David Miscavige: At the Helm of Scientology's Explosive Growth
March 14, 2009: More than 6,000 Scientologists from over 50 nations filled the streets and sidewalks at the 200 block of Fort Harrison Avenue to witness Chairman of the Board Religious Technology Center, Mr. David Miscavige, officiate at the ribbon cutting of the Clearwater landmark—the new Fort Harrison.
“Her bones were good, her breeding impeccable and her choice of residence couldn’t have been more fitting: Clearwater, Florida,” began Mr. Miscavige as he addressed the crowd. “When she originally opened in 1926, they called her ‘the aristocrat of southern Florida hotels’ and described her as a ‘picturesque edifice’ known all up and down the coast, as the toast of this city and an ever-bustling hub of wedding receptions, fashion shows, bridge teas and Rotary Club functions.
“She additionally saw no inconsiderable parade of luminaries. In the ’60s and ’70s the Phillies used to stay here during spring training and Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Buddy Rich all performed in our ballroom.”
The Crystal Ballroom (upper left) that in earlier decades hosted the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie now stands fully restored to its original gold-leaf splendor. The Flag Auditorium (lower left) is the site for international Scientology events and seminars, as well as benefits hosted by nonprofit community groups. The Fort Harrison Grand Lobby (right), long the crossroads for the Clearwater community, is now fully restored with an elegance that far exceeds her opening day in 1926.
Mr. Miscavige’s concluding remarks expressed both the spirit and significance of the occasion:
“The bottom line is the same bottom line for the last 80-plus years: this Fort Harrison is and will always remain a landmark and home for all of Clearwater.”
And with that, he cut the 2,000-foot-long red ribbon and so ushered in a new beginning for the “Grand Dame of the West Gulf Coast.”
A Monumental Restoration Project
The grand opening of the new Fort Harrison was the culmination of an 11-month, million-man-hour restoration overseen every step of the way by Mr. Miscavige. All 267,000 square feet of the 83-year-old structure were stripped down to bare beams and rebuilt from the inside out.
The 21st century infrastructure eased into her 1920s framework, with every one of the 200 guest rooms rebuilt from floor to ceiling—not to mention energy-efficient, low-emission electrical and mechanical systems throughout.
More than 350 local tradespeople worked on the project, ultimately laying 100,000 square feet of carpet, installing 300,000 feet of plumbing and stringing a full 100 miles of electrical wire.
Restoration of the building’s hallmark features began in the elegant Grand Lobby, from the original wrought-iron and brass balustrades to the signature checkerboard marble floor and gold-leafed Corinthian columns. And high atop the Fort Harrison, the legendary Crystal Ballroom also underwent complete restoration—taking it, too, well beyond its original beauty.
The Fort Harrison has served as a hub for this community since the 1920s and continues to serve so today. In addition to the Scientologists who avail themselves of the accommodations, restaurants and amenities while staying in Clearwater for religious services, the community at large enjoys the Fort Harrison as well. Since grand opening, hundreds from across Tampa Bay have gathered for Open House brunches and community events, such as the Sunscreen Film Festival Broadway and Beyond Concert, benefiting local artists. Couple that with the dozen or more who simply walk in every day for a tour—and it is clear the Fort Harrison is, as it has always been, a home for Clearwater.
Labels: Clearwater, David Miscavige, Scientology