Lakeland, FL

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Florida Masterpiece "Child of the Sun"

Doc Lawrence
"Child of the Sun" greets visitors.Florida Southern College
The Chapel.Florida Southern College

By Doc Lawrence

Lakeland, Florida-This central Florida city has the charm of other small Southern towns like Thomasville Georgia, Aiken, South Carolina and Franklin, Tennessee. Good restaurants, beautiful vintage homes, pedestrian-friendly sidewalk shopping and polite locals. But, Lakeland stands alone with its connection to fabled architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Lakeland has long been the spring training headquarters for baseball’s Detroit Tigers and is corporate home base for the supermarket colossus Publix. Impressive. But this lovely central Florida city’s main attraction is the “Child of the Sun,” Wright’s visionary masterpiece, the stunningly beautiful buildings on the campus of Lakeland’s Florida Southern College.

A visit to Wright’s futuristic Guggenheim Museum in New York City is a remarkable experience. Spend a few night’s in Wright’s Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and behold the panoramic view of the great prairie from your bedroom.

But, my first sighting of the architect’s buildings on this college campus truly left me breathless.

Designed and built under Wright’s supervision beginning in 1938, these form the largest collection of the architect’s buildings on the planet. Wright’s incorporation of local materials for construction (much of which was done by students), comported with his ideas about organic integration with the local environment.

Nature lights the interior of the buildings. Some electric lighting was added long after Wright’s final visit. Cherokee red, the architect’s preferred color, is omnipresent. The stained glass in the chapel was created under Wright’s watch according to his method and design. Fountains, walkways, the performance hall, remain an enduring testament of his vision and daring.

Wright, according to his biographers, could be difficult. As was Picasso. Genius tends to be comfortable within its own skin.

Visit Lakeland and allow a full day to tour Florida Southern’s campus. There’s no beach: the Gulf of Mexico is a long drive from the city. Nevertheless, the cultural benefits are immeasurable. Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a National Historic Landmark. American daring and creativity are on display for the ages.

Lagniappe: Book a room at the romantic Terrace Hotel in the heart of Lakeland for some old world glamour. Feel the spiritual presence of former guests Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. The elegant restaurant offers a gourmet menu and the wine cellar is commendable. The bar serves a delightfully potent Old Fashioned cocktail.

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Veteran journalist, editor and publisher (Nationwide News), and published author specializing in food, wine, drinks, visual and performing arts, travel and cultural tourism. Currently writing a screenplay, "Requiem for a Wine Taster."

Stone Mountain, GA

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