North Port Modernism (NoPoMo) at Warm Mineral Springs

Jack West WMS_WindmillerLundy Motel_WMS_WindmillerWMS sign_WindmillerBy Jifat Windmiller, RA
Penta Windmiller Architecture, PC

An overview of the mid-century modern architecture of North Port, Florida, highlighting the structures at Warm Mineral Springs, including the one-of-a-kind “Cyclorama.”

In the southern portion of Sarasota County, halfway between Venice and Port Charlotte lies the City of North Port, Florida. What is remarkable about North Port is there is a tiny pocket of authentic mid-century modern architectural gems that are barely known or recognized. Some of these are part of the Warm Mineral Springs (WMS) spa, consisting of a naturally occurring warm water mineral spring that was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 for the unique qualities of the spring itself.

Within the last 3 years, WMS has been sold from its longtime heritage of neglectful private ownership into a joint ownership between Sarasota County and the City of North Port, in a 50/50 partnership deal costing $5.5 million of taxpayer money. The County and City are currently at a crossroads as to how to proceed with the future development of site, and an inability to share a common vision for WMS has forced it be shut down. It currently remains closed.

It has a surprisingly rich history, formerly discovered by Ponce de Leon in the 15th century, around the time of Christopher Columbus, and is purported to be the site of the original Fountain of Youth. Geologically it is the result of a one-of-a-kind formation via unique forces at play during the melting of the Ice Age. Even archeologically it is significant, with human bones and artifacts extracted by divers and radiocarbon dated to over 10,000 years ago, the oldest of anywhere in found in the State of Florida. Warm Mineral Springs was also the site for major celebrations during the Florida Quadricentennial in 1959, the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the state of Florida, with a speech read at the site sent there by then President Eisenhower. But up until recently there has been no one to notice, appreciate, or advocate for the beauty and unique cultural significance and heritage of its architecture.

There are several structures on the premises from the 1950’s in various stages of repair. But one stands out from amongst the others, a boarded up though very well preserved structure evocatively named, “The Cyclorama.” Inside is a World’s Fair era amusement type building, with a historical 3-dimensional reenactment of the life of Ponce de Leon, including his discovery of this ever elusive fountain of youth. It would take relatively minor effort to return this gem of a building to its original glory and permit people to have the multi-sensory experience of an architectural joy ride from 1950’s Americana. But the Cyclorama has been closed to the public for very many years, and other than a select few, no one has had the privilege of experiencing its unique splendor.

Other buildings at WMS are also noteworthy and capable of being restored to their original sheen. Nearby on Route 41 is a reasonably well preserved mid-century modern gem of a motel, originally designed by Victor Lundy of the Sarasota School of Architecture and written about in its heyday. The SAF tour on Saturday, November 2, 2013 will include these, as well as a few structures, sculptures, and signs of great appeal.

The decisions which guide the future of all aspects of WMS are being made right now, in 2013. This is the most perfect moment for raising the awareness of what exists at this site. The Friday, November 1, 2013 presentation will offer a virtual walking tour of the tiny enclave of mid-century modern attractions at and around Warm Mineral Springs in North Port Florida, and talk about the history, the present day forces at play, and the possibilities for the future of this most delightful and unforgettable spot. The bus tour on Saturday, November 2, 2013 will offer unparalleled access and will include the fabulous Cyclorama! Don’t miss out! Register today for SAF’s Warm Mineral Springs Events:
11-1-13 Lecture
11-2-13 Bus Tour
More information, contact Jifat Windmiller: jw@pentawind.com

Paul Rudolph’s 95th Birthday Celebration

Become a member of SAF (www.saf-srq.org/membership) and join us for a cake and champagne party in honor of the renowned Paul Rudolph. This SAF Members Only free event on October 23, 2013 from 5 – 6:30 pm will be held poolside @ The iconic Rudolph-designed Umbrella House (1953)*, 1300 Westway Drive, Sarasota, FL 34236.

Click to RSVP
Questions: info@saf-srq.org, 941-364-2199
* Please note: This is an outdoor event with no access to the interior.

10-23-13 Paul Rudolph's 95th Birthday