Roy A. Benjamin Master of Style

By Wayne W. Wood

Although he only had a seventh-grade education, and although over a third of his buildings were built outside of Jacksonville, Roy A. Benjamin was one of this city’s most admired and versatile architects in the first half of the twentieth century. Despite his lack of formal academic training, he mastered more styles of architecture than any of his contemporaries. Perhaps his most astonishing achievement was that he designed over 200 movie theaters, a number surpassed by only a handful of other American architects.

Benjamin’s entry into the field of architecture was the result of a complex interconnection between several Jewish families that immigrated from Prussia (Germany) in the 1800s.

Roy’s father Simon Benjamin came to the United States in 1864 from Prussia and settled in Ocala, Florida. With his brother Solomon, he started a grocery business, and in 1884 they built one of the first commercial ice plants in Florida, the East Florida Ice Manufacturing Co. They were two of the founders of the Silver Springs, Ocala & Gulf Railroad. The brothers also established business interests in Atlanta, including the Atlanta Ice Manufacturing Company, a grocery business, and a large wholesale and retail cigar business under the name of Benjamin Brothers. They were joined in the tobacco business by a family friend, Jerry S. Pinkussohn from Charleston, South Carolina, who introduced Simon to his sister, Carrie. In 1880 Simon married Carrie Pinkussohn, and seven years later their son Roy, the future architect, was born in Atlanta.

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Author: Arbus

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