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Temple Terrace group wants to restore 1920s building designed by M. Leo Elliott

TEMPLE TERRACE — The quirky domed building was one of the first things prospective home buyers would see when touring this country club community in 1922.

The Temple Terrace Estates Real Estate office was textured to resemble the tasty Temple orange — after all a 5,000 acre farm of them grew nearby.

Today, the building is among a dwindling number of M. Leo Elliott's designs still standing.

The influential architect designed that office, the country club and eight of the original homes in the Temple Terrace Estates subdivision, in addition to myriad other historic homes and buildings throughout the Tampa Bay area. Some of the prominent Tampa architect's work has been destroyed, but many of his buildings still are in use.

The Temple Terrace Preservation Society wants to restore the former real estate office, now known as the Temple Terrace Community Church, to it's Roaring Twenties luster.

When the stock market crashed in 1929 Florida was hit hard. The building boom went bust and the little domed office in Temple Terrace sat empty for years. The original tile was removed and the windows were replaced.

The preservation society hopes to raise about $12,000 in donations to restore the south facade, which once was adorned with Spanish tile on the archways around the doors. The group plans to restore the other sides some time in the future.

Grant Rimbey, a member of the preservation group and an architect, raves about Elliott's work.

"He is probably the best architect Tampa's had to date," Rimbey said. "He had helped define the Mediterranean style in the '20s."

According to Elliott's obituary — which he wrote — he was born April 4, 1886, in the Catskill Mountains in Woodstock, N. Y. He moved to New York City when he was 15 and started working as an office clerk for an architect firm. In time, he moved to Norfolk, Va., and designed buildings for the Jamestown Exposition, an early 20th century fair that commemorated the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown colony.

When the expo opened, he was already on the move, this time to Tampa where he eventually won competitions to design Centro Asturiano in Ybor, as well as a YMCA and the original Tampa City Hall downtown. He was all of 21 years old.

Elliott retired in 1950. He died in 1967.

The majority of his work still standing is in Temple Terrace, Rimbey said. The Club Morocco Casino and Nightclub, which he designed, is now part of the Florida College campus.

One of his original homes in Temple Terrace Estates — the Cody Fowler house at 313 Sleepy Hollow Ave. — is now up for sale.

The Mediterranean Revival style home was featured in a 1922 postcard. Fowler, the namesake of Fowler Avenue, was a prominent Tampa lawyer who also served as a city commissioner and mayor of Temple Terrace.

Peggy Lawrence, the real estate agent, said the house has been on the market for about a month. Asking price: $1.2 million.

"I feel like it will be just someone who loves the idea of having a historic home," Lawrence said.

The two-story home was nearly torn down by the city before being bought by Everett and Fran Mann in 1970 and restored, according to a 1989 St. Petersburg Times article. A holiday open house will be held there this weekend.

But time has not been so kind to other pieces of Elliott's vision.

The Tampa Gas Co. building was torn down after a contentious battle between Lykes Bros Inc., which owned the building, and preservationists.

The Landmark Union Trust Bank, in St. Petersburg, designed by Elliott in 1927 met the wrecking ball to make way for a parking lot for NationsBank.

Other buildings, however, still shape city blocks in the area.

For instance, Elliott designed the Cuban and Italian clubs in Ybor City, the Masonic Temple of Tampa on Kennedy Boulevard. He also designed many homes on Davis Islands, as well as in South Tampa, including his own at 710 S Newport Ave.

Elliott's granddaughter, who lives in South Tampa, works at a commercial furniture company. She applauds current efforts to save his architectural landmarks.

Lynn Elliott, 56, said she lost her enthusiasm to fight for the preservation of her grandfather's work after seeing so many defining Tampa buildings lost to make way for development, including the Tampa Gas Co. building.

"It kind of took a lot of wind out of my sails as far as the way preservation is thought of in the eyes of developers and land owners in the city. I think it (the gas company building) was a devastating loss to the city as far as the architectural heritage," said Elliott. "I never understand how cities like Chicago and New York take old buildings and give them new life and we just destroy."

At least in Temple Terrace, officials hope to breathe new life in at least a couple of her grandfather's creations.

Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or [email protected]

To donate

Checks to restore M.

Leo Elliott's domed building, top of page, which now houses the Temple Terrace Community Church, can

be mailed to: The Temple Terrace Preservation

Society Community Church Project c/o Temple Terrace Preservation Society,

P.O. Box 16771, Temple

Terrace, FL 33687.

If you go

What: Holiday open house

Where: Cody Fowler House, 313 Sleepy Hollow Ave.

When: From 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday

The house will be

decorated for the holidays. Coffee, punch, wine and seasonal baked goods will be available. Cost is $5.

Proceeds benefit the Bat Tower Project.

Temple Terrace group wants to restore 1920s building designed by M. Leo Elliott 12/10/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009 1:05pm]
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