A woman in a red dress. A man in a brown suit. These mysterious figures have been spotted in the walls of Plant Hall, an imposing building on the campus of The University of Tampa.
The hall dates back to Victorian times and has a rich history. During its years of operating as a hotel, it collected many tales and stories. In fact, many of its guests and employees may still remain in the beautiful halls.
The hotel was an influential part of the early days of Tampa. It was a premier destination at the time. It’s transformation into an educational institution made way for further growth opportunities. The building that houses Plant Hall is as important to the city of Tampa as the history itself.
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Henry B. Plant
Henry B. Plant was a successful businessman of the 1800s. Born in Connecticut, he moved to the South to develop and run the railway system. Throughout his time in the Florida area, he would come to play a significant part in the modernization of Tampa.
When Plant set forth on his infrastructure plan for the city, Tampa was basically isolated from the rest of the South. He developed a waterway travel system between Key West and Cuba by steamship. Adding a railway system to the area, he connected Tampa to other southern cities. He also built a resort to draw travelers to the area and boost the economy.
Plant traveled about the United States, Canada, and Europe before returning to the South after the Civil War unrest had died down. He purchased many damaged and war-torn properties at bargain prices. He reconstructed the destroyed railways and restored buildings into hotels to further his investment in travel throughout the state.
Over the years, Plant amassed quite a collection of accommodations. His eight hotels, scattered throughout the area, just added to his impressive wealth. His properties, as stated in his will, had a value of about ten million dollars.
Plant was even given the honor of Henry Plant Day in 1895 for his contributions in the city of Atlanta. He worked right up until his death in 1899 at the age of 79. His only surviving son, Morton Freeman Plant, would carry on his legacy and made quite a few philanthropic gestures during his lifetime.
The Famous Tampa Bay Hotel’s History
One of Plant’s favorites of his properties was The Tampa Bay Hotel. The property was the most luxurious of his eight hotels. Its size and amenities made it both impressive and attractive to sophisticated travelers.
The 511 room resort was opened in 1891 on a 150-acre campus of sprawling and lush landscape. The construction took nearly three years and cost over three million dollars, an enormous sum at the time. The hotel grounds were comprised of twenty-one buildings and several amenities.
The architecture was specifically designed to thoughtfully appeal to European travelers. The Moorish Revival style featured unique and innovative details. The towering building was made visually interesting by its many arches, towers, and cupolas.
The hotel was the first in Florida to feature an elevator, electric lighting, and in-room telephones. The elevator is actually still operational to this day. The accommodations also boasted private bathrooms and fireproof walls. This gave Plant the justification to charge nearly ten times as much per night as other hotels in the area.
Filled with luxurious decor, the hotel attracted wealthy celebrities and politicians like Babe Ruth and Teddy Roosevelt. These guests were drawn to the hotel’s indoor pool and on-site casino. The ground’s golf course and racetrack provided hours of entertainment.
The Great Depression brought an end to the vibrant life of The Tampa Bay Hotel in 1930. The hotel suffered greatly from the decrease in travel spending and was forced to cease operations. Because of the struggling economy, the hotel was abandoned for three years.
Becoming Plant Hall
Finally, in August of 1933, the Tampa Bay Junior College took over the vast, empty space. Previously housed in a local high school, the small college now had much more room to grow. The school quickly transformed into The University of Tampa.
Plant Hall became the main building of campus operations. The building was carefully evaluated and efforts went underway to restore and preserve the structure. It was modernized to make it more efficient while the original architecture was kept intact. The southeast wing of the building became The Henry B. Plant Museum.
A Haunted Hall
With its long history, it’s no surprise that Plant Hall has had a significant amount of spiritual sightings. Many students and university employees have encountered unexplainable events in the old building. These happenings have led to The University of Tampa as being known as one of the most haunted campuses in the entire country.
Students have reported feeling the presence of others in empty rooms in Plant Hall. They can’t deny the eerie sensation that comes over them when they are in the space. Unexplainable physical energy has been experienced by many in the old building.
Doors have been creaked open and closed with no one touching them. Footprints have been heard from empty floors above. Eerie, cold sensations have also been felt in the indoor space. A man in a brown suit with glowing red eyes has even been spotted standing on the stairs.
Many believe that members of the old Tampa Bay Hotel staff still haunt the place. Suspicious sounds and sightings have occurred in the building’s science wing. Could these servants be unwilling to leave their previous workplace?
One of the most famous ghosts that haunts Plant Hall is that of Bessie, an actress from the heyday of the hotel’s operation. While staying at the hotel, Bessie caught her beloved husband cheating on her with one of her castmates. Heartbroken, Bessie killed herself that night in her hotel room.
Bessie’s ghost still lingers in the rooms at Plant Hall. She’s been seen wearing the same scarlet frock that she took her life in that fateful night. Her spirit, unable to handle the betrayal of her husband, still wanders the halls unsettled.
There’s no doubt that Plant Hall has enough history to cause these unexplainable events. Many students are reluctant to even enter the space at night. The eerie building’s old age and intense past create the perfect storm for supernatural activity.
Visiting the Henry B. Plant Museum
A visit to the Henry B. Plant museum can give you a unique chance to experience the history of The Tampa Bay Hotel. Housed in Plant Hall, the museum features many items original to the property. With historical tours and exhibits, there’s something to appeal to everyone.
Though the museum is open to the public, it’s hours may vary. It offers both guided and self-guided tours. The museum’s docents can provide you with information as you walk the historic halls.
Check out the original, unique pieces that Plant purchased in Europe to decorate his luxurious hotel. Immerse yourself in the history of the building as you stand in the very space that helped transform Tampa. Go back to the time when the hotel was bustling with Victorian travelers from all over the world.
The museum is an awesome chance to learn more about the historic building. Check out the lush Henry B. Plant Park, full of sculptures and beautiful foliage. Keep your eyes peeled toward Plant Hall. You don’t want to miss your own glimpse of supernatural activity.
A Haunted Campus
Many students at The University of Tampa have gotten more than they’ve bargained for. A visit to Plant Hall can result in an unexpected eerie encounter. The most famous building on campus holds many stories and mysteries within its towering walls.
Visiting this beautiful building is a must-do in the Tampa area. Its rich history is impressive and intriguing. Plus, it’s forever guests might make an appearance for an experience you’ll never forget.