Thursday, July 09, 2009

Tampa Bay Hotel: Henry B. Plant's 19th century Florida resort retains its Victorian gilt and grandeur after more than a century



My monochrome post on July 6th of the minarets of the Tampa Bay Hotel and the family history and photographs shared by Lois of Tallahassee Daily Photo prompted me to show an entirely different view of the original hotel that is not visible in the photo of the minarets. This scene is taken facing the West Veranda entrance to the original hotel lobby. Guests would arrive here by train rather than on the other side facing the Hillsborough River. The tennis courts and horse racing track were also on this side but are long gone. The Florida State Fairgrounds took the track years ago and and now the campus of the growing University of Tampa has expanded well beyond those original hotel grounds. (We are proud of the university, one of the best private schools in the country.) The other photo - do click to enlarge - is taken from this side (the black and white was from the east) and the bottom shot is of the breathtaking domed ceiling of the hotel's Fletcher Lounge. This is where guests would dine. It is an incredible space and looks just as it did when the hotel opened in 1891. A dinner was held in this room in 1998 to commemorate and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Spanish-American War. We were greeted by re-enactors portraying Colonel Teddy Roosevelt and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Plant They were entertaining, very authentic and helped to transport us back in time. They used an original hotel menu to recreate an exquisite meal. This is where Lois' grandparents would have dined. The menu and many other items from the hotel are in the collection of the Henry B. Plant Museum. The men were given gifts of Tampa cigars and the women beautiful Spanish fans. I hoped to show you what incredible architecture and decoration greeted hotel guests when they arrived more than a century ago. The place still delivers on its promise after more than a hundred years. (But it doesn't have rooms for honeymooners any longer.)

8 comments:

Meg in Nelson said...

I was gonna joke about who's gonna dust the porch, who's gonna paint it, but then I just loved the shapes of the windows AND the bottom pic blew me away... So I'll be polite today.

Vogon Poet said...

Another type of fantasy, more elaborate and grand. I like the idea of re-enacting the old ceremony, that was a show to see!
Wonderful photos, I am not a B&W fan, but these images really work.

Lois said...

These pictures are magnificent Frank! Thanks for posting them and thanks for your comments on my blog today. I had been wondering about that statue of the hunting dogs--glad it's still there. The overgrown appearance of the Biglow house in that picture may have been because I think it was taken shortly after Silas Biglow passed away and my great grandmother couldn't keep it up as well as he did, which is why she sold it. She was almost complete deaf and had to use one of those old ear horns. My grandfather used to say their neighbors knew all of their business because they had to shout into that thing so she could hear them and of course the windows were open because there was no a/c. I have some more pictures of the interior and my sister and I visited the house about 4 years ago and got to spend a whole afternoon in there wandering around and taking pictures. I even tried to stand in some of the same spots and recreate shots from the old ones. It was a lot of fun. We'll have to come down there again and visit the Henry Plant Museum. I have a few more pix from that honeymoon trip--another one of my grandfather with the hotel in the background and one of my grandmother standing in front of some steps that look like they are at the entrance all dressed up in her 1922 finery! Thanks again for posting and all the history is so much fun to read. I have a much better scanner at my office, so I will try to take all my pictures up there and get them scanned when I get a chance.

Jacob said...

It's breathtaking 'cause you don't see these kinds of building in Florida very often. The black and white was an excellent choice, too, and it shows off the architectural detail so well.

Don and Krise said...

Frank, I commend you on your posts. They are always so complete, so full of information and fun to read. You (and Lois) have helped take many of us back in time to a beautiful place. Thank you for doing it so well.

B SQUARED said...

Spectacular building, artfully described by you.

Lori Skoog said...

Wow. Some joint!

Petrea said...

That's a beauty of a building. Do you have any shots of the Kress building you mentioned to me?