William B. Harvard Sr., award-winning architect

Published Dec. 14, 1995|Updated Oct. 5, 2005

William B. Harvard Sr., a noted architect whose Suncoast legacy includes The Pier and the award-winning Municipal Pavilion and Bandstand in Williams Park, has died at age 84.

Mr. Harvard, whose designs sometimes evoked controversy, died Monday (Dec. 11, 1995) at home. The cause was cancer, his family said.

Although perhaps best known for The Pier in St. Petersburg, Mr. Harvard also designed other major structures in the Tampa Bay area: St. Joseph's Hospital, Tampa, the Federal Building in St. Petersburg, the Tides Hotel at Redington Beach, Pasadena Community Church, Derby Lane, St. Petersburg Federal Savings and Loan building and addition, the St. Pete Beach Municipal Building and the St. Petersburg Public Library on Ninth Avenue N.

In 1959, Mr. Harvard, the founding partner of Harvard Jolly Clees Toppe Architects, designed the Hospitality House at Busch Gardens with a unique floating roof and a cantilevered balcony that projects over a natural lagoon.

"He was kind and gentle and a very remarkable man," said Blanchard Jolly, who was associated with Mr. Harvard for 45 years. "I think he was one of the great architects of our time."

Mr. Harvard took Florida's environment into consideration with his designs, Jolly said.

"He was really a great, great designer for Florida architecture."

But Mr. Harvard's plans for The Pier and the Williams Park bandstand raised the eyebrows of some residents.

Critics joked that The Pier, through mishandled blueprints, had been built upside down; fans called it the jewel of the waterfront. Comment was expected, Mr. Harvard said in 1981, a decade after the inverted pyramid became perhaps the most talked about structure in town.

He and Jolly, who also worked on the design, were not joking. They were looking for something distinctive, a "terminal point" for the view down Second Avenue N, or as a landmark from the waters of Tampa Bay.

"But the form we used was not dictated by the desire to be distinctive," Mr. Harvard said. "It was dictated by the function of the building."

With at least one City Council member calling it "an eyesore in this city," officials talked of demolishing the landmark band shell in 1994. But in the face of a drive by architects, musicians and political activists to save the structure, the critics were beaten back.

William Bloxham Harvard was born in Waldo and grew up in Tampa and Sarasota. He was a graduate of Sewanee Military Academy and attended the University of Cincinnati. He received a fine arts degree from University of South Florida.

Arriving in St. Petersburg in 1936 from Miami, he built homes before closing his office to fight in World War II. With his entire staff, he joined the Army in 1941. He was base engineer at the Army Air Field in Atlanta and saw overseas action with an engineer battalion on Saipan and Okinawa.

After the war he reopened offices in St. Petersburg's Alhambra Arcade and moved in 1949 to 2723 Central Ave. At the time of his death, the firm had offices at 2714 Dr. M.

L. King (Ninth) St. N, St. Petersburg, 5201 Kennedy Blvd. W, Tampa, and in Orlando and Fort Myers.

Mr. Harvard was a member of St. Petersburg Yacht Club, Dragon Club, Northeast Racquet Club, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the American Institute of Architects, and St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral and its brotherhood of St. Andrew.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Leila; two sons, William B. Jr. and Lee of St. Petersburg; a daughter, Susan McCloskey, Tampa; and three grandchildren.

A memorial services will be at 2:30 p.m. today at St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral, 140 Fourth St. N. A memorial reception will follow the service.

The family suggested memorial contributions to the church, P.O. Box 1581, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

Anderson-McQueen Funeral Homes, Ninth Street Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.

_ Former Times Staff Writer Dorothy Evans contributed to this obituary. Some information came from stories by Charles Benbow, Dick Bothwell, Piper Castillo, Monica Davey, James Harper and Betty Jean Miller in the Times.