|Tampa reporter Grayson Kamm features the University of Tampa in a regular video series titled "Why Do They Call It That?" for WTSP-Channel 10 News.
Early in the morning on Aug. 2, 1933, a battered pick-up truck arrived at Hillsborough High School. This was the day when Tampa Junior College was transformed into The University of Tampa and when its headquarters moved from the local high school to what is now known as Plant Hall. Riding on the truck was its president, 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 and his Rough Riders, Sarah Bernhart, Babe Ruth (who signed his first baseball contract in the hotel’s grand dining room), Clara Barton, Stephen Crane, Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, the Prince of Wales, the Queen of England and many other celebrities of their day, are today's classrooms, laboratories, public rooms, academic and administrative offices–the heart of the University that now fans out around Plant Hall.