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Chiselers' gently used treasures fund restoration of treasured University of Tampa landmark

Chiseler’s member Gail Dee Russ moves silver on display in one of Plant Hall’s hallways during preparation for Saturday’s market.
Chiseler’s member Gail Dee Russ moves silver on display in one of Plant Hall’s hallways during preparation for Saturday’s market.
Published Mar. 8, 2017

TAMPA - All year long, the Chiselers, Tampa's preeminent historic preservationists, dig, sift and sort through thousands of "oldies but goodies" to sell at Saturday's fundraiser, the 54th annual Chiselers' Market.

Now they're loaded and ready, filling the main floor of the University of Tampa's historic Plant Hall with estate sale-quality donations — dishes, glassware, silver, jewelry, art, books and furniture — at garage sale prices.

Fletcher Lounge is packed with kitchen gadgets, appliances, luggage, holiday decor, textiles.

"All kinds of great stuff for newlyweds or furnishing a dorm room," said past-president Judy Rodriguez. "I liken it to a five and dime store, like a Woolworth's where $10 goes a long way."

Four trendy new outfits donated by local boutiques will be snapped up in the Music Room, along with an array of clothing, handbags, belts and entertaining accessories.

"The line starts by 7 a.m. and it's a thundering herd by the time the police open the doors at 9," said Lavinia Branch Kelly, sharing some shopping tips. "Cash, check and credit card are accepted. Tote bags and small rolling carts are fine and furniture must has be picked up by 4 p.m."

For those with champagne taste and a discerning eye, about 500 high-end heirlooms, antiques and collectibles were selected to sell by silent auction bid only, at Saturday's market and for the first time, online.

"Shoppers can go to our website, thechiselersinc.com, and find a link marked "Auction," said chairwoman Esther Hammer. "Click on that to find a menu which includes a registration form. Then they can check bids on their smartphone all day."

Wondering why the women call themselves "Chiselers?"

In the 1950s, socialites connected to the University of Tampa volunteered to scrape paint and mortar off antique tiles on the former 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel fireplaces. Chipping away one day, one of the ladies remarked, "Why, we're a bunch of chiselers."

Today's organization has grown to 200 members dedicated to restoring and maintaining the city's landmark, the University of Tampa.

Contact Amy Scherzer at ascherzer@tampabay.com.

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