Tampa Bay Hotel
401 West Kennedy Boulevard
The Tampa Bay Hotel (now known at the Henry B. Plant Museum) opened 1891 and originally offered rooms from December through April. Unlike most hotels at the time, the Tampa Bay Hotel was fireproof due to its steel rails and concrete construction, design features emphasized in its advertisements. The hotel was designed by architect J. A. Wood and remained open until 1933.
Cost to build the hotel ran approximately $2,500,000; an additional $500,000 was needed for furnishings. The Tampa Bay Hotel had 511 rooms, most with private baths. All had electricity and telephones. The first elevator in Florida was installed at the Tampa Bay Hotel. Room rates ranged from $5.00 to $15.00.
The Tampa Bay Hotel grounds spanned 150 acres. Balls, tea parties, and organized hunts were frequently held at the hotel. Other recreational activities included wild game hunting, fresh and salt-water fishing, sailing, rowing, and canoeing. Bicycles, carriages, and rickshaws (for tours) were also available. The grounds also featured a golf course, tennis and shuffleboard courts, billiards, croquet, and a racetrack.
The hotel’s casino, Tampa’s earliest performance hall, seated 2,000 people and billed national and international performers. It also had a spa with a heated indoor swimming pool. The Grand Salon (or parlor) was filled with European statues and Venetian-style mirrors. A veranda sits on the east side of the hotel.
The Tampa Bay Hotel was used as a base of operations during the Spanish-American War for generals and other high-ranking officers. The U.S. government chose Tampa as official port of embarkation for American forces heading to Cuba. Enlisted men camped on the hotel’s acreage, and one of its most famous guests, Col. Teddy Roosevelt, stayed at the hotel during this time. In 1933, the Tampa Bay Hotel became the Henry B. Plant Museum and The University of Tampa. It has been added to the list of National Historic Landmarks. Plant Hall remains an iconic part of the Downtown Tampa skyline. Many Florida postcards pair the hotel with other famous Tampa sights, such as the Hillsborough River and Lafayette Street Bridge.