Monday, August 24, 2009

Steamship, Train and Treasure Chest: The statue honoring Henry B. Plant

Margaret Plant, wife of Henry Bradley Plant, commissioned this statue and fountain to honor the memory of her husband who died June 23, 1899. Titled Transportation, its design perfectly reflects Henry Plant’s life spent building a transportation network of ships and railroads. She chose the sculptor George Grey Barnard (1863-1938). Barnard studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and then went to Paris where he was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts. It was while he was a student in Chicago that he became enthralled with the works of Michelangelo. His finished sculptures reflect his lifetime fascination and passion for the works of the Italian renaissance master. His best know works are the two sculptural groups he completed as a result of the Pennsylvania Capital Commission competition of 1901-2. The new state capital building in Harrisburg, designed by architect Joseph Huston, was completed in 1914. Barnard was selected to produce sculptures for the capital’s main entrance and they were installed in 1911. Although he created numerous other sculptures, he considered these his masterpieces.

The statue Transportation, also called the Henry Bradley Plant Memorial Fountain, faces the West Veranda and entrance to Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel, today the University of Tampa and Henry B. Plant Museum. It sits above a circular fountain and features a ship and a train, symbols of the transportation network that drove and shaped Florida’s growth and development during the last part of the 19th century. The bow of a ship is at the center with a giant eagle perched over it holding a strong box or a treasure chest in his talons. On either side are sea creatures, a male and a female. The male holds a locomotive on his shoulder, representing the Plant system of railways, and the female holds a steam ship representing the Plant Steamship Company. Fish are on the sides below spouting water into the fountain. Mrs. Plant had the sculpture installed in front of the hotel. The fountain itself is thought to have been designed and constructed by hotel staff at her direction. The statue is reportedly the oldest piece of public art in Tampa. Located within a traffic circle between Plant Park and the building’s entrance, it provides a focal point and popular backdrop for photographs by tourists and students of the university and their friends and family.


  1. What an amazing work of art Frank, thank you for showing it to us and for explaining it's detail and history

  2. That's quite a commentary, Frank. Very enjoyable. I've known about Plant, but you filled in a lot of blanks.

    And this is a magnificent sculpture...didn't know we had such things in Florida. Or maybe they are found only in Tampa!

  3. It's the commentary that brings the statue to life, it must be one of many that people walk past, not knowing the history behind it.