Florida Southern College and Frank Lloyd Wright

Florida Southern College and Frank Lloyd Wright
Florida Southern College, the oldest private comprehensive college in Florida, sits on the north shore of Lake Hollingsworth in Lakeland, Polk County. Its campus boasts the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. Because of this, it was named a National Historic Landmark in 2012. In September 2011, Travel+Leisure magazine listed it as “one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States.” In 2011 and 2012, the Princeton Review named it “the most beautiful campus in America.”


The Florida Southern campus has been relocated a few times in its 135-year existence. It was founded in 1883 in Orlando as South Florida Institute and was moved to Leesburg in 1885, Sutherland (now Palm Harbor) in 1901, and changed its name to Southern College in 1906. Because of fires, it was temporarily relocated to Clearwater Beach in the early 1920s, and finally to Lakeland in 1922. In 1935, the college’s board of trustees renamed it Florida Southern College.

In 1938, college president Dr. Ludd M. Spivey arranged with architect Frank Lloyd Wright to replace the buildings on its campus with more contemporary architecture. The resulting collection is called “Child of the Sun” because, as Wright explained, it would “"grow out of the ground and into the light, a child of the sun." Here is a list of the features in this group:

  • Annie Pfeiffer Chapel – First completed Frank Lloyd Wright building, begun 1938, dedicated 1941, French-door balconies restored in 2007
  • Buckner Building (originally the E.T. Roux Library) – begun 1942, completed 1946
  • Ordway Building (originally the Industrial Arts Building) – begun 1950, completed 1952
  • Danforth Chapel – begun 1954, completed 1955
  • Polk County Science Building (commonly known as Polk Science) – begun 1952, completed 1958
  • Watson Fine Building (administration building) – begun 1946, completed 1949
  • Water Dome – partially completed 1949, fully completed and restored in 2007 to Wright's original plans
  • Three Seminars or The L. A. Raulerson Building (currently the Business Office) – begun 1940, completed 1942, and underwent renovations into one office building in 1958
  • The Esplanades – various completion times, currently undergoing restoration around the campus
  • Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center, also known as the Usonian House—a visitor center and exhibition space constructed according to Wright's 1939 designs for faculty housing

Frank Lloyd Wright was recognized in 1991 by the American Institute of Architects as "the greatest American architect of all time.”

If you are a fan of, or have an interest in Wright’s work, you will surely want to visit the Florida Southern College campus. Stop by the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center where you can see exhibits interpreting Wright’s relationship with the college. It is open daily from 9:30a.m. to 4:30p.m., except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. If you would like a guided tour of the campus, reservations are recommended. Phone (863)680-4597 or email fllw@flsouthern.edu. Reservations can be made online at reservation form.

Florida Southern College is located at:
111 Lake Hollingsworth Drive
Lakeland, FL 33801

While you are in Lakeland, you may also want to visit the Florida Polytechnic University to see a campus designed by Spanish architect and structural engineer Santiago Calatrava.

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Florida Polytechnic University

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