Strolling in a Perfect Paradise

| September 3, 2013

July 16 – December 31, 2010

Strolling in ParadiseThe gardens of the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel were touted as the most exotic in the country. This exhibit showcases the splendor of the gardens within the context of landscape design in the 19th century. It features historic images from brochures, newspapers, negative slides, and photographs, along with original decorative pieces and, in the current garden, historic garden markers.

Henry Plant hired German gardener and and horticulturist Anton Fiehe to assemble and catalogue over 150 species of tropical plants and flowers to landscape the hotels elaborate gardens. Porcelain garden seats from Japan, China, England and Germany adorned the walks. Glass conservatories supplied an abundance of flowers throughout the hotel regardless of weather. In the exhibit, whimsical garden seats of a monkey and a frog will charm Museum visitors.

On January 24, 1892, William Drysdale of the New York Times wrote “ Visitors from the city side of the river could approach the hotel by a paved street leading up to the main gateway. From here, broad walks led to the center of the buildings and spread out across the grounds past flowerbeds, fountains, palms, “banana plantations,” and beds of pineapples toward the river. Near the top of a rise, a bubbling spring ran to the river in a stream lined with palms, banana plants, flowers, and ferns. Immense beds of violets, pansies, roses in Victorian designs, and collections of fruit trees and tropical flowers occupied the spaces between the walks.” Two projectors will display oversized images of the hotel grounds and the hotel guests enjoying the gardens. This will give the Museum visitor the sense of truly experiencing the lush grounds.

Most famous of the treasures in the garden is the majestic live oak tree, under which, tradition says, De Soto camped when first he landed on this coast. It still stands noble today. After viewing Strolling in a Perfect Paradise, pick-up A Self Guide Tour of the Gardens and Grounds of the Tampa Bay Hotel. This guide will lead you to many sites which where present in 1891. Executive Director, Cynthia Gandee says, “Tampa residents are fortunate to have this magnificent Park nestled between the Museum and the Hillsborough River. Much of it is unchanged since the 1890’s. Henry Plant would be so pleased.”

A postcard walking tour of the gardens, as they were known and experienced from 1891-1930, will be mounted in Plant Park for the duration of the exhibit. Friends of Plant Park will provide these signs and master gardeners to give monthly tours starting in September. Date and time of these tours to be determined.

In October, in conjunction with Strolling in a Perfect Paradise, photographers can enter their best photograph of Plant Park (the former garden spot for the Tampa Bay Hotel) in the Page Photography Contest. The top prize is $250 with another $250 contribution to the Henry B. Plant Museum in the winner's name. The winner's photograph will be on display during the Victorian Christmas Stroll. The top ten finalists will have their photographs displayed on the Museum's website and Facebook page. Contest rules will be posted by July 1, 2010.

Strolling in a Perfect Paradise is underwritten by Dr. and Mrs. Alfred N. Page.

Category: Past Exhibits

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