Maurice Fatio’s Architectural Legacy

 by Philip K. Jason                              Special to Florida Weekly

“Maurice Fatio: Palm Beach Architect,” by Kim I. Mockler. Acanthus Press. 256 pages. $65.

Kim Mockler’s study of Maurice Fatio’s contributions to the way of life among the powerful and wealthy denizens of Palm Beach is a treatise on American taste and splendor in the years leading up to the Great Depression and the decade that followed it. The descriptive text is crisp and clear, the presentation of architectural detail is at once knowledgeable, lucid, and accessible to novices. “Maurice Fatio” is lavishly illustrated with a generous assortment of period photographs and new ones, as well as floor plans rendered especially for this gorgeously produced volume.   

In presenting 26 representative examples of Fatio’s designs, Mr. Mockler incidentally provides us with a who’s who in American society and culture. If homes reflect their inhabitants and owners, Kim Mockler’s presentation of Maurice Fatio’s Palm Beach achievement reflects the inspiration and aspiration of the American Dream. However, this landscape of material culture never forgets its European heritage.

Maurice Fatio’s designs are characterized by a variety of European influences, from Mediterranean palaces to British Colonial mansions and even homes with modernist influences. He made extensive use of quarry key stone mined in Florida, and his plans typically included a central courtyard which provided wind-sheltered outdoor entertainment space.

Kim Mockler’s descriptive narratives include intriguing biographies and family histories; vivid word portraits of the residences; details about ornamentation, interior design, and furnishings; information about additions, renovations, and successive – including current – owners. We learn about where stones were quarried, which local artisans (wrought iron craftsmen, etc.) made contributions to Fatio’s vision, and how the various residences were situated with respect to the ocean and to Lake Worth.

For whom did Maurice Fatio design his Palm Beach estates? Joseph E. Widener, the art collector who donated his family’s famous collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C., is also known as the man who brought Hialeah Park to prominence as a world class horseracing track.  E. F. Hutton, founder of the famous brokerage house that bears his name, built his first Fatio house with wife Marjorie Merriweather Post and his second with his next wife, Dorothy Dear Metzger. Fatio designed several homes for members of the Vanderbilt family. The list of Maurice Fatio’s clients is a who’s who of American and international affluence and influence.

To read the full review (plus interview with Kim Mockler) as it appears in the Fort Myers Florida Weekly for October 13-19, 2010 and the Palm Beach Gardens and Naples editions for October 14-20, click here: Florida Weekly – Kim Mockler pdf

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