A saxophonist from Duke Ellingtons orchestra performs in an intimate concert at the Fort Harrison.
y the 1970s, the pace of life in downtown Clearwater had begun to slow. New housing developments and many shopping malls were springing up, drawing people away from the center of Clearwater. Thus fewer people came to the Fort Harrison Hotel and its business fell off.
But its musical heart still beat strongly and in the early 1970s, the music came back to the Fort Harrison in a big way. The hotel became the venue for a series of concerts that would later become world-famous as the Clearwater Jazz Holiday. As Tom Tobin of the St. Petersburg Times wrote in September of 2000:
For three years in the early 1970s, a relative handful of local residents were treated to a series of intimate evening concerts by performers such as Woody Herman and his Thundering Herd, Harry James, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, the Four Freshmen and Buddy Rich.
They played in the ballroom at the Fort Harrison Hotel.
Those jazz sessions eventually gave rise to the Jazz Holiday phenomenon that would draw musicians and music lovers from around the world.
The Fort Harrison was entering its sixth decade of service to Clearwater, but sadly, it was not surviving economically as a commercial hotel and its owners decided to sell it off.
In 1975, the Church of Scientology purchased the hotel building to serve as the center of its new international religious retreat. Thus the Fort Harrison embarked upon its next career, one that would take it into the new millennium.
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