jaimemontilla.com

Florida Southern College
Lakeland, FL

​​​
Considered one of the greatest if not the greatest American architect, the work of Frank Lloyd Wright has been extensively researched and documented.  Part of his work is chronicled in the  Wasmuth Portfolio  which drawings influenced architects all over the world including that of   Antonin Nechodoma  to whom we dedicate a page in this website.  This page, however, is specifically related to Wright's work at the Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. 

Florida Southern College is Florida's oldest private Higher Education institution and is still associated with the Methodist Church.  According to its website www.flsouthern.edu , its beginings can be traced back to 1883 when the Jacksonville District of the Florida Methodist Episcopal Church established the South Florida Institute in Orlando, later known as the Wesleyan Institute.  In 1886, it outgrew its facilties in Orlando,  moved to Leesburg and was renamed the Florida Conference College.  In 1902, the need for expansion prompted the college to move its campus to Palm Harbor (then named Sutherland) and this time was renamed Florida Seminary.  Soon thereafter, in 1906, another name change was adopted, this time to Southern College.  In 1921, a fire that destroyed a dormitory and the administration building prompted a temporary relocation to the Clearwater Hotel.  The stay in Clearwater was short lived because of damage caused by a hurricane later in 1921 and another fire in 1922.   That same year the college moved to 78 acres donated by the city of Lakeland on the edge of Lake Hollingsworth where it still is today.  In 1935 the college received its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and adopted its current name Florida Southern College.  

From 1925 to 1957 the President of Florida Southern College was Ludd Myrl Spivey .  After the Great Depresion, when enrollment was drastically reduced, Spivey had a vision and in 1936 asked then 69 years old Frank Lloyd Wright to design several buildings for the college campus.  Wright's master plan included eighteen buildings, however, only nine structures were actually built.  Construction for the first building started in 1938 and completion of the last building was done in 1958.  

Wright's nine structures at Florida Southern constitute the largest collection of buildings in one site ever created by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The nine structures include the following buildings:

  1. Annie Pfeiffer Chapel – Named after Annie Maria Merner Pfeiffer (1860-1946), was the first of the 9 completed structures, built between 1938-1941 in part by Florida Southern's students and personally supervised by Wright himself. It is at the center of the concept visualized by Wright.
  2. Cora Carter, Isabel Walbridge & Charles W. Hawkins Seminar Buildings - originally three individual structures with courtyards in between, built between 1940 and 1941, in 1959 they were incorporated into one and renamed The L. A. Rawlerson Building.
  3. E. T. Roux Library - was built in 1942 and renamed the Thad Buckner Building in 1968, is now a lecture hall and visitors center.
  4. Emile Watson-Benjamin Fine Administration Building – built between 1946-1949.
  5. Lucius Pond Ordway Building – built between 1950-1952 was reportedly Wright's favorite on campus, was originally a dining hall later converted to an industrial arts center.
  6. William H. Danforth Minor Chapel – built between 1954-1955​ with a grant of the Danford Chapel Program established by the founder of the Ralston Purina Co. 
  7. Polk County Science Building - was the largest and last of all the Wright designed structures at FSC, construction finished in 1958.

The two structures designed by Wright as part of his envisioned complex that are not buildings per se are:

  1. ​The Esplanades – approximately 1½ mile of covered walkways with low ceilings connecting several buildings, buit between 1939 and 1958.
  2. Water Dome – the original pool built in 1948 was later divided into three smaller pools and a concrete plaza but was restored in 2007 following Wright's plan. 

The Florida Southern College Architectural District is also known as  Child of the Sun because of Wright's envisioning of the campus rising out of the ground towards the sunand his idea that the buildings would take on the nature and character of the land they stand on. The Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at the Florida Southern College were added to the  National Register of Historic Places , the Nomination Form approving their inclusion has more and very interesting information regarding these structures.