On Aug. 2, 1933, Tampa Junior College was transformed into The University of Tampa when its headquarters moved from the local high school to what is now known as Plant Hall. Leading the new institution was Frederic H. Spaulding, the former principal of Hillsborough High School and the man who had been the motivating force behind establishing the first local university for Tampa’s high school graduates.
Plant Hall, the main academic and administrative building for the University, already had an extraordinary history. Formerly the Tampa Bay Hotel, the building represented, and still remains, a symbol of the city and its history. Local historians credit its builder, railroad and shipping magnate Henry B. Plant, with the transformation of Tampa from a sleepy fishing village to what would become a vibrant city of the 21st century.
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 heart of The University of Tampa and a landscape for state-of-the-art student learning environments. Today, The University of Tampa serves more than 8,037 undergraduate and graduate students, and Plant Hall remains the foundation of a 105-acre, 58-building campus that successfully blends the historic with the modern.
Known for academic excellence, personal attention and real-world experience in its undergraduate and graduate programs, University of Tampa students come from 50 states and 140 countries. There are more than 200 programs of study, including 11 master's degree programs and numerous study abroad opportunities. From its humble beginnings in Plant Hall, UT boasts a $235 million annual budget and a $850 million estimated annual economic impact.