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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our tenth calendar year
    PCR #459  (Vol. 10, No. 2)  This edition is for the week of January 5--11.

2008 Was A Year to Forget, But--December was a Month to Remember!  by William Moriaty
"Gran Torino"  by Mike Smith
Welcome 2009 and 1969 Revisited!  by ED Tucker
WPIX Channel 11  by Chris Woods
Today It's Your Birthday .... Christmas Bounty .... Football Playoffs  by Matt Drinnenberg
Enough Already I Beg You .... I Said Enough! .... Stop It! Stop It! .... If You Can't Beat 'em .... Passing On .... The Best Of 2008 .... And The Winner Is .... My Favorite Films, Part 2 by Mike Smith
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2008 Was A Year to Forget, But--December was a Month to Remember!

Saturday December 6th: Temple Terrace Holiday Tour of Homes
Sponsored by the Temple Terrace Preservation Society, I was clued onto this several months prior by my very dear friend and Florida Folk Hero Grant Rimbey who is an architect that grew up in Temple Terrace. Grant knows of my love of the Tampa Bay area's fabulous architecture (consider this Part 11!), particularly Mid-Century Modern ("MCM") and Mediterranean Revival ("Med Rev").

It just so happens that both of my favorite styles of architecture were consolidated in this December 6th extravaganza where as the Tour pamphlet stated "Mid-Century Modern Meets Mediterranean Revival"!

I went with my other very dear friends Susan Hughes of Lake Wales and Ray Wunderlich of St. Petersburg. After picking up our tour wrist bands from yet another friend, Sharon Walker, Susan and Ray and I boarded the northbound trolley and went to three of nine houses on the tour.

The first house was an exemplary MCM house owned by Mrs. Mary Johnson. A genteel and gracious Southern lady, Ms. Johnson's husband built the house in 1958. This is probably one of the most well preserved MCM house's in the world with most circa 1958 materials and appliances still in mint condition and working order. I was particularly fascinated by the cork board flooring. A truly vernacular MCM composition, the exterior trim of the house was constructed with "Ocala Block" concrete block that is a porous block that is sealed rather than painted. Also, the flooring of the breezeway just south of the pool was salvaged from the circa 1920's Tampa Municipal (now General) Hospital, and wood timbers from turn-of-the-century railroad structures on Platt Street near the Hillsborough River were used to create part of the pool enclosure.

Built in 1926, this Med Rev house was designed by world renowned architect Dwight James Baum. The 3,250 square foot courtyard house a very unusual "duplex" type of floor plan. Rumors had it that the house was designed for a young couple and their mother-in-law. A January 24, 1926 Tampa Tribune article about its designer stated:

"Dwight James Baum, of New York, one of the noted architects in the country, has designed there picturesque dwellings. These high class residences, which have been aptly termed, "gems of architectural beauty" are being erected by the Temple Terrace Construction Company. The cost of these palatial dwellings, which will strictly be Spanish in design, will be approximately $2,0000,000. Aside from the pronounced Spanish atmosphere that will provide the interior and exterior of these miniature palaces, surrounded by natural scenic beauty, that is incomparable in charm and exclusiveness to any development on the West Coast, they will be strictly modern in every respect and contain every conceivable improvement."

Also designed by Dwight James Baum and built in 1926, the house is currently owned by Tracy Brown and Michelle Westich who purchased it 1999. Over the years they have made astonishing restorations and tasteful improvements to this beautiful two story structure. They have installed a new barrel tile roof, restored the balcony and railing above the main entrance, restored the main entry door and windows, added period awnings to the outside of the house, renovated the kitchen, downstairs half bath, living room, and are currently restoring all the baseboards and crown molding throughout the house. Future restorations include exposing more of the original woodwork, and strip, stain and seal all of the interior doors and restore the original hardware.

Susan wanted to be sure that we had time to see some MCM houses that were only available by riding the southbound trolley, do we found ourselves back where we started, at the Old "Club Morocco", Moorish originally built in 1924. The structure's first architect was Franklin O. Adams and its second was M. Leo Elliott.

In its heyday, it was the hottest 1920's nightclub on the West Coast of Florida, with notables such as Babe Ruth, Al Jolson, Red Grange, Jack Dempsey, Paul Whiteman and others frequenting its premises. It is also alleged that rum was shipped up the Hillsborough River from Ybor City and brought in through the back of the building during Prohibition.

Some 80-plus years later, Susan and Ray and I would use this same structure as a place to blab with Sharon, Grant, TREE Inc. friend and Temple Terrace native Cliff Brown and the director of one of Dwight James Baum's most noted structures, the Ca d'Zan, a Venetian Gothic mansion on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota.

The time was getting late. The tour was to end at 2:00 P.M. and we had so much fun gawking at the first three houses and blabbing with our friends that we only had time enough to review two MCM houses that Susan had her heart set on seeing. Finally around 1:30 the southbound trolley showed up whisking us south of the Bullard Parkway to two outstanding examples of MCM houses.

My own personal favorite of the entire tour was the Stefanisko House designed by yet another world renowned architect John Randal McDonald, a protege of the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Faithful La Floridiana readers may be interested to know that McDonald designed the Seaside Artisan Motel in Dunedin that was featured in PCR #390. In addition, I would come to find out that McDonald designed the church building that I attended between 1987 and 1995 in Clearwater. Considered a local architectural masterpiece when it opened in the late 1950's, the Clearwater Church of Christ at 601 S. Hercules Avenue still looks exceptionally modern. In addition, the church's preacher, Louis C. Wallen III has done an exemplary job of saving an enormous array of photos, news articles, renditions and publicity releases of the church building's construction - - upon browsing through those documents several months with Louis back is how I discovered McDonald in the first place!

The Stefanisko House is a true ultra-mod Atomic Ranch structure. Built in 1963, this one of at least two McDonald designs known to exist in Temple Terrace. The house is 2,400 square feet with terrazzo flooring, a signature material of late 1940's to early 1970's construction. As McDonald was famous for, he integrated connections between indoors and outdoors. There were once two fountains within the structure that streamed to the exterior of the house. The Clearwater Church of Christ also had the use of running water in the interior space integrate with the exterior portion of the structure.

The quote from the Tour of Homes tour guide pamphlet addressed the house perfectly by stating:
"Many of the principals of Frank Lloyd wright's "Usonion" homes can be seen in this house. Typically, they are small, single-story dwellings without a garage, L-shaped to fit around a garden terrace, and environmentally conscious using brick, wood or other natural materials. They usually exhibit flat roofs with large cantilevered overhangs for passive solar heating and natural cooling, natural lighting with clerestory windows, and radiant-floor heating. A strong visual connection between the interior and exterior spaces is also an important characteristic."

While touring this marvel of MCM architecture, I ran into MCM Realtor and Florida Folk Hero, Todd Foley. Todd has a fabulous photo tour web site of local MCM homes at http://tampabaymodernhomes.com/ that you've gotta see to believe! In addition I also ran into graphic designer and other Florida Folk Hero Tim Lancaster (see PCR #441) who along with Lana Burroughs was good enough to tote me, Ray and Susan around when we missed the trolley to the Brown-Westich House!

I can't brag enough about the Stefanisko House and the beautiful works of John Randal McDonald. This was my own personal highlight of the tour.

Next door to the Stefanisko House would be our final house of the Tour, the Brinkman-Gomez House built in 1961 and designed by the Tampa architecture firm of Pullara-Watson.

Since 2002, many changes were made to the house. The terrazzo floors were restored, the bathrooms updated and the deck reconstructed. Amongst the more notable things about the house would include the gardens, the art works inside the home by noted Florida artist Martha Marshall and the haute couture fashion designs in the studio of co-owner Mario Gomez .

Regrettably, 2:00pm was drawing near. Misters Brinkmann and Gomez were marvelous hosts and we would've stayed longer, but the trolleys would soon stop running and we were a mile south of where we parked and we still had a late lunch at Gaspar's Patio Bar and Grill in Temple Terrace, Yesterdaze, an MCM antique store in Tampa to visit, along with dinner at the Chattaway in St. Petersburg (see PCR #437), and lastly, the Oakdale Christmas House in the Driftwood section of St. Petersburg (whew!)

After leaving Yesterdaze, Ray followed Susan and I over to St. Petersburg. Since Ray grew up on the Pink Streets of Pinellas Point and Grant Rimbey grew up in the oak forested winding streets of Temple Terrace, I wanted to show one of the houses I lived in over 30 years ago in the Beach Park area where I would fall in love with Mediterranean Revival architecture. That was the Former Lt. Col. Melvin Asp House on Beachway Drive which has undergone massive expansion in the past several years. We also drove around the house that when I was a kid was called the Guernsey Estate. The house later served in the 1980's as the home for ship building magnate and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and in front of it are three large Live Oak trees planted by T.R.E.E. inc. in 1987.

Susan finally got to visit the local landmark eatery of St. Petersburg known as the Chattaway after a brief tour through Roser Park (here's thinking of Kai Warren!). A brief rain shower forced the three of us inside the restaurant where Ray and Susan began discussing medicine and cow flatulence (don't ask). We then had the pleasure of meeting the owner Gerry (or Jerry) who, as it turns out knew Ray's father and sister. I have determined that somehow EVERYONE knows Ray Wunderlich III!

The final destination of our busy day of touring was the Oakdale Christmas House in the Driftwood section of St. Petersburg. I would advise all readers of this column to visit this incredible show of lights and Christmas decorations during the season. It is the most impressive such ode to Christmas I have ever seen! By 8:00 P.M. Susan I bid adieu to Ray and headed back to Plant City and reruns of Dark Shadows.

It was a memorable and wonderful day that would cap off the first weekend of a December to remember after a year to forget as I tell of in the next series of stories!

Obscured by a Banana plant, Ray Wunderlich III makes his way into the Mid Century Modern (MCM) circa 1958 Johnson House on the Temple Terrace Holiday Tour of Homes.The courtyard of the circa 1926 Mediterranean Revival Goyen House.A view of the Brown-Westich House designed by renowned architect Dwight James Baum and constructed in 1926.

Almost four decades after Dwight James Baum left his legacy in Temple Terrace, Frank Lloyd Wright protege John Randal McDonald would leave his with the 1963 Stefanisko House.
<----The classic MCM lines of the circa 1961 Brinkmann-Gomez are adorned with Holiday decorations.

Leave it to the Chattaway to be visited by Santa's pink flamingo-drawn sleigh for Christmas!---->

Beyond the Sea Grapes and the Arborvitae lie the spectacular lighted kingdom of driftwood known as the Oakdale Christmas House, even complete with a television.

"La Floridiana" is ©2009 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.