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.