The Tampa Bay Hotel is now home to the University of Tampa, and the building’s southern wing has been preserved as the Henry B. Plant museum in order to show off the hotel’s glory days.
Location: 401 W Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, FL 33606
Admission: Adult $10.00 | Children (4-12) $5.00 | Students $7.00| Seniors $7.00 | Children 3 and under FREE (Dec prices are usually higher due to special Christmas exhibits.)
Hours: Tues – Sat, 10:00 am – 5:00pm | Sun, 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
- The best way to experience this museum on the cheap is through Tampa’s Fourth Friday celebration, in which the Plant Museum usually offers free entry, typically from 4:00pm – 5:00pm.
- Sometimes Groupon offers good admission deals to the Plant Museum, such as two adults for $10. There’s no deal at the time of this writing. They tend to come and go. You would be wise though to check here before your visit to see if there is a new Groupon deal available.
- The Plant Museum is within walking distance of a few other cool points of interest, such as Glazer’s Children Museum, the Tampa Museum of Art, and the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts which are all located on the other side of the Hillsborough River.
- If you are a Florida history nerd like me and want more info you should check out this book and this book.
The Tampa Bay Hotel took two years to build and 2.5 million dollars to complete. It opened on February 5, 1891 in the sleepy fishing village of Tampa.
Here’s what it looked like back in the day:
Here’s what the building looks like today:
As one can tell from the first picture, the Henry B. Plant museum is located along the Hillsborough River. I was lucky enough to snag one of the free parking slots on the street in front of the museum. If you aren’t lucky like me there is also free parking in a garage on North Blvd and Spaulding Dr.
Before entering the museum, I took a quick walk through the museum/University of Tampa’s garden along the river which is directly in front of the museum. It looked like this:
I used a Groupon to get in the museum.
They gave me an audio wand to give me a self-guided tour. For the uninitiated, that means the exhibits throughout the museum are marked by numbers. Punch in the corresponding numbers on the wand and audio snippets tell you what you are looking at.
(e.g. punch in #1 to learn about the below exhibit.)
All of the pictures throughout this article will be dim. Why?
- It was a cloudy, rainy day. So not a lot of light was getting through the windows.
- For the sake of historical accuracy, the museum uses the original wattage for their light bulbs. It looks like this:
Normally, I would have methodically followed the numbers in ascending order. Which is one of my weirdo personality traits. But I actually didn’t do that this time. I don’t know why. Instead, I wandered around the museum and audio-wanded the things that looked interesting.
Henry B. Plant and his wife filled his hotel with tons of odd sculptures, statues, and furniture. Here’s a small taste of what you will experience:
A fun tidbit of history concerning the Tampa Bay Hotel has to do with the 1898 Spanish-American War. Tampa Bay was chosen as the shoving off point for American soldiers debarking for Cuba. The Tampa Bay Hotel was the temporary headquarters of the war machine. Generals, high-ranking officials, and my favorite American of all-time, Theodore Roosevelt, stayed at the hotel to plan the war effort.
The troops camped out on the grounds. TR drilled his troops, known to history as the Rough Riders, near the hotel.
One of the rooms in the museum is dedicated to this historical time period. It includes photos, uniforms, time-period American flag, and guns.
Okay, I know this has been a photo heavy article, but I still have a few more to share and then I’ll finish off this article. First, the main hallway. It certainly gave me a feel for a different time and place.
Second, here’s what one of the rooms looked like. This particular room was located directly underneath one of the minarets. The window glass was specially made because they curve with the building.
Third, there are a bunch of cool infinity mirrors placed in the hall way. It’s when two mirrors are placed across from each other and the reflections go into each other forever.
Third and final, here’s my picture of a portrait of the man himself:
Overall, I give this place a thumbs up. If you are a local I highly recommend it.
If you want to learn more about this subject before (or after) your visit, I would suggest the very interesting Plant’s Palace: Henry B. Plant and the Tampa Bay Hotel by Covington James W. and also Florida’s Grand Hotels from the Gilded Age (Images of America) by R. Wayne Ayers.
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