Thursday, March 24, 2016

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 239

Tampa Bay Hotel, ca 1891

Today’s postcard was originally issued in the 1890s shortly after the Tampa Bay Hotel was completed in 1891.  Designed by architect John A. (J.A.) Wood and financed by the railroad developer and builder, Henry Bradley Plant (1819-1899), who also organized the Plant System a railway, steamboat, hotel company.   The Tampa Bay Hotel boasted accommodations of over 500 rooms and was located near the terminus of Plant’s Atlantic Coast Line railroad as a resort destination.  This reproduction appears to have been issued as part of the 100th anniversary of the hotel and dates from 1994.  One hopes the 'gators on the card are for decoration only and not to be expected swimming in the water along with all the tourists.

Today the building has been incorporated into the University of Tampa with the south wing housing the Henry B. Plant Museum.  The entire building is listed as a U.S. National Historic Landmark.  The construction cost was over 3 million dollars, covers 6 acres, and is a quarter mile long.  The elevator, the first installed in Florida, still works today and is one of the oldest continually operating elevators in the nation.  A luxury hotel, all the rooms and suites were the first to have electric lights; telephones and most also included private bathrooms complete with full-sized tubs.  Most average hotels of that era charged $1.25 to $2.00 a night as compared to $5.00 to $15.00 a night at the Tampa Bay Hotel.  The hotel grounds included a golf course, bowling alley, racetrack, casino, an indoor heated pool, and covered 150 acres.  Plant selected the Moorish Revival theme because he thought the exotic design would appeal to widely traveled Victorians.  The building has six minarets, four cupolas, and three domes.

The hotel operated from 1891 to about 1931 but was closed during the Great Depression and was empty from 1931 to 1933.  In late 1933 Tampa Junior College received permission to move into the hotel and began using the old suites as classrooms and offices.  The college was expanded and became the University of Tampa.  The Tampa Municipal Museum, now the Henry B. Plant Museum, was established by the city to preserve the hotel and co-exist with the university.  The University signed a 99 year lease with the city in 1941 and pays $1.00 year.  The lease includes the grounds and has several sculptures and a botanical garden.  A non-profit corporation, Friends of Plant Park, assist with the maintenance, restoration and preservation of the grounds.  The museum is open to the public and hosts an annual Victorian Christmas Stroll. 

Two 1994 postcards showing the University of Tampa.  

For information about Henry B. Plant, J. A. Wood and the hotel, see:

There is also a small booklet available through the museum "Moments in Time" about the Tampa Bay Hotel, 1891-1931, published by the Henry B. Plant Museum that includes many photographs and interesting historical facts.

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