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UT’s Plant Hall Painted Back to Its Original Color

Published: June 10, 2008
After several decades and 18 layers of paint, The University of Tampa Plant Hall’s original exterior color scheme has been uncovered by researchers.

And for the next few months, the original colors of the old Tampa Bay Hotel’s verandah ceiling, window sashes, columns, rafters, crown molding, balustrade, deck and crescent moons will be brushed on by professional painters.

Those colors are representative of Plant Hall’s color scheme from 1892-1920, according to Cynthia Gandee, executive director of the Henry B. Plant Museum.

“The decade of the 1890s was dominated by the Beaux Arts revival of classical architecture, which favored more restrained exterior coloring,” Gandee said.

The trim colors will include a greenish gray, light grayish olive and dark bluish gray. The carved crescent moons will be highlighted with metallic aluminum paint.

“It’s a tedious job, but we’re excited to return to the color scheme of the glory days of the hotel,” Gandee said. The restoration project will take approximately eight months.

The paint chronology investigation was completed by Robert A. Furhoff from Restoration of Interiors of Chicago and Abell Garcia Architects. The team investigated photographs and analyzed paint chips to determine the original color scheme and the chronology of paint jobs.

Ultimately, the researchers identified four major phases to the building’s paint scheme, which followed trends in fashion in architectural color. Gandee said the Tampa Bay Hotel design plans in 1891 called for dark red and medium gray colors consistent with the Moorish style of architecture. But, because construction of the building came at the very end of the era of polychromatic architecture, the designed color scheme was repainted almost immediately.

Furhoff said that the original interior and exterior colors were intended to draw more focus on the architecture outside and the décor inside.

“The coloring was intentionally quiet for use as a background,” Furhoff said.

Currently, the Plant Hall trim is cream.

The painting is being completed by Specialized Services Group of Tampa, which has painted Plant Hall before and did paint restoration work for the museum and Fletcher Lounge.

The cost of the project is approximately $465,000, and is being paid for by the Plant Hall Preservation Trust Fund, which is funded in equal parts by UT and the city of Tampa.

For more information, contact Gandee at (813) 258-7300.