The Henry B. Plant Museum – A National Landmark

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 94,824
    During its operating period from 1891 to 1930, the Tampa Bay hotel housed thousands of guests in its 500 + rooms, including hundreds of celebrities and politicians including Teddy Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill, Sarah Bernhardt and Babe Ruth. Today the hotel has been preserved and is open to the public as the Plant Museum.

    Robin Kay: Hi! There, this is Robin Kay and today we are at the Henry B. Plant museum located on the campus on the University of Tampa. When you get a look at this building it just vows you right away. In 1891 this building behind me operated as the Tampa Bay hotel, it was built and owned by the railroad magnet Henry Plant for two and a half million dollars back in 1888. When tourism was not yet a concept here in Tampa this Moorish or North African architectural theme was selected by Mr. Plant because of its exotic appeal to the widely tribal Victorians who would be his primary customers. The price for a room ranges from $5 to $15 a night. And at the time the average hotel in Tampa charged a $1.

    25 to $2. This hotel has 511 rooms, some of which were actually suite consisting of between three to seven rooms and they were the first of Tampa to have electric lights, telephones and an elevator. Sally Shifke: One of the unique features of the hotel at the time was its electric lights. Henry Plant actually had to build a power plant on the grounds of the hotel because there was no power in Tampa. And when you come to the museum you get this experience of stepping back in time.

    Robin Kay: During its operating period the hotel housed thousand of guests, including hundreds of celebrities and politicians, interestingly enough Baber signed his first baseball contract in a grand dining room. And according to local legend he had his longest homerun ever at the old Tampa fair ground stadium located right here on the hotel grounds.

    Sally Shifke: The room that I am standing in is the writing and reading room. And this is where the men would have come to sit and read the newspapers from the time and send telegraphs back to their family and business associates. Because when you stayed at the Tampa Bay hotel, you just didn't stay for a couple of days, it would have taken you a couple of days to get here by train. So, you stay here for a weeks on it. Robin Kay: There is a ton of history here and one of the more interesting attractions is at the entrance. Take a look at this fountain commissioned by Margaret Plant in 1899 after her husband's death. She called it Transportation and it reflects trains and ships which was the core of Henry Plant's work.

    Sally Shifke: You will see magnificent furnishing and beautiful artwork from the Victorian period, Henry Plant and his wife Margaret went to Europe and filled 41 rail road cars with furnishings for the hotel. Most of pieces here are those pieces that they purchased. Robin Kay: This is Robin Kay reporting from the Plant museum in Tampa Florida.