The Henry B. Plant Museum is located in the south wing of Plant Hall on the University of Tampa's campus. Plant Hall was formerly known as the Tampa Bay Hotel. The museum's exhibits focus on Gilded Age tourism, the elite lifestyle of the hotel's guests, and the building's use during the Spanish–American War. It was designed by architect J.A. Wood who also created the old Hillsborough County Courthouse and the Oglethorpe Hotel. The entire building (under the title of Tampa Bay Hotel) is a U.S. National Historic Landmark, designated as such on December 5, 1972.
The Tampa Bay Hotel was built by railroad magnate Henry B. Plant between 1888 and 1891. Of the eight hotels that Plant created along his rail line, this was considered the premier property. All in all, it cost over three million dollars to build. For three million dollars, it included the first elevator ever installed in Florida, which is still working today. It was also the first hotel rooms and suites to have electric lights and telephones, in all 511 rooms. Most of the rooms even had private bathrooms. The building itself, made of concrete and reinforced with steel was advertised as fireproof.
The grounds of the hotel spanned 150 acres and included a golf course, bowling alley, racetrack, casino, and an indoor heated swimming pool. In all, 21 buildings could be found on the hotel's campus. The Moorish Revival architectural theme was selected by Plant because of its exotic appeal to the widely traveled Victorians who would be his primary customers. Moorish Revival or Neo-Moorish is one of the exotic revival architectural styles that were adopted by architects of Europe and the Americas in the wake of the Romanticist fascination with all things oriental. The hotel has six minarets, four cupolas, and three domes. Plant's hotel is considered a more elaborate interpretation of the style.
Cover image by Don Shall on Flickr is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.