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The Tampa Bay Hotel

(Plant Hall)

 

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The Tampa Bay Hotel was built by transportation industrialist, Henry Bradley Plant as the flagship hotel for his rail and steamship system, linking Tampa to the great cities of the north and to Cuba.  Like a vision from the Arabian Nights, the enormous quarter-mile-long palace became the jewel of the vast Plant Empire.  There is no structure like it in America.  Fashionably modeled after the court of Moorish kings in Grenada, the structure was crowned with 13 silver minarets, cupolas and domes and embraced with a lace like iron verandah, wide as a county road.  Its imported Cuban mahogany, French glass, pink granite and Venetian mirrors swathed the hotel in the elegance and opulence of the Gilded Age. 

Plant’s winter resort attracted the brilliant, the honored and the popular – such personages as Sarah Bernhardt, Gloria Swanson, Anna Pavlova, Nelli Melba and Booker T Washington.  And it was in the elegant lobby that Babe Ruth signed his first baseball contract with the Boston Red Sox. 

In 1898 the sumptuous hostelry gained international prominence as US military headquarters during the Spanish American War. Civil War heroes Major General Nelson A. Miles, William Rufus Shafter and “Fighting Joe” Wheeler lived in the hotel and set up command there, marshaling forces for transport to Cuba in support of her cry for independence.  Thirty thousand troops, including Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, crowded into Tampa for the first major port of embarkation operations in US military history.   Since 1933 the city-owned building has been home to The University of Tampa and The Henry B. Plant Museum.   

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General W. R. Shafter and Staff at Tampa Bay Hotel, Tampa, Florida             Col. Teddy Roosevelt & the Rough Riders

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                                          Tampa Bay Hotel 1898                                                            Tampa Bay Hotel and Boat House (Where the 'The Womens Club' had meetings)

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