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Addison Mizner

Architect

1872 - 1933
Inducted in 2001

Biography

Addison Mizner was Florida's leading architect in the 1920s.  He established his own Spanish and Mediterranean Revival style that became the architectural signature of Florida, and in so doing, created the ambience that truly transformed the landscape of South Florida.

A romantic and freewheeling man, Mizner was strongly influenced by the art of Spain and the Central Americas, where he spent much of his childhood.  At the height of his career, Mizner designed more than 50 Palm Beach villas and Florida mansions for the nation's leading social families.  He also designed the famous Everglades Club (1918) in Palm Beach, the Boca Raton Resort and Club (1925) and the now historic sites in Palm Beach, Via Mizner and Via Parigi.

A native of Benicia, California (near Oakland), Mizner grew up in a traveling family, thanks to his father who served as the U.S. envoy to Central America.  The family eventually moved to Guatemala.  In 1897, Mizner and Wilson, one of his brothers (of four), were lured to Alaska by the Klondike Gold Rush.  Failing to strike it rich, the two brothers fled to New York City, where Addison opened a shop on Fifth Avenue that dealt in colonial furniture and Guatemalan relics. 

Although he had no formal university training, Addison had studied design all his life.  He took a job as an apprentice with a Manhattan architectural firm and served 10 years as a country house architect on Long Island.  In 1907, he and a colleague designed a house in the Adirondacks that President Coolidge later used as his "summer White House." 

After moving for health reasons to Palm Beach in 1918, Addison got his first commission. The Everglades Club soon established his reputation as an innovative and exacting architect, and commissions for homes for some of the day's leading socialites soon began pouring in.   Boca Raton soon saw the rise of Old Floresta, a subdivision that eventually featured 29 Mizner-designed, Spanish-style homes that still are well-preserved today. 

In 1925, Addison was joined by his brother Wilson (who had established himself as a playwright, raconteur and entrepreneur) and the pair established the Mizner Development Corporation, with financial backing from such luminaries as Irving Berlin, W.K. Vanderbilt II, and T. Coleman DuPont.  

But the brothers' timing could not have been worse–Florida's storied land boom of the 1920s was on the verge of collapse.  Before his company folded in 1927, Mizner built the posh Ritz-Carlton Cloisters Hotel Resort in Palm Beach, a premier destination for the rich and famous.

Mizner, who also was an accomplished writer, published an autobiography covering his youth, and his days in Alaska and New York, The Many Mizners, in 1932, a year before his death in Palm Beach.