The old Tampa Bay Hotel has been designated a National Historic Landmark because in 1896 it served as the headquarters for the United States Army during the Spanish-American War. On the veranda of this hotel officers and career soldiers, some of who had perhaps not seen each other since the Civil War, rocked and sipped on their mint juleps or iced tea while planning strategies for the war which was raging down in Cuba. Journalists observing the officers dubbed them the “Rocking Chair Brigade”
As I gazed over the expansive porch I sure wished that I could turn back the years to that time, if nothing else but to watch the activity on the veranda! By the way, one of the journalists reporting on the war was Stephen Crane (author of Red Badge of Courage). He stayed at the hotel, as well as Edith Roosevelt who came down here often to visit her husband Teddy Roosevelt
The lobby of the hotel is now the admissions office for Tampa University. Imposing statues and classical music flowing out of the music salons are now the only hints of the former ambiance of the hotel.
The halls off of the lobby, which lead to administrative offices of the university, seem endless. And while wandering down one hallway I espied the old wooden Otis elevator which at one time was powered by a hydraulic system. In 1925 it was converted to electricity. And pictured below is one of the grand staircases, which lead to classrooms upstairs. Student notices hang on the marble columns. Horse's heads are on the newel posts. Also notice the key hole feature on the landing.
We had watched a video in the museum which mentioned the hotel’s dining room, back in its day it could feed 800 people at one time. In my wanderings I came upon Fletcher Hall, which I later learned was the old dining room. It now serves as a venue for weddings, bar mitzvahs and other social events.
What a beautiful building! I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a student within its walls today. One last picture here, of the back of the building. Again, take note of its length.