The Floridan Palace is one of the only hotels in Tampa listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Construction was completed in 1926, and in 1996 the City of Tampa designated it as a landmark site. At nineteen floors, it was Florida’s first skyscraper and until 1966, was the state’s tallest building. The tallest building today in the notoriously flat state of Florida is the 85-story Panorama Tower in Miami.
Although it has lost its ranking as skyscraper, The Floridan Palace, or the Floridan Hotel as it was previously called, still deserves a shout-out for its wild ride through history. In the 1920’s after WWI, Florida experienced a population boom. The state had promised not to seize income or inheritance tax, gaining it a reputation as a tropical paradise. The city of Tampa’s population doubled, and it bustled with land speculators and orange grove barons. Those people, of course, needed a pace to stay.
During WWII, the Sapphire Room, located inside the hotel, drew crowds of servicemen in training at nearby Drew Field. It had a reputation for wild nights, and was nicknamed “The Surefire Room,” for the probability of meeting an interesting new friend for the evening over cocktails. According to The Floridan Palace website, Gus Arencibia was the bartender over those years and he recalled that during the war, “you couldn’t get a room.” Trends are fickle though, and by the 1960’s, tastes had changed. Travelers began to favor more modern establishments.
The 1970s and 80s brought an economic decline to Tampa, and it went through its period of urban blight. The hotel attempted to market toward a different audience and transitioned into a rooming house for migrant workers. By 1989, it was more of a homeless shelter, and was finally closed after Tampa’s Fire Marshall cited safety concerns. The estimated cost to repair the structure was $18 million, and in 2005 it was scheduled for demolition.
Luckily, an international developer saw potential and invested the money for the repairs. In 2012, The Floridan Palace was reopened, restored to its original craftsmanship and splendor. Amenities include a historical tour with lunch in the Crystal Dining Room, and Concierge Service. Reviews since it has opened claim the hotel is haunted, although nothing has been documented. Do I see an opportunity for any emerging paranormal investigators to be first on this untapped scene?