In 1959, Sunny Delo, wife of the President of The University of Tampa, was searching the basement of Plant Hall for tiles she could use to restore the facings of the ballroom fireplaces. There, she discovered beautiful glass fireplace tiles previously removed from the building, covered with heavy mortar. Commercial tile setters refused to contract removal of the mortar as it required tedious, time consuming hand labor. Not one to give up easily, Sunny asked three of her friends, Martha Ferman, Bertha Fletcher, and Sue Klintworth for ideas. They invited five other friends to join them for lunch, a swim in Bertha's pool, and an afternoon removing mortar with a chisel and muriatic acid. Sunny's determination to preserve Plant Hall was so contagious, these friends decided to complete the job they had started.
The enthusiasm and dedication of these hard-working ladies inspired other members to attend each succeeding B.Y.O.M. (Bring Your Own Muriatic Acid) party. Soon, the workers grew to twenty-seven. One day Ruth Hendry proclaimed, "We are just a bunch of chiselers." From that day forward, the organization has been referred to as "The Chiselers."
This energetic group of women quickly decided to continue their work to restore and preserve Plant Hall and return it to its former grandeur. In July 1959, they formed an organization dedicated to that purpose, incorporating in October 1959 as The Chiselers, Inc.
A coat of arms was designed to include a glove, chisel & hammer, a minaret, the founding date 1959 and the Latin word "caementarii" meaning to chisel, mold or carve.
Today that group of twenty-seven has grown to over 300 members.
- Since its founding The Chiselers, Inc. has raised $7.6 million for the restoration of Plant Hall. Funding is acquired through an annual market, galas, community generosity, and sizeable grants.
- The Chiselers’ largest fundraising events are the annual Market, Tampa’s largest one day thrift sale, and the Preview Party held the previous evening.
- The third largest event of the Chiselers is the bi-annual Fashion Show co-sponsored by the Henry B. Plant Museum and Neiman Marcus.
- In addition to raising funds for restoration the Chiselers support The University of Tampa with an endowed scholarship which provides annual financial assistance to a deserving student.
- The Chiselers’ 325 members contribute approximately 15,000 volunteer hours annually, an equivalent of $353,400. (Independent Sector, 2015, FL, $23.56 value of a volunteer hour.)
- In 1996 the Chiselers co-founded the Tampa Bay Hotel Advisory Council to include representatives from the City of Tampa, The University of Tampa, Henry B. Plant Museum, The Chiselers, Inc., and the preservation community. The council was charged with approving a Master Plan for restoration and preservation of the building and assuring that all work is done in accordance with the Master Plan and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings
- A prestigious Save America’s Treasures federal matching grant of $400,000 was received in 2002 for the restoration project “Sealing the Envelope”. These monies were used to seal and repoint 98,000 square feet of brick and repair and seal windows.
- From 1996-2016 grants received from the State of Florida, Bureau of Historic Preservation, total $1,339,000, all matched by the Chiselers.
- In 2012, 2014, and 2016 three Hillsborough County grants totaling $537,500, and matched by the Chiselers are making possible the restoration of badly damaged windows, balconies, and needed minaret repair.
- The University of Tampa Class of 2008 contributed$10,000 to restore the Plant Hall Lobby Fireplaces.
- A $362,000 bequest from the estate of Ashby and Emily Moody, a Chiseler’s Founder and former President, made possible a significant restoration of the former Music Room of the Tampa Bay Hotel.
- The Republican National Committee contributed $56,000 after the 2012 convention in Tampa, as a memorial to Al Austin, which was used to restore the large windows in the Music Room.
- Through fundraising activities, contributions and grants, The Chiselers. Inc. have raised a grand total to date of $7,641,006.