The Tampa Bay Hotel, also known as the Plant System, was a luxurious 511-room resort-type hotel that opened its doors on February 5, 1891. Founded and owned by Henry Plant, it was located near the Terminal of the Plant System railway line and coincided with the rise of Ybor City as a powerhouse in the tobacco industry. The five-floor building was a sight to behold and attracted many notable visitors, such as Sarah Bernhardt, Clara Barton, Stephen Crane, the Queen of the United Kingdom, the Prince of Wales, Winston Churchill and Ignacy Paderewski. Generals and high-ranking officers stayed at the hotel to plan the invasion strategies for the Spanish-American War, while the soldiers camped on the surface of the hotel. Today, Plant Hall is part of the University of Tampa and serves as offices, laboratories and classrooms.
The south wing is dedicated to preserving the opulence of the historic Tampa Bay Hotel. The Plant Museum participates in Tampa's fourth Friday celebration to promote cultural spaces by offering free entertainment on the terrace from 17 to 7 p.m., from January to October. Single-character performances take visitors back in time as they talk about their experiences at the hotel. Henry Plant couldn't get the support of his investors to build the luxury hotel he imagined as the jewel in the crown of his empire, so he decided to found it himself. During its operating period from 1891 to 1930, it housed thousands of guests, including hundreds of celebrities and political figures.
The strategies of the Spanish-American War were discussed on the hotel terraces, in rocking chairs, while waiting for orders from Washington - hence the phrase “War of the Rocking Chairs”.Those interested in learning more about this grand hotel and its history should visit Henry B. Plant Museum. It is an excellent opportunity to explore one of Tampa's most iconic landmarks and discover its fascinating past.