Reminisce The Old-World Charm at the Hotel Flor Tampa
During the early 1920's after World War I, Florida's population expanded rapidly, culminating in a vigorous land boom. Between 1920 and 1930 Tampa's population doubled and was ranked third in the State. This was the "Roaring 20's". Several forces converged to boost the state's popularity. The automobile had been invented, and road building was in full swing. People were increasingly mobile and sought new experiences and business opportunities. The State of Florida consolidated local road-building efforts to create a large and organized network of paved roads. The United States was experiencing a period of material prosperity that provided time and money for travel and financial speculation.
Additionally, people were attracted to Florida's "tropical paradise" by assurances that the State would not levy inheritance or income tax.
Shortly after the turn of the century, in 1906, the eventual developer of the Floridan Hotel, Allen J. Simms of New Brunswick, Canada, moved to Florida and worked as a stenographer for the Tampa Bay Land Company. He then sold lots in Palma Ceia Park, Keystone Park and Suburb Beautiful. In 1908, he began his own venture, Simms Realty Company, but joined the Royal Canadian Dragoons in 1917 during World War I. In 1919, Simms returned to Tampa where he launched his development career by creating the sophisticated neighborhoods of New Suburb Beautiful and Parkland Estates, and constructing apartment and office buildings, among other projects.
In summer of 1925, Tampa was bustling with land speculators and would-be orange juice barons.
It occurred to Simms that a hotel catering to business travelers would thrive, so he and a group of local investors established the Tampa Commercial Hotel Company, Inc., for which Simms worked as General Manager and Secretary.
The Company bought the site where the Floridan sits today. They hired Francis Joseph Kennard, a Tampa architect, to design the hotel. Contractor, G.A. Miller Construction Co., constructed it
Hotel Flor Historical Highlights
- 1926Construction begins
- 1996Floridan added to the National Register of Historic Places
- 1927Hotel opens at a cost of $1.9 million
- 1966Hotel closes to travelers and opens to renters
- 1966Franklin Exchange building takes Floridan's place as Tampa's tallest building
- 2012The Hotel Flor Tampa re-opened to the public
- 2023May 2023 The DAN, a "modern take on old-school speakeasies" opens.
- 2023November 2023 - Florida Palace becomes Hotel Flor, a Tapestry Collection Hotel by Hilton Hotels and Resorts after $25 million renovation.
The heyday of the Floridan extended from its opening in the late 1920's into the 1960's. After the 1960's, the hotel declined as Tampa's downtown core experienced the flight of residents to the suburbs beginning in the late 1960's and 1970's.
During the 1940's, the hotel enjoyed particular prominence as a gathering spot for local business leaders and the military. Maj. Gen. Clarence L. Tinker, the highest ranking officer of Native-American ancestry and the first general lost in action during WWII, was having a drink at the Floridan's Sapphire Room bar when he received word of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Another Tampa hotel built within the same era, the Tampa Terrace, which no longer exists, was located nearby and was considered a better quality hotel, but the Floridan's "Sapphire Room" was favored for entertainment. It was called the "sure-fire room" because GI's would always have a good time there. At 98 years old, Gus Arencibia, the Floridan's former bartender, was still full of Floridan memories. He recalled that, during the war, "you couldn't get a room."
Both Gus and Mary Jim remembered numerous movie stars and public figures who stayed at the hotel over the years, such as James Stewart, Charlton Heston, Gary Cooper, Constance Bennett, Esther Williams, Sherman Hayes, and Elvis Presley. Theories also link the hotel to a supposed retaliatory Mafia plot by Tampa Mafia boss, Santo Trafficante, Jr., to assassinate President John F. Kennedy while his motorcade took a left turn in front of a corner guest room only 4 days before the President was killed in Dallas, Texas. The plot was allegedly planned to dissuade Robert Kennedy, then attorney general, from furthering certain Mafia prosecutions. Clarence Darrow, the attorney famous for defending John T. Scopes in the 1925 Tennessee "Scopes Monkey Trial" for teaching evolutionary theory also stayed at the hotel. He was in Tampa to participate in a biblical debate with local religious leaders.
The hotel acted as home base for the Cincinnati Reds baseball players during Spring Training and hosted numerous corporate events for the Lance Crackers, the Jaycees, the Optimist Club and others, as well as school graduations, receptions, proms, and other activities that still connect the hotel to Tampa's local community through fond memories of Tampa's residents. For that reason, many have passed by the hotel over the many years since its closure and hoped that it would be saved. It is not only a national landmark; it is a local treasure.
In 2005, the hotel was under demolition order due to its poor condition. City estimates topped $18 million for the hotel's renovation, and nobody seemed interested in investing the money. That April, an internationally successful hotelier, restaurateur, and developer, saw the Floridan as a diamond in the rough. The owner bought it and began the restoration process. Teams of craftsmen spent thousands of man-hours to re-create the grand sense of place the Floridan formerly offered its guests. Most of the architectural detail was restored or hand-crafted on-site. The owner worked at the hotel all day every day, passionately supervising every aspect of the work. He believed that, after its restoration, the hotel deserved a new and more fitting identity, so he named it the "Hotel Flor Tampa." On July 30, 2012, the Hotel Flor Tampa opened to the public, just in time to host guests attending Tampa's first Republican National Convention in August 2012.
The Emergence of Hotel Flor
The historic Tampa hotel known for its iconic The Floridan sign became "Hotel Flor" in November 2023 and is one of the newest additions to the Tapestry Collection by Hilton Hotels & Resorts - a portfolio of over 110 original hotels that offer guests unique style and vibrant personality, encouraging them to connect to their destination and enjoy authentic, off-the-beaten-path experiences.
The 210-room property, with over 14,000 square feet of meeting space had a comprehensive $25 million renovation, including all guest rooms and the well-known Crystal Dining Room, an 1,800 square-foot event space that once served patrons since 1926. It took many months of hard work and collaboration with city officials to bring Hotel Flor to life. The staff, management, and ownership acknowledge that it was incredibly rewarding to have the unwavering support of the community and local leadership to make this project possible.