A little bit of Tampa in (almost) every brick

Tampa Bay Hotel
Tampa Bay History Center Collection

The Tampa Bay Hotel, now the University of Tampa’s Plant Hall, is one of Tampa’s most notable and important landmarks. However, did you know that many – though likely not all – of the bricks used in the hotel’s construction back in the late 1880s were manufactured in Tampa? The Hillsborough River Brick Company operated for only a short time, from 1887 to 1889, but during that time, the company produced nearly one million bricks that were used in the construction of the original Tampa Water Works building, an early city jail, and the famed Tampa Bay Hotel.

Information about the Hillsborough River Brick Company is sparse.  It may have been owned by William Morrison, one of the earliest settlers of what became the Hyde Park neighborhood. His hardware store, located on the northeast corner of Franklin and Madison Streets in downtown Tampa, was built of Tampa-made brick from his small brick factory on the Hillsborough River near today’s MLK, Jr. Boulevard. Morrison’s building is still standing, though with a heavy coat of stucco covering the local brick. Plant Hall’s bricks, however, are available for everyone to see.