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Florida’s First Magic Kingdom

By Linda Tancs

Before The Mouse, there was the house—that is, the Tampa Bay Hotel, a lavishly grand hotel built by railroad magnate Henry B. Plant as a respite for wealthy Northerners. Affectionately referred to as Florida’s first “Magic Kingdom,” the 1891 Victorian-era getaway with soaring minarets (inspired by trips to the Middle East) is a National Historic Landmark now occupied by the University of Tampa. A section of the building is reserved as the Henry B. Plant Museum, featuring original opulent furnishings and artifacts from the hotel collected by Mr. and Mrs. Plant during their world travels as well as educational exhibits related to the late Victorian period, the beginning of Florida’s tourist industry and the early years of Tampa as a small village before Plant left his imprint.

 

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