Sunday, November 01, 2009

DOORWAY to History and Higher Education

This is one of three massive and ornate doorways that lead from the West Veranda into the original lobby of the Tampa Bay Hotel. Henry B. Plant’s railroad cars would pull up to the steps on the veranda and arriving guests would be greeted by the luxury and ornate splendor of the Moorish-styled hotel. Looking today very much as it did when the Victorian-era resort hotel opened in 1891, the lobby is used day and night by students of the University of Tampa, which has a 99-year lease on the building from the City of Tampa.

During the Spanish-American War in 1898, Colonel Teddy Roosevelt was a guest of the hotel while preparing his Rough Riders for their embarkation for Cuba. Other illustrious guests during the lead-up to war with Spain were Major General Joseph Wheeler, General Nelson A. Miles, Colonel Leonard Wood, General Fitzhugh Lee, General William R. Shafter, Richard Harding Davis, and other newspaper correspondents from the United States and Europe. The Henry B. Plant Museum occupies part of the building and preserves and showcases the hotel's historic place in our city's and nations' history.

The private four-year university began to use the empty and unused hotel in 1933, and has graduated thousands of students over the years. Along with the famous and not so famous, thousands of current students, from almost every state in the US and several foreign countries, will go on to make history in the years ahead. All have passed through this doorway. First when it was a main entrance to the hotel, and now as a part of the university, this doorway has welcomed men and women from all over the world and from every station in life: the rich and the illustrious; famous journalists; decorated military officers; and sports figures whose names are enshrined at Cooperstown. Tampa's elite party here regularly and many worthy non-profit organizations have benefited from social events held here with some frequency. Alumni of the university include Pete Peterson, U.S. Air Force pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam, former U.S. Representative and U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam; former Secretary of the Interior of Mexico Juan Camilo Mouriño; actress and wrestler Joan Laurer; author Dennis James Kennedy; and Major League Baseball players and Baseball Hall of Famers Tino Martinez and Lou Pinella. Major sports figures in baseball and football passed through this doorway. Florida’s House of Representatives and Senate, along with Tampa’s city hall, all have had UT graduates among their distinguished membership. Even former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich attended UT for two years. Author Connie May Fowler and Robert “Bob” Martinez, former mayor of the city of Tampa, Florida governor and Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H. W. Bush, all graduated from UT.

Other notable hotel guests included John L. Sullivan, Stuyvesant Fish, William Jennings Bryan, Sarah Bernhardt, Clara Barton, Stephen Crane, the Prince of Wales and the Queen of the United Kingdom. Babe Ruth even stayed at the Tampa Bay Hotel. Throughout its years as a private university, the rich and the famous who visited have included politicians including two visits by Senator John S. McCain in his 2008 campaign for the presidency.

Today, most students pass through this doorway on their way to class and never once imagine the historic events and personages that have gone before them. But, very likely, many of them will return one day as proud, accomplished, or even famous, alumni.

The September theme for City Daily Photo bloggers from all over the world is DOORWAYS. Be sure and visit the other sites to see how creative and imaginative my fellow CDP bloggers are:

Click here to view thumbnails for all participants


Meg in Nelson said...

Very exotic!!

Lois said...

Magnificent post Frank! This is perfect for Theme Day.

Jacob said...

That's one hell of a door. Thanks for the history lesson. You make me a bit smarter every day. Well, less ignorant, maybe!

Hilda said...

Never mind knowing its illustrious alumni, I wonder if the kids even notice that grand entrance. It's magnificent!

Don and Krise said...

That's quite an impressive list. Like you, I hope that someday the people that pass through those doors look at things a little differently and thoroughly appreciate the history.

Nice choice for theme day Frank.

In Three Rivers, Michigan said...

Strange and striking doorway - and thanks for the history, too!

Beth Niquette said...

What a gorgeous piece of architecture. It's like aporthole into another world...perhaps it is.

Incredible photography.

Joy said...

I have a picture somewhere of Williams Jennings Bryan when he made that trip to Tampa. He is in my family tree.
♥ Joy