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Henry John Klutho

"Klutho Krawl: Unveiling Jacksonville's Architectural Masterpieces"

Jacksonville has a long history of urban landscape. Architects flocked to the area after the Great Fire of 1901 - the largest ever urban fire in the Southeast. The most noted among them was Henry Klutho, who relocated to Jacksonville from New York in 1902. Klutho was known for his work in the "Prairie School" style, and he designed many of the new buildings built after the fire that helped shape the Jacksonville skyline.

Klutho Krawl explores Klutho's contributions and the communities his architectural designs impacted after the Great Fire of Jacksonville. The Krawl takes participants from event to event from September 18-21, including 4 FSCJ campuses, and historical Klutho landmarks in neighboring Springfield, Riverside, and Downtown communities. FSCJ Faculty and staff from Humanities, LLC, and Digital Media have worked together to provide a speaker series, exhibits (including a Klutho immersive exhibit), and a meet-up at a local restaurant housed in a historic space that has been part of the community since the early 20th century. At each Klutho Krawl, student organizations, faculty, staff and members of the community will have the opportunity to win prizes, participate in games, and engage in great conversations around Henry John Klutho, Jacksonville history, and community.

Henry John Klutho

Henry John Klutho was born in Breese, a town in southern Illinois. At the age of sixteen he left home for college in St. Louis, Missouri, where he soon became interested in studying architecture. In 1893 he moved to New York City to pursue the profession with popular firms such as Clinton & Russell, Francis H. Kimball, and U. Wheeler Smith. In 1898 he decided to hone his skills with a yearlong sketching and studying trip to Europe which took him through Italy, Germany, and France before returning to New York in 1899 to set up his own office.

The frontpage of the May 4, 1901 edition of The New York Times carried the headline "Jacksonville, Florida Swept by Flames: Many of the finest public and private buildings destroyed, including hotels, theaters, churches, and government buildings." The disaster was also an opportunity for an architect, and within a month Klutho had relocated to Jacksonville, where he quickly became the pre-eminent architect. Within just the first couple of years, he worked on high-profile projects such as the Dyal-Upchuch office building, the Union Congregational Church, and a new City Hall.

Around 1905, Klutho met Frank Lloyd Wright on a trip to New York and was captivated by Wright's building philosophy. From this point Klutho began working in what's now known as the Prairie Style, to which he was fully committed by 1908. By 1919, there were more Prairie Style Buildings in Jacksonville than in any other city outside the midwest.

By the time Klutho died in 1964, he was largely forgotten and his work ignored. But his vision still shapes the Jacksonville we see today.

The Great Fire of 1901

On Friday, May 3rd, 1901 a spark from a nearby chimney landed on a pile of moss drying in the yard of the Cleveland Fibre Factory situated on the block bounded by Davis, Madison, Union, and Beaver Streets. Although the fire was discovered fairly quickly by workers at the site, their efforts to put the blaze out with buckets of water failed, and their mistaken belief in their eventual success dousing the flames delayed them calling the fire department. By the time the fire department was called in, the blaze had spread from the drying platform where it started to nearby buildings; a breeze sprang up which then carried burning cinders from these fires to the roofs of houses up to several blocks away. From there the fire spread quickly eastward and within eight hours over seven hundred acres of the densest part of the city of Jacksonville were in ruins.

For an account of the progress and terror of the Great Fire, read Benjamin Harrison's 1901 book Acres of Ashes. For a full examination of the fire and its aftermath, check out The Great Fire of 1901 by Woods and Foley.

Panoramic view of Jacksonville immediately after the Great FireMap of burned area after 1901 fire

Top: Jacksonville, immediately after the 1901 fire (Jacksonville in Flames, 1901)
Bottom: Map of District Burned May 3, 1901 (History of Jacksonville, Florida and Vicinity, 1513-1924)

Suggested Reading and Resources

Interested in learning more about Klutho, the Great Fire, or Jacksonville architecture in general? Check out these sources.

Acres of Ashes by Benjamin Harrison (1901)

The Architecture of Henry John Klutho by Robert Broward (1983)

The Architecture of Henry John Klutho by Robert Broward (2003)

The Great Fire of 1901 by Bill Foley and Wayne Wood (2001)

"Henry John Klutho: Jacksonville's Greatest Architect" by Wayne Wood in Arbus Magazine (May/June 2023)

"Jacksonville, Florida's Chief City, Swept by Fire" in Leslie's Weekly Illustrated (5/18/1901)

"Jacksonville Swept by Fire" in Leslie's Weekly Illustrated (5/25/1901)

Jacksonville in Flames: Florida's Metropolis in Sack-Cloth and Ashes by Walter Wagstaff (1901)

Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage: Landmarks for the Future by Wayne Wood (2022)