HISTORY OF THE TAMPA BAY HOTEL
AT THE PRESENT TIME, when living is so luxuious, and luxury so contagious." the latest and most scientific ideas must be adapted in establishing a place of resort. "Peninsulas have always been sought by mankind as favorite places of residence. Their fortunate climate and genial air give them advantages over every other location." says the well-known savant, Dr. W. C. Van Bibber. |
The word climate embraces an assemblage of many facts of which the atmosphere is only one of the factors. "The climate of peninsulas derives one of its peen liarities from the fact that the heat of the land dries the air as it comes from the sea. On account of this, and also from other causes, the air and climate of a smaller peninsula attached to a larger one or jutting off from it, often differs from that of its parent very materially. Such a fact is important and has not heretofore been observed and utilized to the extent it deserves. It may with truth be said that the Florida Gulf Coast stands pre-eminent and unrivaled before all other lands or peninsulas. It has a different latitude from most of them, a different topography, a different slope to the winter sun."
It is like the invigorating maritime climate which has made the Mediterranean coast and resorts so celebrated, possessing in an exceptional degree purity of atmosphere and dryness. The equable, healthy and balmy climate of the Gulf Coast of Florida offers unparalleled attractions to invalids, tourists and sportsmen. As to extent of surface offering and affording attractions of many kindsw on land and water, Florida is the largest of any of the Gulf States east of the Mississippi River. It is 400 miles from north to south; and average of nearly 100 miles from ocean to gulf, with a magnificent coast line on the west.
"In the Gulf of Mexico is a basin 13,000 feet deep, and larger in extent than the State of Georgia. It is called 'Sigsbey's Deep.' Has this immensely deep basin an effect upon the surface water of the gulf, which is nine degrees F. warmer than that in the Atlantic in the same latitude? The temperature at the bottom of this basin is 37 degrees F. Is it that the gulf is landlocked and its waters heated by the sun—or does the dynamic force of the water at these great depths expel its latent heat? The two facts are here placed side by side as they exist in nature. The tropic peninsula and the deep sea basin—one is as true as the other."
All of these scientific facts have been well weighed and given due consideration in the selection of the site for the celebrated Tampa Bay Hotel at Tampa, Florida. It is located upon a sub-peninsula which projects out between Old Tampa and Hillsborough bays. It is situated at Tampa, and has been constructed to meet all the sanitary and luxurious requirements of this fastidious and exacting age. In its magnificent architectural proportions, crowned with unique towers, glittering minarets and crescents, it is the most prominent and conspicuous feature of the landscape for miles and miles, from land or water. The beautiful grounds slope down to the river. On the lawn is a stately and majestic widespreading live oak, said to be the famous tree under which Osceola, the Indian warrior chief, capitulated. Beautiful grassy slopes lead down to palm-shaded walks, with gorgeous flowers blooming with the prodigal splendor of the tropics, giving a foreign air to the scene that greatly enhances its loveliness. The style of the architecture of the hotel is Byzantine. The arch and crescent are multiplied in the most fascinating and picturesque variety. The roofs are rather flat, the long horizontal lines only slightly broken after the manner of the Orient. It is absolutely fire-proof. To meet the demands of all guests there are steam heat and open fire-places also. It is lighted with electricity throughout. Has elevators for passengers and baggage; private bath with every suite, electric bells, and telephones; in fact, every "modern improvement." Spacious and elaborately ornaments piazzas on both sides of the house. There is not a dark spot in the building; it has 735 windows. Each room is an outside room; all of them admit the sunlight and the refreshing and delicious salt breezes from bay, river and gulf. The interior is finished and decorated with the most artistic and exquisite taste. The furniture is mostly imported, having been made to order in Paris. Some of the wonderfully beautiful rugs and carpets were specially woven for the hotel. Those for the grand salon, parlors and reception rooms are marvels of beauty. There are cabinets, pictures, statuary, bric-a-brac—nothing that artistic taste can suggest or unlimited means purchase is wanting to make the Tampa Bay Hotel the most comfortable and luxurious public place of abode on the American continent. If anything in the way of splendor could astonish the American traveling public, this hotel — wonderful as an enchanted palace, situated almost upon the southern outpost of the United States—will not only astonish, but delight them.
Fort Brook, of Tampa, one of the oldest military reservations in the United States (one that has also achieved celebrity in the halls of Congress), affords a fine picture from the hotel piazzas and balconies. It is yet covered by the primeval grove of live-oaks, whose stately branches are draped with the graceful Spanish moss, long streamers floating out upon the breeze—fit emblems of mourning for the brave spirits that have made Fort Brook historic. It is no longer a military post. While it was garrisoned the army reports showed it to be one of the healthiest stations in the United States.
Dr. Long, a surgeon in the United States Army, wrote in regard to the climate and salubrity of Fort Brook: "This post has always been regarded as a delightful station; here the tropical fruits, such as the orange, lemon, lime, banana, pineapple, find a congenial climate; vegetation is continuous throughout the year. Flowers of every description, tender hot-house plants, and vegetables are all growing and maturing in January, and at the same season the water of the bay is of a temperature to admit of bathing. Yet everyone who has traveled in Florida knows there a few cold days, and that it is difficult to locate the frost-line. But the whole year possesses so equable a climate that in the estimation of the inhabitants the present season is always better than the last." Florida is to-day and is long likely to be the most popular of winter resorts; its popularity is enhanced by the opportunity its genial climate affords for continuous outdoor life and amusements, fishing and hunting, boating, bathing, etc. The water hereabout is the home of the famous pompano, conceded by epidures and gourmands to be the most exquisitely flavored and perfect table fish in the world. Here also abound the lordly Tarpon (or Silver King, as he has been christened), Spanish mackerel and many other celebrated fish can be caught in the river and bay. In this vicinity the beds of oysters, clams and other shellfish are as large and fine in quality as those to be found in Maryland and Virginia. One special feature must be mentioned: it is the marvelous purity of water of the artesian well from which water is supplied to the hotel. It occupies the spot where, legend says, old Ponce fancied the "Fountain of Youth" must be hidden, and who knows but it was somewhere in that region, and this wonderful artesian well may be endowed with some or all of its astonishing virtues. The serene beauty of the Florida nights have a peculiar fascination, for here the moon shines with a brilliancy and radiance that almost rivals the sun. The glittering hosts of southern stars deck the measureless azure dome of heaven, as they flame out like jewels upon the brow of night. The ease and speed with which the Tampa Bay Hotel may be reached from every quarter are greatly in its favor.
Unexcelled train service, with luxurious sleeping and parlor cars, bring the traveler directly upon the ground to the very porch of the hotel. A noted physician says: "Were I sent abroad to search for a haven of rest for tired man, where new life would come with every sun, and slumber full of sleep with every night, I would select the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is the kindest spot, the most perfect paradise,—more beautiful it could not be made, still calm and eloquent in every feature."
VISITORS ENTERING THE HOTEL GROUNDS from the Avenue pass through a handsome triple gateway between massive brick piers supporting elaborately wrought iron gates and capped with urns holding great century plants. The gate-keeper's lodge is just to the left, embowered in rich foliage. The towering minarets, crowned with shining crescents; the quaintly hooded circular dormer windows jutting from the bright metal surface of the cone-shaped domes; the loopholes and little balconies are counterparts of those in the land of Mohammed, from whence the Muezzin cries the hour of prayer.
IF COMING FROM THE NORTH, EAST, OR WEST the train, after a stop of a few minutes at Tampa City, crosses a substantial bridge spanning the Hillsborough River, from which an extensive view of the spacious grounds and east front of the hotel is had. The tourist whose destination is the Tampa Bay Hotel does not leave the train until it is within the shadow of the stately building, where he can alight upon a concrete walk that leads direct to the broad piazza and handsome entrance.
THE GUEST WILL PAUSE UPON THE STEPS to admire the rich profusion of flower and foliage that is blooming all about him. Directly in front a small fountain is spraying its cooling drops about a circular bed of brilliant acalypha; at either side of the piazza stairs are grand specimens of alpina mutans, melon paw-paws, etc., and, twined about the roof supports, the fragrant Arabian jessamine fills the air with perfume. The entry into the hotel rotunda is made through one of three imposing doors, of mahogany and cut glass beneath ornate moorish arches of terra cotta.
GLANCING ABOUT THE ROTUNDA, the newly arrived visitor can scarcely imagine that he has entered the business portion of the hotel. The rich red carpeting covering the floor, the great divans, the innumerable rocking and easy chairs scattered about, the bronze statues, antique vases and urns, the beautiful paintings upon the walls and rare bric-a-brac everywhere, the tropical plants growing in such profusion—all suggest the pleasant sitting room of a large, VERY LARGE, family. And such it is, for here asemble, day and evening, guests of both sexes to pass the time in social companionship.
OCCUPYING a very small amount of room in the southwest corner of the rotunda, as if it were of the least importance in an apartment so replete with ornament and rich furnishings, and so devoted to comfort and luxury, is the office of this hotel, as ornamental in its way as any of the surroundings. The wide counter is of Spanish mahogany, beautifully carved and highly finished; the railings are of burnished copper, in fantastic designs. A door to the right gives access to those having business behind the counter, and on the wall at one end is a large clock, beneath which are crossed Moorish swords.
SUPPORTED BY EIGHT MARBLE COLUMS a balcony over looks the rotunda from the first floor. An artistically carved railing of Spanish mahogany surrounds it, and all about are easy chairs, rockers and sofas of odd workmanship and beautiful designs. Upon the walls are some rare canvases from the brushes of old masters and works from the studios of modern painters. Gobelin tapestries, statuary, bronzes, French-plate mirrors, urns and vases of tropical plants and flowers, add to the general effect, which is both rich and elegant. Large French windows open upon balconies overlooking the piazzas and lawns beyond.
QUIETLY ELEGANT, in entire keeping with the purpose for which it has been set apart, is the reading room, on the left of the south corridor leading from the rotunda. The style of finish is ebony and gold, making a decided contrast to the milk-white walls and ceiling. The furniture is in dark woods and upholstered in morocco and plain leather. Some of the chairs and sofas are beautifully carved and in laid. Richly framed paintings adorn the walls, art albums and books of travel repose upon stands, and a newspaper rack with files of the leading publications of the country.
STANDING IN A CORNER OF THE ROTUNDA, near the office, is a bronze group that recalls hallowed memories of childhood's happy hours and the innocent tales that then seemed so real, the morals of which were not fully understood until later on in life. This is "Little Red Riding Hood." The artist has evidently chosen that portion of the story in which the wily wolf is propounding those questions to the little miss, the answers to which contain the information that enables him later on to so successfully carry on his masquerade. The statue is very lifelike.
OPPOSITE THE WEST ENTRANCE to the rotunda, surmounting one of the luxurious divans, is a fine bronze from the celebrated foundry of Maurice Denonvilliers, Paris. The subject, "Esmeralda and the Goat," from Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the artist (E. Houssin) has certainly created a very spirited statue, in which Esmeralda is depicted as holding aloft a tambo while executing a pas seul, that the goat, erect upon hindquarters, is striving to accompany.
IN A CORNER to the right of the west entrance is another bronze, which invariably attracts the attention of visitors. "Naiad at the Bath" has been a favorite subject of painters and sculptors, but never has it been more beautifully treated than by the artist of this figure. The pose is upon bended knee, with one hand thrown over the shapely head, while the other rests lightly upon the ground in support of the body. Further to the right, near one of the entrances to the grand parlor, is another fine bronze, "The Top Spinner."
NOTICEABLE FOR ITS EXTREME RICHNESS OF COLORING and striking contrasts of flowers, in which the pure white of the calla lily enunciates the vivid scarlet and orange of the ladies' cigar plant, is the grouping of blooms about a mammoth vase of curious design that stands to the left of the entrance to the corridor on the north of the rotunda. In the corridor is stationed a maid, whose duty it is to explain to visitors the history of the many valuable pieces of furniture in the grand salon and Louis XIV room..
JUST INSIDE THE ENTRANCE to the corridor leading to the Solarium and dining room the guest is afforded an excellent example of the contrast between the odd and the beautiful in art. Guarding "gnomes," suggesting legends of the Black Forest. Beside them is a rich porcelain vase, the base of which is composed of excellently modeled swans, while one of the beautiful creatures is posed upon the top, and near by a grand Japanese work in bronze. This corridor attracts the attention of every visitor, as upon its walls are hung some fine gobelin tapestries, rare paintings, engravings and etchings.
EVERY CASKET HAS A GEM which its owner thinks surpasses all the others, and every visitor to the Tampa Bay Hotel has a similar feeling after having viewed the Louis XIV (or French) room, as it has been called. The most striking piece of furniture in this room is one which is understood to be a geniune Louis XIV gem. It is a combination of cabinet (richly inlaid and polished), clock, mirror and painting, and extends from the floor almost to the ceiling. In front of it stands a table which is a beautiful sample of Marquetry. Chairs, corner pieces, and other articles are equally beautiful.
CAMERA, PENCIL AND PEN alike prove inadequate to picture an apartment the arrangement of which has been pronounced by competent critics "a wonder in art furnishing." The grand parlor of the Tampa Bay Hotel is a dream of magnificence indescribable. Cabinets of inlaid wood, pearl and ivory, many of antique design and some really hundreds of years old; beautiful marble figures, statues and statuettes, costly Japanese and Chinese vases; paintings from the old masters and the modern salon—everything artistic that the mind can covet. This mantel is an exquisite example of art in wood-carving.
NEAR THE CENTER OF THE GRAND PARLOR is a divan that will attract attention, not only because of the beauty of the design and rich upholstering, but on account of its historic associations. It is of the time of Marie Antoinette. The frame is intricately carved and finished in gold; the covering an exquisitely worked leaf and tendril pattern. Thick fringe, reaching to the carpet, surrounds the foot. From the center and between the seats of the divan growing palms spread their broad, rich leaves about. Nearby are easy chairs of corresponding design.
A PART OF THE LONG HALLWAY leading from the rotunda to the dining room is the "Solarium," a beautiful circular apartment, full of windows, through which the sun is continually shining. It is a sort of conservatory, where tropical and semi-tropical growths abound, many of the specimens of floriculture being rare and expensive. These plants are changed quite frequently, the hotel conservatory nearby being well nigh inexhaustible. The flowers are all growing from fancy urns and vases, the variety, form and beauty of which is as noticeable as that of the blooms which they contain.
VISITORS TO FLORIDA EXPECT to be afforded an opportunity to pluck from the trees more or less of the luscious golden globes which have helped to extend abroad the State's reputation as a semi-tropical clime. They have heard of the great orange groves and eaten of the fruit, but naturally desire to see from themselves the trees which produce it in such abundance. In the grounds between the hotel and the river the guests of the Tampa Bay Hotel will find a grove of trees, amid the olive-colored foliage of which the oranges may be seen hanging in great clusters, their fragance filling the air all about. Beyond, above the tree tops, can be seen the silvered dome and minarets of the hotel, in beautiful contrast with the dark green leaves of the trees.
BOATING is one of the most fertile sources of amusement in connection with the hotel life, and a better place than the waters about Tampa for a thorough enjoyment of this pleasure would be hard to find. Hillsborough River, extending many miles to the northeast, and Hillsborough and Tampa Bays as far as the Gulf of Mexico, 30 miles away, are always smooth enough to make boating safe and pleasant. The boathouse on the river bank is a favorite resort, the floats commodious and stanch, and the electric and naphtha launches, sail and row boats are in charge of experienced and careful men.
AT THE EAST FRONT, LOOKING SOUTH, the scene is enchanting. The Royal Poinciana, with its wavy, plume-covered boughs is vividly pictured against the ornamental architecture. When it is in bloom, the bright red flowers intermingled with the emerald leaves, suggest to the fancy of bird of paradise. Artistic urns hold graceful ferns and palms—and beds and clusters and borders of rare colors and wonderful foliage are everywhere. At Little Lord Fauntleroy's feet is a bed of native flowers, and in the distance the cabbage palmettos rear their stately heads.
FROM THE EAST FRONT, LOOKING NORTH, a typical Florida view is beheld. At the right the outstretching leaves of a cocoa palm in a bed of green. On the left the paw-paw tree, whose fruit grows in bunches clustered around the trunk near the top. Scarlet flowers and rich green leaves of a native vine are thrown in brilliant relief against the soft shadows that fall between the graceful columns and lofty arches of the porch that stretches away hundreds of feet to the north. This grand piazza is perhaps the finest example of Byzantine art in architecture ever seen.
WIDE PIAZZAS shade the east front for almost its entire length. A broad, easy flight of steps of the white Nassau stone leads from the lawn. Three large doors, crested with symmetrical arches of brick and terra cotta, form the main entrance. The fretted horse-shoes under the eaves of the piazza roof, and the turned, moulded and chamfered pendants hanging down in their fantastic whiteness, remind one of the stalactites in the hidden recesses of a cavern. The arches resting upon slender shafts, carved at base and capital and often grouped in twos and threes at the indented angles and stairways.
AROUND THE HOTEL are grounds that have been plotted with much care and taste. The intertwining paths run in mazy rounds through a diversity of tropical and sub-tropical plants and shrubs. Herein are the ruins of an old Spanish fort, now nearly covered by cactus, which has overrun the ancient cannonn and peers over the embankment. The clusters of its ripe red pears hang in profusion to the ground, while cedars, palmettos and opoponax spread their boughs aloft. In the right foreground is a thicket of the native saw palmetto; to the left are pineapple plants.
BROAD, CLEANLY-SWEPT WALKS traverse the grounds. On either side are extensive lawns of closely-cropped Bermuda grass, softer than carpet to the feet; dotting its surface are the Spanish pink, varieties of roses, geraniums, Sweet Basil and other flowers. An occasional Century plant, with its bristling, needle-pointed leaves, stands erect in its pristine pride. In the left foreground is a diminutive loquest, bearing a delicious yellow plum in the spring. Adown the walk, in the distance, are the greenhouses, where are propagated and nurtured many of the tenderest plants.
WIDESPREADING BRANCHES of the grey-bearded patriarch of Florida's forest, the Live Oak, cast a circular shadow over the grounds and walks in its immediate vicinity. Under its protecting branches the fatigued may sit and, while resting, reflect upon the beauties of nature and the immensity of man's ambition. Mid the outstretching arms of the oak cling air plants and festoons of Spanish moss, each tenacious in its parasitical attachment to the gnarled bark. The approaches to the hotel are bordered with choice and rare ferns and flowers.
SEATED IN THE SHADE, beneath the roof of the great wide piazza that extends for nearly the entire length of the hotel building proper upon the east front, guests take a leisurely survey of the ornamental grounds, the smooth, blue waters of the Hillsborough river and bay beyond, dotted here and there with craft of all descriptions, and get occasional glimpses through the waving tree tops of the busy town on the east side of the river. This piazza is a favorite promenade and in the evening is brilliantly lighted with electric lamps.
ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE ROTUNDA between the entrance to the north corridor and one of the ladies' sitting rooms, is an ebony cabinet carved in designs of great beauty, with columns and embrasures. Several handsome vases are in the open spaces. To the left is a brass pedestal supporting a small half figure of a Mohammedan; to the right a small gilt table on which sits a porcelain swan, from whose back is growing a tropical plant.
LUXURY AND BEAUTY are combined in the two great divans that form a portion of the furnishings of the great rotunda. Each forms the pedestal for a beautiful bronze casting from a celebrated Parisian foundry. Given a choice, the critical visitor would probably select that which ornaments the divan opposite the east entrance to the hotel. It is an idealization of "The Spinning Girl of the South of France," and an extremely beautiful work of art. The pose is very lifelike, and the subjecct recognized at once by those who have wintered abroad.
ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR FEATURES provided by the Tampa Bay Hotel management for the entertainment of its guests is the excellent orchestra of carefully selected musicians, under competent leadership, giving daily concerts on the piazzas and within the hotel. The programmes are always made up of the choicest selections from the best composers and are beautifully rendered. A "Morning Concert on the West Piazza" always brings together the larger number of the guests of the house, who occupy the comfortable easy chairs or promenade about the wide veranda.
CIRCLING THE MUSIC ROOM is a broad veranda, upon which the guests may stroll or sit, the while listening to the music from within, through the wide arches of the immense circular windows running from floor to ceiling. This room is perfectly fitted for concert, lecture or tableaux purposes, and the floor is waxed for terpsichorean uses. It has a pretty little stage, equipped with footlights, and overhead a star and crescent gleam in electric lights. There are galleries for those who prefer to be spectators. During the season the music room is in frequent requisition for all sorts of entertainment.
OWING TO THE NEED of increased accommodation at Tampa Bay during the height of the season, there has been erected on the grounds west of the hotel a handsome and commodious structure, fitted and furnished entirely in keeping with the parent house and its surroundings. In the grounds between the new building and the hotel are varieties of brilliant hued flowers, in the center of a bed of which a fountain plays continuously. Beyond is a piece of bronze statuary representing two dogs pointing an imaginary covey of quail. The walks are paved with concrete, and kept as scrupulously neat and clean as those in a private garden.
GUESTS WHO ARE FOND OF GUNNING have ample opportunity for indulging in this favorite sport in the vicinity of the Tampa Bay Hotel, and almost every evening throughout the season the result of some visitor's steady hand and quick aim is displayed in the rotunda. Of the ten varieties of birds that may be killed, snipe, quail and plover are the most plentiful. The game record book of the hotel gives the number of birds killed by a guest in one day's shooting as 117. An excellent "Guide and Dogs" can be engaged at the hotel.
GUESTS DEPARTING make their exit through the same doorway that they entered. It matters not where the destination—north, east, west or further south, to journey mayhap to Key West or Havana or Mobile by one of the Plant Line steamers from Port Tampa the train is at the door. A lingering look will be taken at the century, bamboo and rubber plants, and the orange trees; they will inhale again the fragrance of the jessamine as it is wafted from the vines about the piazza; glance up at the crescent-topped minarets and towers glistening in the sun—and resolve to come another winter. Guests departing may arrange every detail for their continued journey within the hotel.
FAR OUT OVER THE BLUE WATERS of the Bay at Port Tampa, near the end of a long pier extending for more than a mile from the shore, is built the Inn, a cosy and delightful house, which the soft breezes from the Gulf makes habitable the year round. It is fitted throughout with all modern improvements and comfortably furnished. The boating and bathing facilities are excellent, and guests fond of fishing may indulge in that sport from the verandas. Plant Line steamers leave the end of the pier for Key West and Havanna, Mobile, St. Petersburg, Manatee River, and other points on the Gulf coast.
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