Once the state's tallest building, the Floridan Hotel was the hot spot to be in the '30s and '40s.
By ROB BRANNON
Published November 28, 2003
It's easy for the Floridan Hotel to get lost in the sea of downtown skyscrapers.
But, several decades ago, the hotel with a seemingly odd name was Tampa's first high rise. Located at the corner of Florida Avenue and Cass Street, it was the center of downtown's once-bustling night life and an opulent destination for rich tourists from the north.
The Floridan opened to the public Jan. 15, 1927. Developed by A.J. Simms, it stood 18 stories, making it the state's tallest building at the time. The hotel had more than 300 rooms in nearly 200,000 square feet. Later, it boasted air conditioning and a parking garage.
Owners included prominent residents T.N. Henderson, Abe Maas and Clarence Holtsinger. Later, Barron Collier owned it. During World War II, the Floridan played host to soldiers training at Drew, MacDill and Henderson fields in Tampa. A favorite of the troops was the Sapphire Room, dubbed the "Sure Fire Room" because its patrons were sure to have a good time.
The Floridan declined in 1950s and '60s, as downtown's business district felt the competition of new suburban shopping centers. Like many businesses and structures in the Franklin Street area, the hotel fell into disrepair.
The Floridan, a federally registered historic building, remains boarded up. Its roof is a haven for vultures, creating a Gothic appearance.
So why the name Floridan, which seems to be missing the letter I? There were several buildings and businesses in early 20th-century Tampa and throughout Florida that went by that name. It seems that Floridan is a term used to describe all things Floridian. It's the name of a famous aquifer.
A development company in Boca Raton bought the building in 1997 for $2.7-million, according to county property records. Developers planned to redevelop it as part of downtown revitalization efforts, but so far nothing has materialized.