TAMPA, Fla. - Everyone recognizes its signature minarets, but there’s more to the University of Tampa’s Plant Hall than the silver moons.
The building actually opened back in 1891 as the Tampa Bay Hotel, a $3-million winter resort for wealthy and famous Victorians to visit during the cold winter months up north. Famous names including Teddy Roosevelt, the Queen of England, Booker T. Washington, and Babe Ruth are said to have stayed there.
The hotel had 511 rooms, an indoor swimming pool, and a performing arts center. It holds the distinction of being the first building in the state to be completely electrified, and also had one of the first elevators in Florida.
“The architecture of this building is really like nothing that you see anywhere else – sort of a Moorish revival architecture style – beautiful red brick and those arches everywhere in the building, both inside and outside,” explained the Henry B. Plant Museum’s Lindsay Huban.
The domes and minarets are what make it so unique that it has become a symbol of the city of Tampa. There are 13 structures on the roof of the building: Six minarets, four finials, and three domes.
Plant and architect John A. Wood wanted a building that was going to look exotic, so they put the minarets and crescent moon shapes on top of the structure.
“They’d been reading things like ‘Arabian Nights’ and this was a way for them to build a building that people would remember,” Huban continued.
GALLERY: Inside the famous minarets
The building functioned as a hotel for four decades, until 1941. The University of Tampa moved in two years later, and now the building houses a variety of school offices and classrooms, along with the Henry B. Plant Museum – a tribute to the man who built it.
The building is now a national historic landmark.
“Students and families really enjoy being able to take advantage of this gorgeous building and the fact that they can actually take classes inside,” Huban added. “You don’t get that anywhere else.”
The Henry B. Plant Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. You can find more information at: www.plantmuseum.com