75th Anniversary Fort Harrison
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> 75th Anniversary Celebration
> The Fort Harrison
> 1926: The Dream Becomes A Reality
> 1927: “The Aristocrat of Florida Hotels”
> 1930s: Gracious Living in Difficult Times
> 1940s: Wartime and Beyond
> 1950s: Years of Growth and Prosperity
> 1960s: A Decade of Change
> 1970s
> 2002: Into the Future
> You Are Always Welcome


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The Crystal Ballroom - 1952.

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1950s YEARS OF GROWTH AND PROSPERITY


1950s YEARS OF GROWTH AND PROSPERITY  T
he late 1940s and into the 1950s marked a period of great expansion for the West Coast of Florida, including Clearwater. In response to the post-war development boom, U.S. Highway 19 leading into Clearwater from the north was widened, much of it into four lanes, and in 1954 the Sunshine Skyway was constructed, an engineering marvel of a bridge creating another link to the city from the outside world.

The Fort Harrison was now the seasonal home to the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team who quartered there during spring training. In those days — before athletes began commanding 7-digit salaries — players stayed two to a room, walked to practice every day from the hotel to the ball field and were expected to be back before evening curfew.

Enforcing a curfew on the sometimes rowdy ball players was not easy, but the Phillies’ hard-suffering coach hit upon a novel idea. Handing a half-dozen baseballs to the night elevator operator, the coach told him he could have the signature of any player who came in after 1 a.m. Thrilled, the elevator man went to work and when he finished his shift the next morning, he proudly showed the coach his haul — the signatures of all the ball players who had stayed out past curfew.

Springtime home for baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies
The Fort Harrison continued its tradition of gracious living and modern convenience during the 1950s, while providing a springtime home for baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies.

The numbers of tourists visiting Clearwater increased dramatically during the 1950s and many of them would return in later years to retire. Long-time Clearwater resident Al Vacca remembers his first visit to the Fort Harrison Hotel as a young graduate of Florida State University and newlywed. He brought his new bride to the Fort Harrison for their honeymoon in 1955.

“You could not have asked for anything better. The service was excellent — the food was excellent. The hotel provided [transportation] service to the beach and back, the hotel was centrally located... We had a room on the beach side and there were no big buildings around so the view was beautiful.”

But the decade brought more immediate changes to the Fort Harrison itself. In 1953, the Jack Tar Corporation purchased the property from the R.E. Olds Estate for $500,000. In succeeding years, the hotel underwent extensive renovations, alterations and modernizations. By 1955, air conditioning was available in all rooms and the mezzanine had been expanded over the street level frontage to create a sleek new two-story facade. A new 1,500-seat auditorium and 85 new guest rooms had been added to the rear wing of the existing building.

By the end of the decade, a thoroughly modernized Fort Harrison moved forward into the next decade with a facelift and even a new name.


 
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