Henry John Klutho
Henry John Klutho is known as Northeast Florida’s best architect.
Influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, he’s said to have done more than any man in his era to change Jacksonville’s skyline.
Jacksonville’s Great Fire of 1901 brought Klutho to the city. He was a young man practicing in New York, when he picked up a newspaper and read that much of the city had been destroyed. He realized Jacksonville would need architects to re-build, and that there would be plenty of opportunities to make money. So he moved to Jacksonville and helped the city rebuild from the ashes.The historic Springfield, Riverside and Avondale neighborhoods that we know today were born in this aftermath.
Klutho was influenced by the Prairie School of style, a “new American aesthetic.” As the name suggests, the Prairie School of style is known for its use of wide open spaces, similar to the landscape of the Midwest. Prairie houses appear to grow out of the ground – very low and close to terrain.
The style was popular in the early 1900s, and peaked in 1915. It was characterized by strong horizontal lines, geometric shapes inspired by nature, windows set in groups, sweeping front porches, oversized eves, strong tapered columns, vertical brick piers, stained-glass doors, terra-cotta embossings, and fireplaces that served as a central gathering spot. The first floors were one large room, with spaces flowing together.
Unlike the Victorian style, it purposely lacked in ornamentation.
Klutho’s best known work that still stands today is the St. James Building, built in 1912 for Cohen Brothers department store. It is now the Jacksonville City Hall, and features an octagonal glass dome and many sculptures.
Other buildings that bare Klutho’s signature include The Bisbee building on Forsyth Street, the city’s first skyscraper; the Morocco Temple on Newnan Street, Florida’s oldest shrine; the Haydon Burns Library and former main library on Ocean Street; the original Claude Nolan Cadillac building on Main Street; the Klutho Apartments on Main Street; and Panama Park Elementary, which is now the North Florida Educational Institute.
His first Prairie-style piece was his own home at 1924 Main Street in Springfield, which was later moved around the corner to West Ninth Street. Two-stories, with broad, six-foot overhangs over the second-floor bedroom, people thought it strange looking. Noted Jacksonville architect Bob Broward says the home is the most important building of historical significance in the city.
Klutho also designed other iconic buildings in other areas of Florida. He built Florida’s first governor’s mansion in 1906, and remodeled the State Capitol in 1922.
Many of his spectacular creations in Jacksonville were demolished or remodeled beyond recognition by the 1980s, but the city still has one of the largest collections of the Prairie style architecture outside the Midwest.
Robert Schuyler was another influential First Coast architect, because he designed some of the most exceptional pieces of architecture in Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach. Making his mark before Klutho, in the 1880’s and 1890s, Schuyler’s style was a mix of Victorian and Italianate.
A native of Troy, NY, Schuyler served as a Union captain during the Civil War. He came to Florida in 1878, and arrived in Fernandina three years later. During his time of residence, and while working as an architect, he also served as a county judge and the city clerk.
His work was characterized by irregular outlines, rounded arches, shingled roof surfacing, elaborate stair spindles, bay windows, ornamental chimney tops, towers, piazzas on three sides, tiled floors. Interiors were well situated and “convenient”, the principal rooms on the first floor arranged en suite.
The Fairbanks House on 7th Street in Fernandina Beach, now a bed and breakfast, is one of Schuyler’s most praised creations. Designed in the Italianate style, it was built in 1885 for George Fairbanks, a pioneer in the citrus industry and one-time state senator. It has three stories, with twenty rooms, and Schuyler adorned its 10 by 10-foot tower-fireplaces in the living room and dining room with yellow tiles, depicting images from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Aesop’s Fables.” In 1981, it was bought and divided into apartment units.
He also designed the unique Lewis Tabby House. Described as an ornament to the city, it was built using poured tabby, a cement of crushed oyster shells. The home was eventually abandoned and vandalized, and gutted by a fired in 2002, but was later restored.
Both houses are now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Schuyler was also the architect for the Marcellus Williams House and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Fernandina Beach.
He made his mark in Jacksonville, designing St. Andrews Church on A. Philip Randolph Blvd., which is now home to the Jacksonville Historical Society.
Schuyler was at the forefront of a refined elegance and charming hospitality of a bygone era on the North Florida coast.