Jacksonville’s Greatest Architect
By Wayne W. Wood
On May 4, 1901, Henry John Klutho sat at the desk in his New York office, contemplating where he would find his next commission. The 28-year-old architect glanced at the copy of the New York Times lying in front of him and read the day’s main headline, “JACKSONVILLE, FLA., SWEPT BY FLAMES … 130 Blocks of Residences and Business Houses Destroyed.”
Within two months, he had moved his office from New York to Jacksonville, determined to be a leader in the building boom that would surely follow one of the largest urban fires in American history.
Klutho was well-trained in the classical styles of architecture. He had been inspired to enter the architectural profession after seeing the grand Beaux-Arts palaces of the “Great White City” at the Chicago World’s Fair eight years earlier. He had attended Schenk’s Drawing Academy in St. Louis and then spent a year traveling through Europe, studying and sketching the famous buildings of the ancient world.
His first buildings in Jacksonville reflected this classical training. His business acumen, confident personality, and artistic prowess garnered him some of the most sought-after commissions as Jacksonville rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1901. The Dyal-Upchurch Building on Bay Street was the city’s first high-rise in 1902, topping out at five stories. Klutho quickly followed that with the bronze-domed City Hall, then an elegant mansion for businessman Thomas. V. Porter, and next the Jacksonville Public Library. He was also commissioned to design the Governor’s mansion in Tallahassee. All of these structures displayed the strong influence of the Beaux-Arts Classical style.