TAMPA, Fla. — It’s a chance to step back in time and see how people celebrated Christmas in 1900 at the Tampa Bay Hotel — and it's thanks to people like Susanna Fenhagen.
Fenhagen has been giving her time to the Henry B. Plant Museum for about a dozen years.
“I think this is a Tampa treasure,” said Fenhagen, explaining that the city purchased the hotel in the 1930s, “and now it’s our responsibility to protect it.”
She is one of a dedicated crew of volunteers who help bring 1900s Tampa to life at the Victorian Christmas Stroll (and also all the other days of the year too).
It’s the 40th anniversary of the event, and Fenhagen takes us to the former hotel’s Writing and Reading Room.
There are Christmas trees on either side of the room — one is filled with postcards from the Tampa Bay Hotel, and the other — German glass ornaments.
There are wreaths on all of the tall windows.
And simple presents of baskets of apples gift-wrapped in paper on the table.
“It brings back childhood memories of using newspapers to wrap with,” said Fenhagen.
Paper gets new life at the museum, thanks to Susan Williams.
Her Victorian-era dress made of newspaper is one of the newest artifacts in the museum—in the “Ladies and Their Pastimes” room.
“The actual construction was about three and a half months,” said Williams, who makes all her clothes.
Williams used all Tampa Bay Times papers but still had to read all the fine print.
“Dick’s Sporting Goods advertises. Publix had a sale on Shitake mushrooms. And if you only get part of those words, it becomes not a family-oriented dress,” Williams explained.
What’s it mean for Williams to be recognized for her artistic contribution.
“When they said it- it’s like, ‘Oh no — a museum is where real artists are,’ and I never thought of myself that way,” she said.
It’s the enthusiasm of contributors and volunteers alike that keeps all this going.
“We love the treasure that’s here in Tampa,” said Fenhagan
You can enjoy the Christmas Stroll every day, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. through December 23rd.