Chiseler's Market essential for iconic minarets maintenance

- If you like yard sales and garage sales, the granddaddy of them all is this Saturday.

It's called the Chiseler's Market at the University of Tampa’s Plant Hall. 

The sale is gigantic. It fills the porch and the rooms inside - and all the proceeds benefit Tampa’s most famous building.

Every spring, the Chiselers lay out donated treasures for sale under the minarets at the University of Tampa.

How the Chiselers got their name is an interesting story dating back 50 years. They chiseled off paint to restore a fireplace in Plant Hall in 1959!

"And they sat and very delicately chiseled paint off the tiles. The husbands thought this was very amusing, so they said they're nothing but a bunch of chiselers," explained Susie Sanders.

Since then, their Chiseler’s Market has raised millions to keep the symbol of Tampa looking the part. But caring for a huge, 126-year-old building is like “This Old House" times 10. There’s the work you don't see, and there's the sparkle you do, like restored Victorian paintings and gold balustrade.

"Oh, it's incredibly important, without this building, the city of Tampa wouldn't exist, so the work that the Chiselers have done in preserving it and maintaining it has just been vital to the building," Sanders said.

The building put Tampa on the map. It opened in 1891 as the Tampa Bay Hotel, owned by railroad and steamship magnate Henry Plant. Intrigued by the classic Arabian Nights stories, he built the exotic towers called minarets. And 30 years ago, the Chiselers helped restore them, too.

The view from the minarets changed with Tampa, but looking back at the minarets is much the same as it was in 1891. It’s why the Chiselers have their sale.

“And we have put into this one building more than $7 million," explained Lindsay Huban with the Henry B. Plant Museum. "When you think Tampa, you think minarets and this building."

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