BUILDING A DAY: October 11, 2014

University of Tampa – Tampa Bay Hotel
Tampa, Florida

Architect: J. A. Wood
Photos: University of Florida Digital Collections. George A. Smathers Libraries


A note to our readers: Thank you for your overwhelming response for our Building A Day Program. We are continuing our series by exploring the architecture outside of the Sarasota region over the next fifteen days until we return to Sarasota at the end of October to highlight some of the recent additions to our architectural landscape. Enjoy!

The Tampa Bay Hotel was designed by J. A. Wood in 1888 and is not only known for its historic architecture but it also served as the headquarters for the United State Army’s invasion of Cuba during the Spanish-American War. It was built by Henry B. Plant, who was the founder of the Plant System of railroads and steamboats and brought the railroad to Tampa in 1884. The 511 room hotel was considered one of the premier hotels not only for its Moorish Revival Architecture, but also because of its innovations. It was the first hotel in the state of Florida to have an elevator as well as the first to have electric lights and telephones in the rooms. 

The Moorish Revival style of the building was chosen to appeal to the taste of the Victorian customers that would frequent the hotel. Keeping in the style, it featured six minarets, four cupolas, and three domes that were all restored to stainless steel in the early 1990’s. 

The hotel closed in 1930 as a result of the Great Depression and remained unused for three years until the Tampa Bay Junior College took over the space and converted hotel rooms into classrooms. The size of the building, spanning a quarter of a mile, afforded the college room to expand into the University of Tampa as we know it today. The Henry B. Plant Museum in the south wing of the old hotel building and Plant Park provide visitors the opportunity to experience this historic place.

In 1972, the building was designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark. It was also featured in AIA Florida’s list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places. in 2012.


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