Monday, January 13, 2014

The King of Florida

That was what Success magazine called Henry B. Plant in 1898. Mr. Plant was born in Connecticut in 1819. He moved to Augusta, Ga in 1854 and worked in a management position at Adams Express, a railroad company. After the Civil War he began buying and linking up bankrupt rail lines throughout the South. In last weeks blog I discussed Henry Flagler's railroad on Florida's east coast. Mr. Plant went about bringing a railroad to  Florida's west coast. 

He formed the Plant Investment Co. in 1882 and began acquiring  existing lines and laying new track. In 1884 the first steam engine arrived in Tampa. He built over 1100 miles of tracks. He built the line out to the water where he dug out the channel, built a dock and the Port of Tampa was the result. His steamship company began regular runs from Tampa to Havana. The railroad and steamship enterprises became the Plant System. Interestingly one of the investors in Plant's company was...Henry Flagler

Thanks to the Plant System Florida's tourist industry began to boom. Like Flagler on the east coast, he also built hotels along his railway. The most spectacular was the Tampa Bay Hotel which opened in 1891 at a cost of nearly three million dollars.

The hotel remained open until 1930 when the Depression forced it's demise. In 1933 the University of Tampa moved into the facility and remains there today

In the late 1800's Mr. Plant went about promoting Florida at World's Fairs and other expositions and published and distributed promotional material all over the world. 

By 1898 no other person had done more for the advancement of Florida, and Tampa than Henry Bradley Plant. That is why Success Magazine named him the "King of Florida"

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