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Collectors' purchases play part in restoration

The Chiselers Market offers unique items whose purchase helps preserve the University of Tampa's Plant Hall.

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 15, 2002

A 1970s Billy Beer can, the legacy of President Jimmy Carter's infamous brother. A vintage Buccaneers seat cushion, replete with Bucco Bruce. A ceramic teapot shaped like a house cat, a paw for a spout.

All are for sale at Saturday morning's Chiselers Market at University of Tampa, where $10 buys armloads of abandoned antiques.

Two round-trip plane tickets to New York City. Bus transportation and tickets for the Florida Gators' season-opener. A one-week vacation in an Irish resort house.

Also all for sale, albeit at tonight's preview party, where $50 gets you in to bid on pricier premiums in a live auction.

Give it to the Chiselers, a 280-member congregation of Tampa volunteer women: Their annual event, now in its 39th year, provides something for everyone.

And everyone who buys something -- a knickknack or a dream vacation -- provides funds to restore a National Historic Landmark: Plant Hall, the 511-room, minaret-adorned centerpiece of this downtown Tampa university. It was born as the Tampa Bay Hotel in 1891 and became the private school's home in 1933.

The Chiselers have performed ongoing restoration at Plant Hall since the group formed in 1959. They got their name when Elsie "Sunny" Delo, wife of then-president David Delo, who solicited friends to help chisel paint off old fireplace tiles.

Since then, the group has raised more than $1.7-million to fund the restoration of the hall's several grand rooms. One is the Grand Salon, where Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and his wife, Linda, held their reception after being married outside Plant Hall in 1995.

The Grecos will be among tonight's auctioneers.

Party attendees need not bid on the 14 big-ticket items to justify the $50 admission; they also get first dibs on much of the market's Saturday stock. However, early purchasers pay double price.

Chiselers president Susie Sanders said her group begins stocking up for the annual fundraiser a year in advance. Chiselers members sort items in the group's warehouse every Thursday and the entire week leading up to the event.

"They just love this building and want to preserve it," Sanders said. "This is the only preservation society dedicated to only one building."


  • Friday and Saturday at University of Tampa's Plant Hall, 401 W Kennedy Blvd.
  • PREVIEW PARTY: 7-9 p.m. today in the lobby. Admission, $50, includes a buffet, live auction and a chance to view and purchase some flea market items -- at twice their price -- before Saturday.
  • SALE: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Thousands of items are for sale, plus there's a silent auction.
  • BENEFITS: Restoration of Plant Hall, a National Historic Landmark.

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