The Fort Harrison Hotel at night
CLEARWATER - The Fort Harrison Hotel first opened its doors December 31, 1926, with a New Year's celebration. On Saturday, January 20, its 80 year anniversary was celebrated with a black tie gala, dinner and concert hosted by the Church of Scientology (COS).
To mark the anniversary, the COS invited more than 500 people, including government officials, civic and business leaders and several well known Scientology members. Actors John Travolta and Kelly Preston were in attendance as was Jason Lee and Ethan Suplee from the hit TV show "My Name is Earl", to name a few.
COS International representative, Tom Davis, highlighted aspects of the COS outreach programs: Say No to Drugs, Say Yes to Life; Human Rights; and Volunteer Ministers with an hour long multi-media presentation. Other speakers included Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White and State Representative Ed Hooper who all praised the Church for its contributions to the Tampa Bay area.
Guests were served a candlelight dinner and treated to a concert performed by rock and roll legend Edgar Winter, Grammy Award winning film composer Mark Isham and R & B performer Stacy Francis.
Pat Harney, the public affairs director for the COS said in a press release that the next anniversary event held at the hotel will be the 82nd because over the next 18 months, the structure will undergo extensive renovations and refurbishments, to make the already grand hotel "her grandest yet."
The COS purchased the structure in 1975 and restored it to its original beauty. According to the release, "In recognition of the Fort Harrison's historical significance and the care and maintenance provided by the Church of Scientology, Commissioner Ronnie Duncan and County Administrator Steven Spratt presented a proclamation on behalf of the entire Pinellas County Commission for the hotel's 80th Anniversary."
The hotel serves as the spiritual headquarters for COS and provides accommodations plus study and auditing rooms for members taking high level courses in Scientology.
For nearly 50 years prior to the COS purchasing the hotel, it was the hub of Clearwater's social whirl and many residents celebrated the milestones of life there at high school proms, weddings, anniversaries, retirement parties and charitable benefits. Anyone who wishes to visit the hotel may do so until February 11.
The COS is holding a daily open house from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for the general community with tours of the hotel and Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard exhibits. For more information call (727) 467 - 6860.
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