Friday, February 12, 2016

Henry B. Plant Museum

We first noticed the minarets of this building when we visited Tampa's art museum.  They certainly make for an interesting and unique city skyline!  They are part of what once was the Tampa Bay Hotel, built in 1891 by Henry Plant.  The hotel has been touted as "Florida's First Magic Kingdom".
Henry  Plant was a very successful industrialist, as Vanderbilt, Carnegie, and Rockefeller.  He built an extensive railroad system from South Carolina to Tampa, as well as steamboats and 8 hotels in Florida.  The Tampa Bay Hotel was the flagship of them all.  Two thousand people attended the grand opening and it had a "Grand Illumination".  Meaning that it was fully lit by electricity, of which many Floridians would not yet have for decades to come.  The opulent Victorian hotel was in operation for 40 years, and only open during the winter months.  During its time of operation it was visited by such notables as Babe Ruth, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Clara Barton, Teddy Roosevelt- to name but a few.
Maybe the above picture gives you an idea of the size of this very large building which has 500 rooms.  When Jon and I walked around the outside of the building there just seemed no end to it!  Part of it now is a museum, but the majority of it belongs to Tampa University.
Story has it that Mr. and Mrs. Plant toured Europe and purchased  paintings, statues, antique furniture, Venetian-style mirrors and a variety of ceramics which filled 41 train cars.  Such furnishings decorated the Tampa Bay Hotel.  Many of them have been saved and now can be seen in the museum.  Pictured above is a polyptych from late 19th century Germany.  It was once used to hang in the music salon of the hotel.  The panel of pictures celebrates wine, women and song- which were daily activities at the hotel.  Famous actors, musicians, and entertainers performed here as John Philip Sousa, Anna Pavlova and Sarah Bernhardt.
The Writing and Reading room is the most historically accurate room in the building.  The yellow wall color was discovered and reapplied.  The tops of the chairs have swan's heads, which I found interesting.
Another interesting room is a bedroom tucked under one of the minarets.  Notice the key hole arches above the bed, an architectural feature of the hotel.  The round curved windows in that small nook had to be custom made.  In the bedrooms were musical instruments- guests could call for a piano to be brought to their room, which they could play themselves or hire someone to play for them.
We had to step out of the museum and enter the rooms of the university to see the rest of the hotel, I will save that part of our tour for the next posting.

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