Royal Revival: Tampa's Floridan Palace Hotel Is Back in Business
By Dalia Colon
The famous hotel, after closing in 1989 and spending the next two decades in disrepair, underwent a major, multi-million-dollar renovation and then reopened.
The year was 1927.
Calvin Coolidge was in the White House. The Jazz Singer was in theaters. And in downtown Tampa, doors opened at the Floridan Hotel.
The building was a sight to behold, with its spare-no-expense architecture, opulent lobby and grand ballroom. At 19 stories, it would remain Tampa's tallest building until 1960. In the Floridan's heyday, the list of celebrity visitors shone brighter than the chandelier in the Crystal Dining Room – Babe Ruth. Jimmy Stewart. Elvis Presley.
"This was the top hotel in town back then," said musician Tony Kovach, who performed at the Floridan in the '50s and '60s.
It's a top hotel once again.
After closing in 1989 and spending the next two decades in disrepair, the hotel underwent renovation and reopened in July as the Floridan Palace Hotel. Developer Antonios Markopoulos bought the dilapidated building for $6 million and spent another $11 million restoring it to its original glory.
From the original cedar ceilings down to the marble floors, the Floridan is ready for its second act. And with modern touches like Wi-Fi and remote-control thermostats, the hotel is poised to compete with more popular brands. (Just don't confuse it with that other classy hotel 70 miles east, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.)
The Floridan's room rates start at $189, but its appeal goes beyond an overnight stay.
"The building was built to draw you in," said Rodney Kite-Powell Saunders, Saunders Foundation curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center. Kite-Powell said several types of people in particular will be drawn in by the Floridan.
The architecture lover. The building's attention to detail makes for a fascinating study. "It's big things, like the use of granite and marble everywhere, but it's also little things. If you sit in the lobby and you look up, you see that the ceiling is painted...
"Almost every wooden surface is carved in some way," Kite-Powell said. "There's no simple straight line in the whole place, really, where today it's just so expensive to do that. The general craftsmanship (of modern buildings) isn't there as it was back in the time when the Floridan was built."
While you're in the area, Kite-Powell recommends exploring some of downtown's other architectural gems, including the old federal courthouse, Tampa Theatre and Sacred Heart Church.
The history buff. "It feels like it's from another time because it is from another time," Kite-Powell said. "Those old buildings really give a flavor of what the city used to be like."
Check out the black and white photos in the Sapphire Room to get a feel for how the lounge looked in its glory days.
The out-of-towner. In this age of cookie-cutter chains, boutique hotels are a rare breed. "They don't build them like they used to," Kite-Powell said.
This is an opportunity to stay someplace with character you'll remember the next morning and for years to come.
The local. The Floridan's Crystal Dining Room is downtown Tampa's new It spot for business lunches and special-occasion dinners. For a casual night out, head to the Sapphire Room to enjoy a cocktail and some live music. Kovach, the musician who performed at the original Floridan, now plays piano there on weekends.
If You Go
What: Floridan Palace Hotel
Where: 905 Florida Ave, Tampa