April 3, 2019 – Paul Rudolph’s internationally acclaimed Umbrella House has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The iconic house, one of Paul Rudolph’s first solo projects as a young architect, was commissioned by entrepreneur Philip Hiss in 1952 to be the eye-catching model home for his new Lido Shores development. Architectural Digest has called the building “One of the five most remarkable houses of the mid-twentieth century.”
Originally fabricated of wooden uprights and tomato stake slats, the home’s “umbrella” shade structure was damaged and then lost in a tropical storm in the 1960s. The house remained “umbrella-less” for 50 years, until its restoration was begun in 2011.
Owners Anne and Bob Essner received notification of the NRHP designation on Feb. 11, 2019. “We knew this house was special and that people should care about its preservation,” says Anne, “but we also knew how relentless development forces make these mid-century structures vulnerable to destruction. Once we found out Umbrella House was for sale, we decided we wanted to be the ones to safeguard its future. This beautiful building is one of Sarasota’s architectural gems and we are delighted this has been recognized by the National Register.”
The Umbrella House is only the 78th building in Sarasota County to receive the historic designation, and only the ninth Sarasota School of Architecture design on that list. Since the restoration, the Essners have given extensive access to the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF), which hosts on-site events and fundraising tours of the house.
“The Umbrella House amplifies the ‘can-do’ optimism of post-war America,” says SAF board chair Christopher Wilson. “Rudolph created intelligent architecture—simple, well-considered and beautiful. It’s unlike anything that came before it.”
“This designation is validation,” says architect Greg Hall, who oversaw the four-year restoration. “I believe there’s long been a prejudice against modernism in the national conversation. To me, this represents a broadening of perspectives. The Sarasota School of Architecture has always been important for us here in Sarasota. Now its importance is being recognized throughout the United States.”
The Umbrella House restoration received the 2016 Florida Trust for Historic Preservation Outstanding Achievement Award, 2016 Florida AIA Honor Award of Excellence for Historic Preservation/Restoration and the 2016 Florida Gulf Coast Chapter AIA Honor Award for Historic Preservation and Rehabilitation.
The Sarasota School of Architecture movement, which attracted like-minded architects drawn to the creative energy of those already working in southwest Florida, found its inspiration in part from the post-World War I European Bauhaus style. The Sarasota School is characterized by bold horizontal lines, open and airy layouts, innovative materials and a seamless integration within the surrounding Florida environment.