700 John Ringling Blvd. Frank Folsom Smith and Louis Schneider, architects
Editor’s note: While Harold Bubil takes some time off, we’ll reprise some of his popular columns. This column originally ran on Sept. 9, 2017.
Hurricane Irma's impact quite likely will be felt even in the "Florida Buildings I Love" series.
About 150 buildings (so far) across the state are on this list, and we are getting to them, one by one, with each passing Saturday in the Herald-Tribune. The problem is, with Hurricane Irma doing untold damage to the state’s built environment, the list will have to be checked to make sure its buildings are still standing, or have not been substantially damaged.
That is more likely with the delicate houses, such as the Cocoon House of the Walker Guest House. But for this week’s FBIL structure, it won’t be so hard. Any damage to Plymouth Harbor should be easy to see, as the 25-story building remains the outstanding landmark on Sarasota’s barrier islands, sitting on the busy John Ringling Causeway.
Not that any damage was expected as of the writing of this article, which was Sept. 9, one day before Hurricane Irma wrought, what I feared then, would become one of the worst days in Florida history. Plymouth Harbor is mostly concrete, and, even though it was built before the era of tough building codes, the building is a rock. Still, with the barrier islands under mandatory evacuation, all residents went to the mainland.
Its design is also innovative. Instead of just 24 floors of senior-living apartments, Plymouth Harbor really is eight three-story condominiums stacked one upon the other.
Each set of three floors has its own atrium, which enhances the feeling of community and increases the opportunity for socializing among the residents of each "colony."
The building was the dream of Congregationalist minister Dr. John Whitney MacNeil. It has been expanded and updated, with another expansion under construction.
The credit for the building’s timeless modernist design goes to the architect of record, Frank Folsom Smith, FAIA, and associate architect Louis Schneider. There was some dispute as to who should get the credit, but the Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects ruled to note the architects as stated.
The building was one of 11 structures nominated by the Gulf Coast chapter of the AIA for its 2012 online survey, "100 Years, 100 Places."
It made the list.
"Florida Buildings I Love" is Harold Bubil’s homage to the Sunshine State’s built environment.