Thanks for Writing!

Nowadays someone has something to say about everything – publicly. Back in the time of the Tampa Bay Hotel, reviews were in the form of letters and postcards home. These little snippets expose a glimpse in time and we’re fortunate to have a collection of this correspondence in our archives. All are hand written in beautiful script with pen and ink. Many reference what’s going on at home or they talk about the grounds and the magnificent building. Of course almost all mention the weather. It’s interesting that there’s very little about the quality of the experience or even the staffing – perhaps it wasn’t really polite to mention that sort of a thing.

HBPM archives
January 26, 1908

You may have seen the museum’s Facebook postings of our staff discussing some of these beautiful postcards.  

Watching them got me wondering what a 21st century review of the Tampa Bay Hotel might sound like. So, with a little plagiarizing from actual Yelp reviews – here goes…

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My stay at the Tampa Bay Hotel was life changing. This is by far the nicest hotel I have ever stay at in my life. I had high expectations and it delivered. The customer service never stopped to impress me. From day one, chocolates were laid on my pillow at night and my room and bathroom were spotless and always smelled very nice. Room service was delicious and served right on time. Go early to the pool to get a good spot, it gets crowded. Towels are always ready and a cool drink to enjoy by the river. The amazing gardens are a sight to behold. They have a first rate golf course and you can sign up for lessons with a tennis pro. The Dining Hall boasts excellent world-renowned chefs and be sure to try the pastries, they are to die for. This hotel has so many amenities it’s hard to take advantage of them all in one trip. I look forward to visiting again in the near future. I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone looking for a first class experience.

HBPM archives
January 26, 1908

Or like this postcard, your review could always just say; ” Nothing to it down here only climate which is fine now”.

Stay well and put a chocolate on the pillow tonight, you deserve a vacation.



Take a closer look…

We get a lot of repeat questions from visitors to the museum. Basic things like where do I start, where is the restroom, are there ghosts, do you have a favorite object? Some of these questions are easy to answer, some not so much.  

I’d like to think there are ghosts, but of course they’d be friendly spirits, maybe the ghosts of Henry and Margaret Plant, nodding and approving everything we do. As for my favorite objects, I have so many, though sometimes it’s just the way the light falls. There is a bucolic painting in the Reading and Writing room and at certain times of year the light reflects so perfectly that a simple hay wagon takes my breath away. I have dragged people in to see it only to have a “Gee, that’s nice” reaction. Of course the ghosts of Henry and Margaret Plant are blown away.

Today I was alone in the museum working in the garden room, dusting the ceramic stools and I had to laugh out loud.  

Garden Seat
Late 19th Century
Chinese, Qina Dynasty
Height: 22in.
Garden Seat

I had been thinking about the Covid-19 quarantine, and all of the disinfecting that we are doing now. Wash, rinse, and repeat, over and over. I look up and right in front of my nose is a Mudman handing me a bar of soap! Chinese Mudmen are brightly glazed figurines of wise men or sages frequently holding objects of mystical importance or sometimes they’re just fishing.

Henry, Margaret and I got a good giggle out of that, mystical importance indeed!

Maybe I’m losing it during this quarantine, but the little figure is a reminder to me, past to present, we’re going to be okay and hopefully we’ll all be fishing soon!

Stay safe, wash your hands and remember to brighten the corner where you are.



Dominos Anyone?

The Henry Plant Museum has sometimes been accused of displaying too much. At a fast glance that might be true. Do we really need to have 124 chairs, 9 sofas, 40 garden seats and oh, all those vases and jardinières and mirrors and paintings and etchings and tapestries (I could go on) out for display? Everything is wall-to-wall, top to bottom…

My answer to that question has always been – YES, absolutely, have you gone mad?

This week we had a pair of busts return from conservation. Stunning silver heads of the Tudor line – Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. The simple reintroduction of these beauties to our exhibit causes a cascade of changes, a domino effect. You would not believe the adjustments that needed to be made. Luckily, we are a museum ready to handle these changes. We are ready to curate.

You might have to look closely, to see the shifts and changes here; really it works best for us when you don’t notice. You’ll see the Queens right away – they’re pretty flashy. But you might not notice the ripple effect it took to get them where they belong. You might not notice a couple of statues missing, sneaking out the back door to get their own conservation. You might not notice Little Red Riding Hood is now holding her basket or the new shine on the candelabra. Just writing these sentences seems bizarre but then that’s the kind of museum we are – a complete and total surprise where you’ll just never know what you’re going to see. So, remember we are at work, riding the ripples and looking forward to seeing you all real soon. The Queens demand it!

Late 19th century
Signed: Mathurin Moreau
Height: 18 in.
Bronze with silver overlay

Stay healthy and wear those masks.



Celery to the Rescue

Victorians were onto something with celery. It’s featured on the menus from the Tampa Bay Hotel. Personally I love celery, but I haven’t put much thought into it until now. It’s funny what takes up space in my brain lately. It’s an extraordinary time, so why don’t we go ahead and talk about celery.

I read recently that celery was going to take off and start trending like Avocado Toast. While that may seem like an ambitious goal for this humble vegetable, you should know it was a star in Victorian times. If you research menus it seems like most restaurants served it as something really exceptional. They knew it was special. Along with the health benefits of fiber, magnesium and all that, they even considered it a nerve calmer. I know I need celery in my life right now.

In 1910, Victor Hirtzler, a chef from a grand hotel in San Francisco created the recipe “Celery Victor”. It was a sensation. I looked it up, it sounds delicious and you should try it.

I’m all for jumping on trends, I wore crocs, learned to rollerblade and I’m still waiting for everyone to see the brilliance of my cocoon sunglasses. Why not celery?

Why not indeed…

Celery Victor

Stay healthy, eat more of – well – you know what!

Thanks, Nora

Missing the Putti

For those of you who might not know what a putti is, it is plural for putto.

A putto is a figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, usually naked, sometimes with wings. Think of a cherub. My favorite putti are on the clock in the museum lobby. They are a couple of sassy boys with their plump bellies and rosebud lips. I imagine them as impish rascals and I miss them terribly during this quarantine.

When I was little my family lived in Rome for a time. I have a very distinct memory of cold smooth bronze on my lips. Apparently I snuck over to a statue of Romulus and Remus (not putti) to see what those rascal boys were up to. I’m sure all the adults got a kick out of that, but I bet I’m not the only kid to ever try and see what the heck they were doing to that wolf.

Meanwhile, back in the Plant Museum, my crazy putti look like they are wrestling a rooster, a rooster!

Gilded Bronze Clock,
Maker:  Charpentier et Cie, Bronziers, Rue Charlot 8, Paris.
Circa 1880, French
Height:  28 in.
Bronze with a gilded ormolu finish featuring two putti and pheasant

What time is it? It’s rooster wrasslin’ time!

Stay safe and brighten the corner where you are.

Thanks, Nora

Down the Rabbit Hole

Today was interesting working remotely.

I was reminded of the Dr. Seuss book “Oh the Places You’ll Go!”. Internet research is like a massive word association game.

I don’t think President William McKinley ever visited Tampa during the Spanish American War. Was he aware of the Tampa Bay Hotel? Most certainly.

What I did learn is there is a presidential pet museum. Presidents love their pets. We have heard of Laddie Boy, Socks, Dash and Bo. What about Old Bill, Ebenezer, and Emily Spinach? Then there was Jim, Prudence Prim and get this- Misty Malarkey Ying Yang! Here’s the really great tid bit for today: President McKinley had pets named Valeriano Weyler and Enrique Delome.  At the time, the governor of Cuba and the Spanish Ambassador in Washington, they were a pair of Angora kittens.

Photo for representational purposes only.

Keep that mind open and hands clean.

Thanks, Nora

Keeper of the Castle

It has been a wild and rocky ride these last few weeks. Our Museum has closed along with countless other institutions. When we open again is anyone’s guess. As we all try to stay engaged and up beat, it calls for new mindsets and innovative thinking.

As the collection caretaker of the Henry Plant Museum my job has been hands on, feet on the ground, busy busy. Now that I am following the CDC, Mayor, Governor, Presidential and spousal guidelines, I am working from home… Just how does that work for me?

Well, I’m working on that.

A simple face mask crafted from coffee filters, duct tape and a paper clip.

I hope to keep a light hearted outlook, clean hands and an open mind. Stay safe, until next time.

Thanks, Nora