Tag Archives: architecture

A grand passion that transcends time, but is rooted in place

The Widow’s Walk, by Robert Barclay. William Morrow. 320 pages. Trade paperback $14.95.

Since retiring from a career in business and industry-related consulting, the man with the pen name Robert Barclay has developed a remarkable second career as a romance novelist. The latest title from this Coral Springs resident follows the successes of If Wishes Were Horses and More Than Words Can Say. Ante-Bellum culture, architecture, time travel, and other paranormal occurrences combine to make “The Widow’s Walk” intriguing and heartwarming.  WidowsWalkPB

When young Massachusetts architect Garrett Richmond decides to purchase and restore the 1830ish home called Seaside, he knows that the task will be enormous, given the sorry condition of the house due to neglect and vandalism. However, it has been a dream of Garrett’s to meet such a challenge and reside in such a splendid Ante-Bellum home. In spite of the contrary advice of family and friends, he embarks on the journey.

What he discovers is that Seaside is haunted – but only for him. That is, the cry of a woman’s voice, unheard by others, reveals the suffering of its 150-year resident, a beautiful young widow named Constance Elizabeth Canfield. Like a ghost, she is caught between two worlds: the world of 1840 New Bedford, and the ongoing present. She has witnessed all the tenants since her husband Adam’s ill-fated voyage on his whaling ship, but she has had no presence to them, as she does to Garrett. She has lived a solitary half-life for seventeen decades. For Garrett, at first skeptical of a hoax of some kind, she proves to be very real – and overwhelmingly attractive.

Slowly, hesitantly, their passion grows and with it their sense of a shared destiny. Whenever they touch, it’s as if a cosmic energy bolt flows through them. They struggle to find out how to understand their unfathomable relationship, eventually turning to a woman learned in the ways of psychic and otherworldly phenomenon, Dr. Brooke Wentworth. She assures them that all of their difficulties have been a test of love and that there is an action they can take, though great risk is involved, that can possibly free Constance. However, there is a chance that Garrett will forfeit his freedom, if not his life, and end up in Constance’s lonely, shadowy netherworld situation.



Mr. Barclay ties present to past and both to a malleable sense of identity and corporality by creating scenes in which Constance briefly returns to the life that was severed so many decades ago. What she encounters “back then” gives clues to the future, but she returns disturbed and frightened. This “flashback” experiences happens several times. Matters become even more complicated when Garrett is also taken back to that time of Adam’s final voyage. Of course, for Garrett it is not really undergoing a flashback as he is not returning to 1840s New Bedford – or is he?

To read the entire review, as it appears in the June 5, 2014 Naples Florida Weekly, the June 11 Fort Myers edition, and the June 12 Bonita Springs and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions,click here Florida Weekly – Barclay 1 and here Florida Weekly – Barclay 2


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Classic seaside lifestyle comes alive in “Dream Houses”

“Dream Houses: Historic Beach Homes and Cottages of Naples,” text by Joie Wilson and photographs by Penny Taylor. University Press of Florida. 224 pages. $45.00.

Interior design professional Joie Wilson did not set out to write a book, but rather to alert public officials and private citizens about the lifestyle treasure that existed in seaside Old Naples and how economic factors and notions of progress were jeopardizing its future. In the end, sharing her passionate insights through a book seemed to be the best way to make her case about what was important and appealing – and so much worth saving – about this community.  Partnering with Naples photographer Penny Taylor (who served for a decade on the Naples City Council), Ms. Wilson plunged in. Her informed enthusiasm, along with Ms. Taylor’s fine photographs, has resulted in a gem of a publication.

Avoiding academic jargon, Joie Wilson clearly sets forth the architectural features and history of each home, from its initial owners through the renovations reflecting the needs and aspirations of successive owners. Many of these renovations are adaptations to changing uses of the buildings, changing times, and especially changing technologies. However, what is amazing in Ms. Wilson’s discussion of these splendid specimens of the 34102 zip code is their stylistic integrity to the idea of Naples as a simple, yet comfortable, beachside community. In the processes of renovation and adaptation,  original structural elements have been maintained or duplicated. Original building materials have been salvaged for reuse.

Readers will learn a lot about the functional significance of the roof overhangs, the pitch of ceilings, and the size and placement of windows.

 Many of the people who built or purchased these houses were affluent enough to live anywhere they chose. They were capable of owning huge mansions in any design or style, but they chose these relatively modest examples of a Florida vernacular architecture because they admired its practical elegance. 2,000 square feet well designed for the subtropical climate, fashioned of readily available materials, and balanced against one another into a gently planned community suited their tastes.

 Though these buildings share architectural features and a Crayola palette that announces a community of recognizable stylistic character, each maintains its independence and originality. Each expresses, in ornamentation, decoration, and tasteful adaptations of a formative vision, the personalities who have flourished and who continue to flourish there. “Colorful personalities,” remarks Ms. Wilson, “tend to gravitate to colorful houses.”

Joie Wilson

 The author makes it clear that these houses are first of all homes. This book is not a mausoleum or shrine, but a representation of places with lives going on inside of them and around them. Most of the homes are from half a century to a full century old. The hold and continue to inspire personal experiences and personal stories that Joie Wilson retells with fervor, economy, and grace.

 Progress and economic stresses have so far not demolished this community, though it has been severely wounded. Similar houses have been leveled or remodeled beyond recognition.

To see this review in its entirety, as it appears in the June 1, 2011 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the June 2 issue of the Naples edition (with additional photos), click here: Florida Weekly – Dream Houses pdf

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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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