In the 1930’s the Tampa Bay Hotel had to close its doors, and what was once a place of marvel and elegance soon became a shell of its former glory. When the hotel closed it became the target for many thieves who picked off furniture and decor that was left in the hotel. Not only was the hotel in ruins but some of the buildings on the hotel’s property, like the casino and boat house, burned down leaving only burnt framework standing. This once marvelous place was threatening to become an eyesore to the growing city of Tampa.
In 1933, just a year after its closure, the city of Tampa not only owned the hotel and property but decided to put it to use and lease it to the University of Tampa. The hotel and the majority of its 511 rooms soon became classrooms, except for the west wing of the building which became the Henry B. Plant museum. The Tampa Bay Hotel is now known as Plant Hall at the University of Tampa and has gone through many renovations to keep it up to date. Despite the renovations that have gone on throughout the years Plant Hall has still kept part of its magical ambiance.
Visitors of the museum are often directed to see the rest of the building after their tour so they can see the grand staircase, the music room, the dining room, and other little areas that have not changed much. The grand dining room at the end of the eastern wing has been made to look just as it did when the museum first opened. The dome at the top of the dining room has an orchestra area that was once used so that diners could enjoy the music falling from the heavens. Although that orchestra area is now closed off it can still be seen from inside the room.
Plant Hall, while certainly the most eye catching building on campus, is not the only thing to see. The entire campus spans across 110 acres and has added many more buildings and athletic fields since it opened. The entire campus has been modernized but Plant Hall and the cobblestone roads around a large part of the campus help keep some of the hotel’s original atmosphere. Many of the buildings have great views of the city, the Bay, and even the minarets atop Plant Hall. The majority of the buildings, aside from dorms, are open for the public to see and explore. The Hillsborough river, only a few hundred feet away from Plant Hall, is a great place to sit and relax.
Throughout the year, there are several events that take place at the University of Tampa that encourage people to come visit, including an annual market held on the veranda of Plant Hall and a picnic held in the park in front of the former hotel. The University of Tampa campus is always a great place to visit; there is history, great views, and always something to explore.