Fort Harrison Hotel

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Fort Harrison Hotel
2008 06 Fort Harrison Hotel.jpg
Fort Harrison Hotel (June 2008)
Basic information
Location Clearwater, Florida
Affiliation Scientology
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization, Inc.
Leadership Religious Technology Center
Website Flag Service Organization
Architectural description
Architectural style Mediterranean Revival
Completed 1926

The Fort Harrison Hotel serves as the flagship building of the Flag Land Base, the Church of Scientology's spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. It is owned and operated by the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization, Inc., a subsidiary of the Church of Scientology International.

The hotel has 11 stories and features 220 rooms, three restaurants, a swimming pool and a ballroom. The building is connected by a skywalk to the Flag Building.


The hotel opened in 1926 as the New Fort Harrison Hotel, replacing the former Fort Harrison Hotel. It was built by developer Ed Haley and was used as a community center for many years.[1] The hotel was operated by Ransom E. Olds, inventor of the Oldsmobile, from 1926 until his death in 1950.[2]

The name comes from a Seminole War-era U.S. Army fort, built in the 1830s south of today's downtown Clearwater. The fort was named for William Henry Harrison and was the western counterpart of Fort Brooke in what became Tampa. (See Clearwater, Florida#History.)

In 1953 the hotel was bought by the Jack Tar Hotels and became known as the "New Fort Harrison Hotel, a Jack Tar Hotel".[2] The company added a cabana area to the building.

By the 1970s the hotel had begun to fall into disrepair. In 1975, the Church of Scientology purchased the building under the names "Southern Land Development and Leasing Corp"[2] and "United Churches of Florida Inc".[3] In 1976, the Church of Scientology's connection and the named purchasers was reported, by the Saint Petersburg Times, as was the Church's plan for a $2.8 million restoration and upgrade of the hotel.[4]

In 2007, the Church announced that the hotel would undergo another $20 million restoration project, but not when the project would begin.[5]

Use in Scientology[edit]

The Fort Harrison Hotel is used by the Church of Scientology as an area in which to feed, train and house visiting practitioners.[4] It provides both accommodations and "course & auditing" rooms, for Scientologists studying at high levels of Scientology. The Fort Harrison is joined by a walkway bridge over South Fort Harrison Avenue to the Flag Building on the other side of the street.

The hotel also is used for the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), a program used to punish members of the Church of Scientology Sea Organization for "serious deviations." Members of the church in this institution are subject to prison like conditions, forced labor, and many more acts against human rights.[6] Hanna Whitefield's affidavit described the situation:

“Some of us slept on thin mattresses on the bare cement floor. Some had crude bunk beds. There was no place for clothes, so we lived out of suitcases and bags which were kept on bare floors. Some privacy was maintained by hanging sheets up between bunk beds and between floor mattresses. The women and men had separate bathrooms and toilets but they were small. We were not allowed to shower longer than 30 seconds. We had only to run through the shower and out the other end. There was no spare time for talk or relaxation. We awoke at 6:30 A.M. or earlier at times, did hard labor and heavy construction work and cleaning until late afternoon. After [a] quick shower and change of clothing, we had to audit each other and 'rehabilitate' ourselves until 10:30 P.M. or later each evening. There were no days off, four weeks a month. We ate our meals in the garage or at times in the dining rooms AFTER normal meals had ended. Our food consisted of leftovers from staff. On occasions which seemed like Christmas, we were able to prepare ourselves fresh meals if leftovers were insufficient.”[7]

Notable incidents[edit]

In December 1926, daredevil Henry Roland scaled the building blindfolded.[8]

The Fort Harrison has been the site of at least three suspicious deaths since 1975, most notably the death of Lisa McPherson, who died on December 5, 1995, after spending 17 days in room 174[9] of the building.[10] The officially reported cause of death was a blood clot caused by dehydration and bedrest. This was later challenged in court.[11][12] In 1997, a church spokesman acknowledged that McPherson died at the Fort Harrison, rather than on the way to the hospital. The church later retracted its spokesman's statement.[13]

In February 1980, prior to McPherson’s death, a Scientologist named Josephus A. Havenith was found dead at the Fort Harrison. He was discovered in a bathtub filled with water hot enough to have burned his skin off. The officially reported cause of death was drowning, although the coroner noted that, when he was found, Havenith's head was not submerged.[14]

In August 1988 Scientologist Heribert Pfaff died of a seizure in the Fort Harrison Hotel. He had recently stopped taking his seizure medication in favor of a vitamin program.[14]

In 1997, Clearwater police received over 160 emergency calls from the Fort Harrison Hotel, but they were denied entry into the hotel by Scientology security.[14][15]


In 1965, the Rolling Stones wrote their hit song "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" at the hotel.[16]

The hotel was once the spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ DEBORAH O'NEIL (January 26, 2002). "Public to get rare view of hotel". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 18, 2010. The Fort Harrison Hotel was built by developer Ed Haley and for years served as a center for community events. Proms and cotillions, luncheons and fashion shows, club meetings and wedding receptions all were staged there. 
  2. ^ a b c AMELIA DAVIS (May 24, 1990). "Historic sites dot land along harbor". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 18, 2010. Fort Harrison Hotel. Built in 1925 by Ed Haley, the hotel was operated by R.E. Olds of Lansing, Mich., until 1953. Olds, the founder of Oldsmar and the inventor of the Oldsmobile, traded his nearly finished Oldsmar Race Track for the Fort Harrison. In 1953, the hotel was sold to the Jack Tar hotel chain. It was operated as a winter resort for most of its first three decades. The 11-story building was the city's first skyscraper. In 1975, the hotel was sold to the Church of Scientology under the name of the Southern Land Development and Leasing Corp. The building serves as Scientology's international spiritual headquarters. 
  3. ^ CURTIS KRUEGER (August 5, 1989). "Scientologists don't plan to buy buildings". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 18, 2010. The Scientologists' land holdings in Clearwater have increased steadily in the years since they bought the historic Fort Harrison Hotel in 1975. 
  4. ^ a b CURTIS KRUEGER (February 13, 1989). "Scientologists upgrading hotel // $ 2.8-million spent on headquarters". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 18, 2010. The Church of Scientology says it is pouring $ 2.8-million into a renovation of the Fort Harrison Hotel, where the organization houses, trains and feeds its students. 
  5. ^ Jacob H Fries (September 29, 2007). "SCIENTOLOGY HAS BIG PLANS FOR LANDMARK". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 18, 2010. The Church of Scientology is in announcement mode again, this time saying it will spend $20-million on a major upgrade of its iconic Fort Harrison Hotel. But what church officials aren't saying is exactly when the work will start. 
  6. ^ "Scientology — Is This a Religion?" Scientology—Is This a Religion? N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2015. <>.
  7. ^ Whitfield, Hana. 1989. "Affidavit." (August 8): 11pp, downloaded from <alt.religion.scientology>.
  8. ^ "'Human fly' to scale Fort Harrison Hotel". St. Petersburgh Times. Dec 3, 1926. Retrieved April 18, 2010. 
  9. ^ Tobin, Thomas C. (December 6, 1998). "McPherson Relatives Lead Protest". St. Petersburg Times (Florida). 
  10. ^ Ellison, Michael (November 23, 1998). "Death in the sunshine state; Three years ago, a minor car crash left Lisa McPherson dead. Now Scientology is in the dock.". The Guardian. 
  11. ^ Wilson, Mike (August 16, 1997). "Scientology deserves all the bad PR". St. Petersburg Times. 
  12. ^ Tobin, Thomas C. (June 7, 1998). "'Unique' case of Scientologist's death is still under investigation". St. Petersburg Times. 
  13. ^ Tobin, Thomas C. (May 9, 1997). "When did she die?". St. Petersburg Times. 
  14. ^ a b c Lucy Morgan (December 7, 1997). "For some Scientologists, pilgrimage has been fatal". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 18, 2010. Josephus A. Havenith, 45, who died in February 1980 at the Fort Harrison Hotel in a bathtub filled with water so hot it burned his skin off. Heribert Pfaff, 31, who died of an apparent seizure in the Fort Harrison Hotel in August 1988 after he quit taking medication that controlled his seizures and was placed instead on a program of vitamins and minerals. Clearwater police are suspicious about the number of 911 calls that come from rooms at the Fort Harrison Hotel. Police respond to each call only to be told most of the time by Scientology security guards that the call was a mistake. Police are not allowed to check individual rooms where the calls originated. In the past 11 months, 161 calls to 911 were made from rooms in the hotel, but each time Scientology security guards said there was no emergency. 
  15. ^ "Scientologists' deaths raise questions among families, officals". Ocala Star-Banner. Associated Press. December 8, 1997. Retrieved November 19, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Know Your Stones". The Irish Times. September 6, 2003. Retrieved April 18, 2010. Keith Richards woke up in the Fort Harrison Hotel, Clearwater, Florida, having dreamt the riff, chorus and title of (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. 
  17. ^ Ned Seaton (March 29, 1996). "Among Phillies fans, sisters hit cleanup". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 18, 2010. They worked hard on their tans and they went to all the games, but there wasn't much else going on, they said. The town closed down about 9 p.m. In those early days, they stayed in the Fort Harrison Hotel, where the team stayed. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 27°57′49″N 82°48′01″W / 27.9635°N 82.8004°W / 27.9635; -82.8004