“The pieces are typical of the service items made by International Silver for hotels, restaurants and resorts all over the United States during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Made of a silver, nickel and copper alloy, the pieces show a bit of wear from the heavy duty dishwashing machines and chemicals used at the time” said Church spokesperson Pat Harney, “but they are still in great condition, after all these years.”
Constructed between 1925 and 1926 under the direction of Clearwater resident Ed Haley, the Fort Harrison was dubbed “the Aristocrat of Florida Hotels.”In addition to 253 hotel rooms – all with private bathrooms, the hotel boasted a florist, their own in-house orchestra, The opening of the building was feted with a New Year’s Celebration.
The Clearwater Sun commented at the time that “One of the most brilliant social events in the history of Clearwater was celebrated at the Fort Harrison Hotel last night on the occasion of the formal opening of the roof garden. More than 500 guests dined and danced in the new institution that is one of the most attractively and richly decorated dining rooms on the West Coast of Florida…”
“Coffee, tea and cream pots would have been used at functions like this and in the hotel’s restaurants during the heyday of the facility,” said Harney. “We are very happy to receive this piece of Fort Harrison history.”
The pieces were sent to the Church by a resident of Panama Beach, FL, who had collected them, and will be placed on display in the Tea Lounge at the Fort Harrison.
After its grand opening in the 20’s, the Fort Harrison has had a long and varied history, hosting the likes of the Philadelphia Phillies during Spring training in the 50’s and 60’s, Helen Keller – in town for a series of lectures at Clearwater High, famed swimmer and movie star Ester Williams and the Rolling Stones in 1965. The hotel was also the place for proms, fundraisers and other special occasions.
To this day, the Fort Harrison continues to serve as a social hub for the community. Since re-opening following an extensive renovation in 2009, thousands from across the Tampa Bay region have gathered there for open house brunches and community events, such as the Sunscreen Film Festival’s annual "Night on Broadway" concert, Harlem Nights Jazz events and other benefits for the arts.
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