We didn’t have a lot of time for pre-Christmas outings, but we did go to the Victorian Christmas Stroll at the Henry B. Plant Museum. If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey and that time period, you’ll love this. The Henry B. Plant Museum is located in part of the Old Tampa Bay Hotel, and the Victorian Christmas Stroll is an annual event.
* “The 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel, now a National Historic Landmark, is home to The University of Tampa and the Henry B. Plant Museum. During the 1880s, Henry Bradley Plant was building an empire of railroads, steamships and hotels. He wanted that empire to have a palace and that palace was the Tampa Bay Hotel – now referred to as Florida’s “first Magic Kingdom.”
Today, the Henry B. Plant Museum, located in the south wing of the original Tampa Bay Hotel, features original opulent furnishings and artifacts from the hotel collected by Mr. and Mrs. Plant on several buying trips to Europe and the Orient. The museum transports you through educational exhibits and events to the late Victorian period, the beginning of Florida’s tourist industry, and the early years of the City of Tampa.”
*** “The hotel once featured many attractions, most located in what is now known as Plant Park. Today, as part of both the University of Tampa’s campus and the museum’s grounds, several can still be seen. At the entrance to the park is the “Henry Bradley Plant Memorial Fountain,” commissioned by Margaret Plant in 1899 after her husband’s death. The fountain title is Transportation, and reflects Mr. Plant’s system of trains and ships with carved representations of each on the sculpture. The fountain was carved from solid stone by George Grey Barnard, and is the oldest public art in the city of Tampa. It was completely conserved in 1995.”
** “Built between 1888 and 1891, the hotel was designed to surpass all other grand winter resorts. At a cost of $3 million, the 511-room giant rose to a flamboyant height of five stories, surrounded by ornate Victorian gingerbread and topped by Moorish minarets, domes and cupolas.
The rooms that once hosted Teddy Roosevelt, the Queen of England, Stephen Crane and Babe Ruth (who signed his first baseball contract in the hotel’s grand dining room) are now classrooms, laboratories and administrative offices…”
*** “The construction cost over 3 million dollars. It was considered the premier hotel of the eight that Mr. Plant built to anchor his rail line. The hotel itself covers 6 acres (24,000 m2) and is a quarter-mile long. It was equipped with the first elevator ever installed in Florida. The elevator is still working today, making it one of the oldest continually operational elevators in the nation. The 511 rooms and suites were the first in Florida to have electric lights and telephones. Most rooms also included private bathrooms, complete with a full-size tub. The price for a room ranged from $5.00 to $15.00 a night at a time when the average hotel in Tampa charged $1.25 to $2.00. The poured-concrete, steel-reinforced structure of the building was advertised as fireproof.”
*** “During its operating period from 1891 to 1930, the hotel housed thousands of guests, including hundreds of celebrities. When the Spanish–American War broke out, Plant convinced the United States military to use his hotel as a base of operations. Generals and high-ranking officers stayed in its rooms to plan invasion strategies, while enlisted men encamped on the hotel’s acreage. Colonel Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders also were at the hotel during this time. Roosevelt retained a suite, and during the day led his men in battle exercises on the property. Other visitors of note during the hotel’s heyday were Sarah Bernhardt, Clara Barton, Stephen Crane, the Prince of Wales, Winston Churchill, Ignacy Paderewski. Babe Ruth was also a guest of the hotel during its latter days, and signed his first baseball contract in the Grand Dining Room. In 1919, Ruth hit his longest home run (and possibly the longest ever hit in official competition) during a spring training game at Plant Field, adjacent to the hotel.”
I can totally imagine the fictional Crawley family coming for a visit. I’m certain Cora’s family, the Levinsons, would have been guests. OK… I’m still not over the fact that Downton Abbey is over, but I just saw news that a “reunion” movie is imminent! Yay!
Moorish architecture was chosen to lure guests in, as anything “Oriental” was very popular at the time.
You aren’t allowed to take any flash photos inside, so I did the best I could. There were so many wonderful things to see, that I couldn’t possibly include every room and every exhibit.
This cute little guy was the “mascot.” He was hidden in each of the exhibits (sometimes more than once), and you were supposed to count how many times you found him. What a great way to keep the kids (and husbands) engaged and happy, when they might otherwise have been bored. Let’s face it… This kind of thing isn’t up everyone’s alley. But it is mine!!! I LOVED everything about it.
**** “The blossoms and fruit on this tree, are just a few of the numerous plants guests could find in the Hotel’s gardens.”
I have to confess… I had fun looking for Mr. Mouse too.
How clever is that? A Christmas Tree from Cigar Boxes!
**** “Hotel guests relaxing on the veranda often enjoyed the rich aroma of Cuban coffee mingled with tobacco as it drifted through the air from Ybor City. A gentleman’s Tampa experience would have been incomplete if it did not include a hand-made Cuban cigar freshly rolled in Ybor City. Here in the Writing and Reading Room or in the Rathskeller, located directly below this room, men enjoyed the bold flavor of some of the finest cigars in the world. Just as rolling a fine cigar was an art form, so were the lithographic designs on the cigar boxes and bands.”
What a fun painting!
I’m in love with this Christmas Tree. I’m gonna start collecting everything I need to make my own. If I don’t get a bigger house soon, I’ll do a small one in Brendan’s room. Love, love, love! Some people are so creative.
Really… Isn’t it cool?
From what I see they used cigar boxes, cigar box labels, cigars, match boxes, tobacco leaves, bow ties, old cigar molds, top hats and regular Christmas Tree decorations.
Another clever decoration, a partridge in a pear tree. How hard would that be to make? Not very…
That ballet-shoe tree is gorgeous! How sweet would that be in a little girls room? Not hard to do either… You just need to find the shoes and embellish them a little.
**** “Anna Pavlova, the world-famous Russian prima ballerina, performed at the Tampa Bay Casino in 1915. The following day, The Tampa Morning Tribune declared, “Pavlova came, danced and conquered…” It went on to state that the audience “admired and capitulated-surrendered… to the genius of her rhythmic movement, the witchery of her lissome grace,” during her spellbinding two-hour performance. Ms. Pavlova received her greatest acclaim for her enthralling performance in The Dying Swan by composer Camille Saint Saens.”
Incidentally, she was the first ballerina to tour the world.
**** “Female guests at the Hotel could choose from a variety of leisure activities. Many joined their husbands on hunting and fishing trips, and were seasoned outdoors women – adept at riding and shooting. Quieter choices included an afternoon concert in the Music Room, tea in the garden, or a relaxing stroll along the Palm Walk by the Hillsborough River. This floor covering is the original Tampa Bay Hotel carpet and was used in the Grand Salon and Gold Room. You can just catch a glimpse of a shared bathroom… Next door.”
Santa’s Bathroom! How awesome.
I guess Santa prefers a rubber alligator, to a rubber ducky when he’s in Florida.
More eye candy!!! That bottle tree is beautiful. It would look great in a dining room.
**** “Much of Hotel social life revolved around the dining room and its outstanding cuisine. Guests dined formally each evening on such delicacies as Blue Point oysters, caviar and roasted partridge. Dinner could last several hours and was often accompanied by an orchestra playing from the balcony. Children and their nannies, as well as personal servants, were served in the Breakfast Room, also called the River Room. ”
**** “These furnishings are from the second, third and fourth floor guest rooms. Each room had a fireplace and access to a bathroom with hot and cold running water.”
What a great coastal/Florida themed tree. I love the finger sponge and starfish topper! I’d like to think it’s an homage to nearby Tarpon Springs, which was the Sponge Capital of the World in the early 1900’s.
This tree is decorated entirely with Wedgwood ornaments.
Let’s see… How many decorating ideas did I get? Tons!!!
My favorite part of the Stroll was seeing all of the antique books and toys.
These Putz Santas are amazing. I want all of them! The one on the far right reminds me of Dumbledore. I’d love to have the cloche, too.
I just noticed that the lights on that tree are white and purple. Whaat??? Wow!
I wish I could wake up on Christmas morning and find these treasures under my tree.
Two teenage girls passed by and one said to the other, “Ick… Look at those toys, they’re creepy.” The other replied, “Yeah, very!”
I really am old. Sigh…
I could see where some people would find the doll creepy.
Creepy or not, I’ll take the lot.
**** “One of the most celebrated events during a baby’s first year is the first Christmas. Mother and aunt are enjoying baby’s delight watching the twinkling lights. Gifts surround the tree for the new infant and big sister. For centuries, a baby was given the gift of a coin to represent good luck and prosperity. During the Victorian Era, the tradition evolved into the giving of sterling silver objects that were of monetary value. Traditional first year gifts included silver cups, rattles, spoons, combs, hair brushes, rings or bracelets. These items, as well as booties, blankets and special outfits became treasure keepsakes.”
My heart went pitter patter when I saw the dollhouse.
What can I say? I went home and searched the internet for dollhouses. If I only had a bigger house…
**** “Beginning in the 1860’s, goose feather trees were modeled after evergreens from the forests of Germany. The delicate feathers were dyed, split and splayed, then wrapped around wire to imitate tree limbs. The spaced branches allowed each ornament to be viewed and appreciated. Each member of the family was represented in the trimmings, often with handmade keepsakes. These trees were the height of fashion during the Gilded Age. The family staying in this suite has used some favorite cards, glass candle holders, handmade ornaments from Germany and glass balls to decorate their tree.”
**** “Did you know the cuddly creature nestled in these trees owes its name to President Theodore Roosevelt? While on a hunting trip in 1902, President Roosevelt, an avid sportsman and hunter, refused to shoot a bear that had been tied to a tree. He believed that would be unsportsmanlike. Cartoonist Clifford Berryman picked up the story and sketched (this) cartoon…”
**** “After seeing the cartoon, a toy maker made a stuffed bear for the President and called it “Teddy’s Bear.” His bears became so popular he began to mass produce them, and the name became permanently attached to the stuffed animal. Today we still call the toy a Teddy Bear. Before he was President, Theodore Roosevelt was a Rough Rider in the U.S. Army. He stayed at The Tampa Bay Hotel prior to departing for Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Rough Riders could be identified by their blue polka-dotted kerchiefs.”
What a great afternoon. I’ll be back next year.
Aww… Those puppies remind me of Isis. Sigh…
I’ll be waiting for the Downton Abbey movie. A spinoff would be even better!
*Taken from The University of Tampa, Henry B. Plant Museum, https://www.ut.edu/plantmuseum/
**Taken from The University of Tampa, History, https://www.ut.edu/history/
***Taken from Wikipedia, Henry B. Plant Museum, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_B._Plant_Museum
****Taken directly from the information cards on display at the Museum