Floridan Palace Hotel: Tampa's elegant past lives on in reborn Floridan Hotel

2:35 PM, Jul 27, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- This weekend's grand opening of the Floridan Palace Hotel marks a grand transformation for Tampa's grand old hotel.

Photo Gallery: Facelift for Hotel Floridan

They said it was so crummy, even the homeless wouldn't live here.

They said it was so hopeless, vultures -- symbols of the dead -- nested in its upper floors.

They said this hotel could never come back.

Well, stop listening to "them" -- and start looking -- at the extraordinary Floridan Palace Hotel in Downtown Tampa.

Seven years of renovations have recaptured all the magic of this hotel's late nights and special moments from Tampa's past.

The place is even more opulent than the original Floridan was," said Tony Kovach, who played piano at the Floridan Hotel in the 1950's and 60's.

"It was the place in town, and it was usually packed six [or] seven nights a week," he said.

But this musician's favorite playground faded into silence. The Floridan closed in 1987. After that, each decade took a toll on the building.

In 2005, Angelo Markopoulos's father, Tony, bought it and poured his time, money, and soul into its resurrection.

"His dream was to bring it back to that '20's, '30's style look," the younger Markopoulos said, pointing out the incredible challenge his father took on while many people were telling him the project wouldn't succeed. 

"Just like everything's been restored to look the way it did. Even the replication of the chandeliers -- that kind of theme, that era. We still walk in here, and we're always in awe."

The hotel was called the Floridan Hotel -- not the Floridian Hotel -- because the word "Floridan" was more straightforward for the original owners to trademark and protect, Tony Markopoulos said.

The name "HOTEL FLORIDAN" lights up in red neon on a restored sign on the hotel's roof -- an iconic sight easily seen by drivers passing downtown Tampa on Interstate 275.

The details of what's now been given the fitting name Floridan Palace Hotel are stunning. Remarkable furniture fills the 213 rooms. Hand-painted ceilings sweep over the lobby.

Each touch is designed to take you back to that swingin' heyday -- to a Tampa of the past, that's now not lost forever.

Elvis Presley and Babe Ruth strolled through the hotel's lobby. Starting Monday, July 30, you can, too. That's when the Floridan Palace Hotel, along with its restaurant and lounge, will open to the public.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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