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Plant's Lieutenants


Henry Bradley Plant, native of Connecticut and owner of the Southern Express Company, successfully developed a rail network from the Georgia line to Charlotte Harbor. One of his lines was the first to reach the small, backwater village of Tampa where he built the lavish Tampa Bay Hotel in 1891. He also bought or constructed hotels in Port Tampa, Beleair, Punta Gorda, Ocala, Kissimmee, and Winter Park. He established a steamship line to Havana, Cuba, with stops at various ports along the West coast of Florida and at Key West, and his riverboats operated on the St. Johns, the Apalachicola, and the Chattahoochee. Plant did all this between 1879 when he purchased his first railroad and 1899 when he died. In addition, his companies owned large tracts of land received from the state, and his express company shipped Florida products to northern markets. Few men have been more intimately connected with the economic development of Florida, and none was more important to the area west of the St. Johns River and south to Punta Gorda on the lower Gulf coast during the latter part of the nineteenth century than Henry Plant.