Monday, October 15, 2012

Tampa Bay Hotel Magnificence - Henry B Plant Museum

A couple of years ago while on a trip to Chicago I was invited to a dinner with a work colleague and having spent more than my fair  share of dinners at the ridiculously expensive steak houses I agreed but only if we skipped the “stuffy dinner” and did something fun.  I didn’t really care what we did for fun and there is so much fun to be had in Chicago.  We ended up in a limo heading to Comiskey Park for a thoroughly enjoying evening of baseball & hot dog eating.    Excellent right?

Comiskey (now US Cellular) Park home of the Chicago White Sox
So last week I was looking forward to another evening with colleagues this time in Tampa Florida and Googling looking for something other than the “stuffy steak house”.  I kind of struck out (most of "fun" alternatives seemed to close at 6 pm) but we did end up at a very very cool steak house that was definitely unique – Bern's Steak House….sooooo yummy!  They had me at “dessert room”.  Trust me I do a lot of these dinner things…Bern’s is in a category of its own.

Bern's Steak House
1208 South Howard Ave. - Tampa, Florida 33606
The lobby still looks like this...way cool
photo credit Bern's
In my search for fun dinner alternatives however I did stumble upon the Henry B Plant Museum and since I had a few hours to toodle around before dinner I thought would be fun to check out.  The Henry B Plant Museum honors the Tampa Bay Hotel built by Henry B Plant (a railroad baron) in 1891 for $2.5M (plus another 500K to furnish).
Henry B. Plant Museum formerly the Tampa Bay Hotel
401 W. Kennedy Blvd - Tampa, FL
The front veranda is the absolute perfect way to spend a lazy day
 Originally Mr. Plant built this hotel to lure people to ride his railway.  It was only open for 9 years but was the height of opulence in those 9 years and so much history happened here.

The Formal Writing Room where men gathered to
socialize and write letters in the evenings
Just one of the many magnificent gilded mirrors on display
It then remained vacant until 1933 when The University of Tampa purchased it for $250K.  Today the University uses much of the original building but they have preserved a wing as museum to honor the the Tampa Bay Hotel, Henry B Plant and the Gilded Age of America.

There were dozens of these garden stools that were all originally
scattered through the extensive luscious gardens on property
I particularly love this guy...he would look so fabulous
in my sad garden
It’s a self-guided tour with photography allowed in most of the rooms and there were few barriers restricting access.  The furnishings featured are all authentically original to the 1890’s hotel as is much of the décor.
Originally custom produced for the King of England who ended up not
wanting to walk on the lions Henry Plant bought all that had been
produced and used it at this hotel.  I kind of love this...a lot!

No question I walked away with a very keen sense of what it must have been like to visit the Tampa Bay Hotel when it was originally open in the 1890's.  If you have a couple of hours to spend meandering definitely swing by – it’s a couple of hours well spent.
Decorative Paper Lanterns from the Gardens

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