Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Beyond Edison and Ford

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Beyond Edison and Ford

Article excerpt

Story and Photos By HAROLD BUBIL Real Estate Editor

Fort Myers is not an A-list destination for architecture buffs, but Joyce Owens feels it is worth at least a side trip.

Those making the petit tour of Sarasota to see its midcentury architecture -- or even locals looking for an unusual day trip -- might also make the drive south to Sanibel Island to see Paul Rudolph's 1953 Walker Guest House, recently voted the state's top house of the past 100 years in an online poll conducted by the American Institute of Architects.

While passing through Fort Myers, suggests Owens, archi-tourists may wish to take in a few modernist delights in a town best known for the century-old winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

"There really is more here than you would imagine," said Owens, an architect who has a "bay" in a lawyer's downtown office that she remodeled. So she has become something of a promoter, extolling Lee County's architectural virtues in her weekly column in the News- Press. Fort Myers has a delightful, historic downtown section, dotted with trendy lunch bistros and nightclubs, that recently has been revitalized. But it does not have a concentrated section of modernist architecture, such as Lido Shores in Sarasota.

But if you know where to look ...

During a recent auto tour, Owens proudly pointed out a classic early-1950s house, by Ralph Twitchell, perhaps during his partnership with Paul Rudolph, that has Ocala block walls topped by clerestory windows and a flat roof. "But you have to promise not to write about it, because the owner is very private. Nobody knows it is here." OK, we promise to leave out the details.

Fortunately, that house is not alone among interesting gems in the Historic Riverside neighborhood west of downtown.

Primarily, there are what Owens calls "The Cordova Houses," which are on Cordova Avenue, a hundred yards from the Caloosahatchee River. One of them, built in 1957, looks like what would have resulted if Fleetwood Homes had asked Mies van der Rohe

to design a single-wide mobile home. There's the big V-shaped grill in the front, atop a screened porch from which one could pen postcards while snickering at friends who are stuck up north in the winter. On the sides are the repeating visual form of exposed support posts, like outriggers. …

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