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by Strawberry Girl
April 1, 2002
From journal Clearwater/Tampa, Florida weekend
September 27, 2000
From journal Tampa - plenty to see and do
Just about everyone (myself included), when first catching a glimpse of the shiny silver minarets amid the office buildings of Downtown Tampa, incorrecty guesses this is a mosque. Not even close. Once the grand Victorian era Tampa Bay Hotel, the museum and National Historic landmark offers a glimpse of the luxurious lifestyle during the Victorian era. The hotel, designed in quirky Oriental/Moorish style, was the creation of Henry Plant, who developed the the Port of Tampa with his railroad and steam ship line. He hoped to bring the elite to vacation to experience the 'real Florida'. The hotel with 500 rooms on 6 acres opened in 1891 as the first hotel in Florida with electric lights, steam heat, and fire proofing.
Now part of the University of Tampa (since 1933), it still embodies the Victorian era with it's large decorative verandah. You can just image the fine ladies & gents who once occupied wicker rockers and chairs out there. Inside the museum is a cool respite from the Florida heat which is certainly wasn't in it's heyday. Start with the 13 minute video and then follow the map around the rooms for a trip back in time. There is a large collection of period furniture, paintings, bronzes, sculptures, and other art objects that are what remain of the 41 boxcars of items that the Plants collected in Europe and Asia for the hotel.
Of interest to war buffs is the room devoted to the Spanish American War. Plant used the hotel and Tampa as a point for departing troops during the war. Teddy Roosevelt camped with his Rough Riders in a field nearby while his wife stayed in the hotel.
Don't miss walking through the part of the hotel that is now occupied by university offices. Except for some modern amenities, the original architecture still remains.
Guided tours are offered Tuesday & Thursday at 1:30pm or you can self-guide yourself through this wonderful piece of history. Parking is free in designated spots.
From journal Tampa Bay Treasures