing Tampa Bay Hotel: A study in black and white


The most recognizable icons on Tampa's skyline are the magnificent minarets of the Tampa Bay Hotel. A gentleman named Henry Bradley Plant is solely responsible for dreaming the almost unimaginable. Tampa was a very small town in the 1890s. The population was only about 700 in 1880 while Ybor City, just east of Tampa, was already a larger town, more affluent and a major player in the cigar industry. Thousands of men and women were employed in every aspect of the manufacturing and selling of cigars. After Ybor City was incorporated into Tampa in 1887, Tampa grew to over 5,500 residents. And most made their living from cigars. Into this small town came Henry Plant. A wealthy man who had made his fortune with hotels, railroads and steamships, he planned to build a hotel that would lure visitors and guests who would travel on his railroad from points north. Tampa would be at the terminus and they would step from their train car onto the west veranda and into the lobby of his grandiose hotel. Plant succeeded in bringing a level of luxury to his tropical resort unlike any in the state. (It is still awe inspiring today.) The hotel rose along the banks of the Hillsborough River, right across from the town of Tampa. The hotel's Moorish architecture was as startling and magical in the 1890s as it is today. Open only from December to April each year, the hotel's staff entertained their wealthy guests with every kind of diversion from game hunting, fishing, and boating on the river and bay to horse racing and tennis. The minarets atop the hotel were distinctive and memorable a century ago as they greeted the trains and passengers who must have stood in the lobby in disbelief. Today, the Tampa Bay Hotel, recognized as a United States National Historic Landmark, is part of the University of Tampa and is carefully preserved and maintained to provide a view of our city's and nation's history during the turn-of-the-century Victorian era. Headquarters to the United States Army during the Spanish American War in 1898, the Tampa Bay Hotel welcomed many famous guests over the years. If your curiosity has been tweaked, please visit the Henry B. Plant Museum website. It's a great story. And the minarets, which so proudly represent Tampa, still amaze everyone who sees them on our skyline. (And, yes, you can go up inside them but I'm told it is very hot and humid. ) Please visit Monochrome Weekly for other images of our world as seen in black, white and subtle shades of gray.

11 comments:

Aileni said...

They make a great mono image. There was a time when I would have greatly enjoyed one of those cigars.
Thanks for your kind comment.

Lois said...

That looks great in black and white Frank! I have a old picture of my grandfather standing in front of this hotel back in the 1920's. I'll have to dig it out now that you've reminded me of it!

Jacob said...

I'll be Plant City was named for Mr. Plant, too. I've never seen this or heard of it! Amazing. And an amazing commentary. One more site to see in Tampa. Thanks!

cieldequimper said...

Excellent shot. From the thumbnail I thought in Tampa there was a "little Russia"!

Kim said...

Wow Frank, you are so right about those being amazing. What a beautiful, gleaming sight. In an international era like ours, these still have their sense of the exotic sights that only wealthy travelers in those days would have seen in lands far away. Now we have city daily photo blogs to bring us all the flavors of the world :-). This is not something I would have thought of seeing in Florida! And I liked learning a bit about the integration of the two towns and the cigar industry. Great post!
-Kim

floreta said...

wow, really interesting building! great shot.

Vita Stunder said...

Great mono!
Excellent shot :)

Have a great week!
Anna

Frank said...

I appreciate everyone's kind comments. These minarets are really unbelievable and no one takes them for granted. They glow at night. No one who sees them can quite understand how they came to be but when the wealthy vacationers arrived from the Northeast in the 1890s they were stunned by them I am certain.
The smell of fine cigars probably can found in every nook and crevice. Teddy Roosevelt, Florence Nightingale, Babe Ruth and many others all stayed here and sat on the wide verandas.
Everything in Florida named Plant is named for Henry B. Plant. He and Flagler rain railroads up and down Florida's east and west coasts and left their mark on hotels, towns, etc.
LOIS, scan the photo and send it. I'd love to see it and it may be one the Plant Museum does not have.

Greensboro Daily Photo said...

So European looking. I love the story that accompanies the photo!

Cindy said...

Beautiful photo. I love seeing them every time I go downtown. They look great in B&W. I love the history lesson too, interesting information on the city and Mr. Plant. I look forward to visiting again. ~Cindy

Lisa Wilson said...

That's beautiful!! It doesn't even look like something that would be in the US.