Friday, October 8, 2010

Florentine Architecture in Florida

Last month I showcased St. Petersburg's Snell Arcade, a high rise of Venetian grandeur. Right next to the Snell Arcade is the Open Air Post Office, which is Florentine.

The Open Air Post Office was built in 1916 and derives its name from the loggias that permit around-the-clock access to post office boxes. The style is properly called Mediterranean Revival, but it's actually pure Florentine.

The design for the post office was inspired by Florence's Ospedale degli Innocenti, designed by Filipp Brunelleschi in 1424. (Brunelleschi is famous for having designed the dome of Florence's cathedral, popularly known as the Duomo. Brunelleschi's dome was an engineering feat, and remained the largest dome in the world until the 20th century.)

Brunelleschi's Ospedale degli Innocenti, Florence, Italy
The Open Air Post Office, St. Petersburg, Florida


Dolphin and shell capital
The architect of the Open Air Post Office was George W. Stuart (1856-1937), who lived a most colorful life. He was born in Scotland, was educated in Ontario, Canada, and apprenticed as an architect in Toronto. He fought against the Sioux and Blackfeet Indians in Canada's last Indian War and survived being shot in the neck with an arrow. Stuart lived in Dallas and Atlanta before finally settling in St. Petersburg, where he designed many residences.


  1. Oh Mark, this is wonderful! I do hope that I have the cahnce to visit one day. The detailing is magnificent. All too often when a particular style is reproduced away from its origins, it looks awful. but this is perfect!

  2. Now thats what I call a post office -really beautiful!

  3. I'm always in awe of these older buildings and the attention to detail, craftsmanship, and high level of planning. I find it amazing that really not so long ago, so much effort and expense could be lavished on a public building.

    Of course my favourite detail is the capital. I like the way that it appears as Ionic/ Corinthian, but is an entirely new creation with dolphins, shells and acanthus. How charming, playful and appropriate for the Florida locale. Somebody should really reproduce that in Portland stone for a garden ornament.

    Although we've lost many fine buildings, I'm glad that nowadays there is an increased awareness and appreciation of such fantastic buildings.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for the comments! I love Brunelleschi's design, but nonetheless I find Stuart's detail and proportions even more pleasing.

  5. Wow I had no idea this type of architecture existed in this part of the US of all places. Thanks for bringing to our attention! Very nice.

  6. Thanks, Dale. There was a big Mediterranean Revival boom in St. Petersburg in the 1910s and 1920s, and lots of residential architecture we refer to as "Spanish castles."

  7. that is one post office I would go to every day-St Petersburg looks wonderful through the Ruffnerian lens. (Mark, I lost the comment you kindly left today-occasionally the blog gods are not kind),pgt

  8. Thanks, pgt. The blog gods giveth and the blog gods taketh away, but my sentiment remains nonetheless.

  9. I have been to the one in Florence...I love the dolphins on the capitals and the arabesque along the arches. I live close to Dallas and will check out architecture he developed there. Thanks!