Preserving Tampa’s History – Tampa Theater

Stepping into the Tampa Theater, one of Tampa’s largest historic preservation projects, is an experience like no other.

A Superior Example of ‘Atmospheric’ Design

The ornate Mediterranean-style structure has maintained its historic feel and original charm. Statues and columns flank the stage. Taxidermy doves and peacocks perch on fairytale terraces. Tiny twinkling bulbs fill the ceiling, giving the impression that you’re sitting under a clear blue sky.

The Tampa Theater was built in 1926 as one of America’s most elaborate movie theaters. Designed by John Eberson, the theater is the architect’s favorite example of his “atmospheric” style.

“I have been wintering in Florida for the past several years, and it is from this state that I got the atmospheric idea. I was impressed with the colorful scenes that greeted me at Miami, Palm Beach and Tampa. Visions of Italian gardens, Spanish patios, Persian shrines and French formal gardens flashed through my mind, and at once I directed my energies to carrying out these ideas.”  – John Eberson, Tampa Tribune, October 15, 1926.

A true master of his craft,  Eberson was a European stage designer and architect. With a unique background in electrical engineering and theatrical design, the architect coined the ‘atmospheric’ concept blending the new media of film with theaters’ stage drama roots.

Over the course of his career, he designed over 500 atmospheric movie palaces. Eberson’s designs were an ode to European architecture, with large coved ceilings that give the illusion of sitting outside in a courtyard with facades on either side.

Saved By a Dollar

A great example of the power of community, the Tampa Theater was saved from demolition in the 1970’s.

As suburbs proliferated in the 1960’s and people flocked to their TV screens, movie theaters struggled to stay afloat. Many of the finest movie palaces in the USA were demolished as the land beneath them became more valuable than the theater’s operations.

In 1973, the community rallied around the Tampa Theater. Mounting pressure convinced the City to buy the theater for a whopping dollar. And this became the national model on how to save an endangered theater.

Thanks to passionate advocates defending spaces that preserve history, culture and important architectural wonders, we can still stroll down Franklin Street and appreciate the intricately detailed design of the third best historic movie theater in the nation.

A lot of care goes into restoring historic buildings that inspire future generations. Allow our skilled craftsmen to help you be part of Tampa’s story.