Florida underwent many cultural, national, and architectural changes from its discovery to the state we know today. The first written evidence of the state was from Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon in 1513, but there is even more evidence of human life that dates to at least 12,000 years ago. It was a swamp long before any development and was run by the Spanish government and the British government before unionizing as a state in 1845. Due to its diverse changes in authorial power and its unique climate compared to the rest of the present-day United States, it inherited a variety of old and new architectural styles. Here are 10 buildings in Florida where different styles of architecture can be found.
Examples of Gothic Architecture in Florida:
1. Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux
Located in North Miami Beach, this example of gothic architecture has had a unique development compared to other buildings. Built between 1133 and 1141, the monastery was home to Cistercian monks for nearly 700 years near Segovia in northern Spain. It was then that William Randolph Hearst, a financially successful entrepreneur purchased the cloisters and the monastery’s outbuildings for his personal home in California. The plan was delayed and eventually unfinished, leaving the shipment in a warehouse in New York until 1952 when it was bought to create a tourist attraction in North Miami. The building includes aging stones in the wall with carvings of crescents and crosses, as well as grand arches for windows and roofing. There are also ancient statues on the walls and standing in the hall that dates back to before the Columbus era.
2. Hillsborough High School
Located in Hillsborough, Florida, this school uses gothic revival architecture and is the oldest public school in the county and one of the oldest in the South. It was originally constructed in 1927. This 3-story facility has had some renovations done in recent years, but still largely holds gothic styles in the facade and interior. It includes the original terrazzo and wood flooring, as well as 840 individual restored windows that have the classic gothic style arch. It also includes a curved roof design for the auditorium. One of the school’s most notable features is the grand clock tower that was constructed in 1979.
Examples of Florida Cracker Architecture:
3. Plumb House
Constructed in 1896 in Clearwater, Florida, this home uses the style of “Florida cracker architecture”, which is a vernacular type of architecture that commonly uses wooden framing, with no air conditioning, metal roofs, raised floors to prevent flooding and enhance ventilation, and straight central hallways. It was built by early Florida and Georgia settlers. Due to the lack of technology, this style home typically has porches or a veranda to provide shade. Some homes even had a clerestory that is used to improve ventilation on the inside of the home. The Plumb House was originally used as a paint store on the first floor and apartment on the second, but when the paint store moved to a new location the building became a single-family home. Since 1985, the home has been used as a permanent museum for the city of Clearwater.
4. Bensen House
Built-in 1916 by Atley Bensen for his wife, this home currently serves as a house museum and the center of the Grant Historical Society. Located in present-day Grant, Florida, this structure uses precut lumber with aluminum shingle to protect its pitched roof and cracker-style porches on the front and back to allow cool air from the nearby Indian River. The house had one bedroom for the couple and another for their children, along with an outhouse by the end of the fishing dock. For 104 years, it has gone through storms, flooding, and freezing, but still stands with little damage.
Examples of Greek-Revival Architecture in Florida:
5. Kingsley Plantation
Known as the oldest surviving plantation house in the state, the Kingsley plantation was constructed between 1797 and 1798 by John McQueen. This 2,600-acre land was acquired by Zephaniah Kingsley, Jr. in 1817. The plantation includes the main residence, kitchen building, barn, and 32 slave cabins built by cement tabby. The house has a Greek-revival style shown in the large center room and four 1-story pavilions at each corner for air ventilation and two large rooms on the second floor. It included a deck on the roof and two porches at the front and rear of the house. The house had a symmetrical shape along with large columns and a chimney in the back for the fireplaces in each of the bedrooms.
6. Brokaw-McDougall House
Located in the state’s capital, the Brokaw-McDougall Hose is one of Tallahassee’s remaining antebellum homes. Completed in 1860, the 2-story home measures 52 by 63 feet with a Classic-revival style with Italianate influences. It has a full-width veranda with six Corinthian columns, a railed balcony, and a square couple for air ventilation. The home is highly symmetrical, with pilasters on the windows and doors. The home has a sense of verticality due to its columns, tall doors, evenly-spaced windows, and the 14-foot ceilings. The house’s formal garden projects a grand entrance for the building, with four large oak trees along with a variety of flowers and bushes.
Examples of Florida Mid-Century Modernism Architecture:
7. Umbrella House
Designed by architect Paul Rudolph and originally constructed in 1953, the Umbrella House is one of the most iconic modern houses of the 20th century. It was built in Sarasota, Florida, as a speculative house for contemporary development. This 2-story home measures about 2000 feet and includes wooden stairs, jalousie windows, and a tall living room ceiling. Its most notable feature is the “umbrella” used to shade the house and the walking space around the pool from the Florida sun. The umbrella was originally built using wood but was destroyed by Hurricane Alma in 1966. After an extensive process of engineering, planning, and fabrication, the restoration was officially completed in 2015.
8. Round House
Originally designed in 1960 as an art studio, this now redefined resident home lies in Sarasota, Florida, and is considered one of the best modern homes in the region. This 2-story brick building has a ring of small windows right under the overhanging roof, larger aluminum windows and doors, and wood paneling throughout the interior. It has curved hallways and an open kitchen under the stairs. There is a lounging area on the second floor, with military-green carpeting and a metal railing. The metal railing then extends all the way through the stairs. The smaller windows allow light to enter into this lounging area and brighten up the rest of the home. The home’s electrical system, drywall, kitchen, and 1960s bathrooms were recently renovated to adjust to the new residents.
Examples of Mediterranean Architecture in Florida:
9. Villa Vizcaya
Considered a hidden gem of Miami, Florida, the Villa Vizcaya is an excellent example of Mediterranean architecture. The estate includes an elegant Italian renaissance garden preserved to its original design, a historic village compound, and the native woodland landscape. The building has an open floor plan with high ceilings as well as arched doorways. Overlooking the Biscayne Bay, the estate has excellent views of the water visible from its tall arched windows. The structure has stucco exterior walls with pastel colors and red tile roofs, which is the typical aesthetic of Mediterranean architecture. The property is now open to the public as Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.
10. El Mirasol
El Mirasol was one of Florida’s first grand-scale mansions built in the Mediterranean revival style. Making its debut in 1920, the mansion included 37 rooms, a 40-car garage, a tea house, an auditorium, and a private zoo. Designed by architect Addison Mizner, it had a large open floor plan with an open courtyard and plenty of garden space to entertain the lavish guests that would come for celebrations and get-togethers. El Mirasol had barrel-tilted roof elevations, wrought-iron details, along with cloistered spaces with arched entrances and windows. El Mirasol was demolished in the 1950s.
- El Mirasol (mansion). (2020, January 04). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Mirasol_(mansion)
- Image Source: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. (2020, July 10). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vizcaya_Museum_and_Gardens
- For Sale: The Round House. (2018, May 04). https://www.sarasotamagazine.com/home-and-real-estate/2018/05/for-sale-the-round-house
- Sarasota Architectural Foundation. (2019, September 04). Umbrella House. https://www.saf-srq.org/architecture/umbrella-house/
- Brokaw-McDougall House. (n.d.). https://dos.myflorida.com/cultural/about-us/brokaw-mcdougall-house/
- Stieghorst, T. (2020, February 20). Exploring a piece of Florida’s antebellum history at Kingsley Plantation. https://www.travelweekly.com/North-America-Travel/Exploring-a-piece-of-Floridas-antebellum-history-at-Kingsley-Plantation
- Florida Today. (2017, September 29). Grant Historical House. https://www.floridatoday.com/story/life/2017/09/29/grant-historical-house/715837001/
- Plumb House (Clearwater, Florida). (2017, July 01). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumb_House_(Clearwater,_Florida)
- Hillsborough High School Historic Renovation: Wilder Architecture, Inc. (n.d.). https://archinect.com/wilderarchitecture/project/hillsborough-high-school-historic-renovation
- Hagenmeier, J. Ancient Spanish Monastery Of Florida: The St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church http://wanderingtrader.com/travel-blog/united-states/ancient-spanish-monastery-florida-st-bernard-de-clairvaux-church/