Henry John Klutho, 1911
Frank M. Richardson was a well-respected contractor working with Klutho on several Prairie School projects, including Morocco Temple and the Florida Life Building, when he constructed this three-story commercial building for himself in 1911 at the southeast corner of Eighth and Main streets in the Springfield neighborhood. He named it for his wife, Florence. It was built with shops on the ground floor and eight apartments on the upper two stories, each of which had its own recessed balcony and overlooked a central courtyard. There was garage space at the rear for six automobiles, certainly a novel provision in 1911. Originally the storefronts had suspended metal and glass canopies over the sidewalk in front. In 1929 these canopies were removed, as were the tile pent roofs above the upper balconies facing Main Street. At this time the courtyard was enclosed. A few years later Florence Court was converted into a hotel, but the building continued to decline and was partially vacant for many years.
Klutho produced a plan that predated the “bi-nuclear” plans of architect Marcel Breuer by forty years. (Bi-nuclear is an academic label for a floor plan that is divided into two separate and often equal parts served by a common entrance.) Florence Court consisted of two identical three-story wings with a landscaped court between them. At the exact midpoint of the two identical wings, Klutho placed the main entrance tower for the apartments. The tower was entered from the court that opened onto Main Street, creating a delightful oasis adjacent to the busy thoroughfare. The first floor provided space for five stores that opened onto Main Street at each side of the entrance court and to Eighth Street around the corner.
Inside, the main stair was spacious and beautifully detailed in wood, and its windows overlooked the entrance court. Each living room had a fireplace and could be combined with a dining room to form a larger space by the use of sliding walls. The apartments facing Main Street commanded the highest rent ($540 a year), with both dining and living rooms opening to covered, full-width balconies overlooking the thoroughfare. Living rooms facing Eighth Street opened through French doors onto cantilevered balconies.
The main Prairie School feature of Florence Court was the design of the stair tower in the entrance court between the two main wings of the building. Here Klutho terminated two vertical stucco piers with abstract stucco designs, again reminiscent of Wright’s Larkin Building capitals. These designs were well-executed and imparted a richness to the tower facade that faced Main Street from the court. Other geometric details executed in carved wood, wrought iron, and tile on the cantilevered Eighth Street balconies enriched the facade within the Prairie School idiom.
In 1984 the building was remodeled into apartments once again. Crowned by Klutho’s Prairie-style cross motifs atop two towering stucco piers, the courtyard was reopened and has once again become the focal point of the facade. This long-awaited restoration of the courtyard was devalued by the awkward enclosing of the storefront openings. The “remuddling” was made even more unsympathetic by covering the exterior with modern textured stucco and by packing thirty-six apartment units into this single building.Archival photo courtesy of The Jacksonville Hisorical Society.
Floor plan by Robert C. Broward.
Color photos by Wayne W. Wood.
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