Riverside Baptist Church
Built in 1925 by Addison Mizner.
Riverside Baptist Church is the only religious building designed by flamboyant Palm Beach architect, Addison Mizner. A native of California, he became the architect of choice for the wealthy clientele of Palm Beach. Mizner is credited with re-making Palm Beach, and influenced the popularity of Mediterranean influenced architecture, predominately the Spanish Eclectic Style and pervasively known as Mediterranean Revival, in Florida that came to be associated throughout state with the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s. Also known as the Palm Beach Style, his architecture, which was predominately residential, is characterized by irregular massing, colonnades, terra cotta tiles, cast stone, wrought-iron, stucco finish, casement windows, Starting with his early visits to Latin America and later Spain, Mizner became involved in architectural salvage, removing tiles, paintings, gates, paneling, and religious artifacts from abandoned and deteriorated ancient churches. He also opened Mizner Industries that manufactured roofing tile, cast stone, panels, pecky cypress, as well as furniture pre-maturely aged.
Representatives of Riverside Baptist Church sought Mizner’s services in designing a new sanctuary, but the architect refused stating health issues and being over extended. According to oral tradition, he was convinced to design the building after hearing of prayerful intervention by members of the church for improvement in his health. Not charging any fees for his service, it is also reported that he may have agreed to do so to keep a promise to his mother to design a church. He may have also used this as an opportunity to expand his businesses in Jacksonville. Although setting up a real estate and interior design office in the Old Duval Hotel, no other designs in Jacksonville have been documented as being the work of Mizner.
Being an Episcopalian with no familiarity with the Baptist faith, Mizner designed a sanctuary that reflected a medieval Spanish mission in the shape of a Greek cross with octagonal nave, all reflecting elements of Romanesque, Byzantine and Spanish church architecture. To give the church an Old World atmosphere, Mizner aged the walls with milk and rubbed with amber, while allowed the wrought iron to naturally oxidize. Salvaged floor tiles from a 16th century Spanish cathedral were used in the sanctuary which was further highlighted with stone carvings, religious ornamentation, and statuary. Reportedly some members resigned due to his design being too Catholic or Episcopal and felt the architect was mocking them as evident by a Monk and nun carved on the transept wall of the exterior. Reportedly, Mizner took the design seriously and sat on crate every day for a week on site to study movement of light which he incorporated in the design of the sanctuary windows that feature a bluish blush diffused from the blue-tinted windows with golden amber in the rear window over altar.
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