When Eduardo Goudie first saw the large, neglected home and guest house at 2320 Segovia Circle in Coral Gables, he saw something few others did.
Beneath the dirt, damage, and detritus, his expert eye saw a rare and remarkable piece of the City Beautiful’s architectural heritage on the verge of being lost forever.
Of course, as the head of Florida’s Best Awards platinum-winning Crawford Residences, renowned for their skilled craftsmanship and excellence in every detail, Goudie sees architecture in any condition in a way most of us can’t.
Without even having access to inspect the property, he determined then and there to buy it, acquire historic landmark recognition for it, and restore it to what he was sure (and in short order would confirm) was a magnificent pre-WWII Art Moderne showcase home – one of the few ever built in Coral Gables.
And thank heaven
From Ruin to Registered Historic Residence
Anyone who loves Coral Gables, South Florida history, and the preservation of our tangible touchstones of identity and sense of place can’t help but admire Mr. Goudie’s astonishing achievement with his labor of love. (Go ahead and click through if you can’t wait for the jaw-dropping Before & After tour at the end of this post! The main house has 2 bedrooms upstairs, 1 guest bedroom and an adjacent den downstairs, plus 4.5 bathrooms. The guest house has 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom.)
Certainly, the original owner and architect would have experienced quite the emotional roller coaster to see what had become of their masterpiece over the decades — surviving 6 families into a new millennium only to fall into wrack and ruin, then ultimately being saved from demolition by one resolute man with a passion for historic restoration.
Its history, rarity, and “time vault” elements make this home such a vital piece of the city’s heritage that on July 20, 2017, the Historic Preservation Office of The City of Coral Gables granted Mr. Goudie’s request to register the property with Historic Designation for Architectural Significance.
Today, the 4,431 sq ft home on the 13,636 sq ft property at 2320 Segovia Circle — leading into Segovia Plaza (built in 1920) and neighboring Granada Golf Course (opened in 1923, the oldest operating 9-hole course in America) — is a one-of-a-kind jewel awaiting a family that will love and appreciate its 81-year story.
Birth of a Landmark
The city that had been booming in the early 1920s under patriarch George Merrick’s lavish, Spanish Mediterranean-influenced vision was now struggling just to survive over a decade of back-to-back-to-back calamities – the crushing 1925 land bust, the massive destruction of the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane, and the economic devastation of the Great Depression.
Vast tracts of the city were in ruins, banks were collapsing like dominoes, construction ground to a near halt, and one in four Floridians were enrolled in government relief programs.
But by 1938, thanks in large part to President Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives, better times were on the way.
At this turning of the tide, Dr. C.H. Neill saw that his time had come to build a dream home for his wife, Ruby, and their two little boys, James and William. Dr. Neill had been practicing medicine since 1899, when he first hung his shingle in Minneapolis. Now one of the original snowbirds living and thriving in South Florida, he purchased two parcels of land that swept down to the lovely, prominent Segovia Plaza and set about putting the cherry atop his already fruitful American Dream.
After all the difficulties of 1926-1937, the extravagance of the soaring, intricately ornamented Mediterranean Revival style that had driven Merrick’s vision for the city had fallen out of favor.
People were now drawn to simpler Minimalist designs, reflecting the more practical sensibilities that resulted from the hard times borne by their communities. They also found appealing the sleek finishes, geometric features, and low, long horizontal lines of the dawning modern age, which made their way into architecture via the Art Moderne style that Neill selected for his grand plan.
William Shanklin, a Mississippi native with a Cornell University Bachelor of Architecture degree, was the partner Dr. Neill selected to build his home. Shanklin had been working in Miami since 1926. By 1930, he’d become a prominent member of the Coral Gables building community. He had an office on Ponce de Leon Blvd and served as a member of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals. In 1938, his reputation was widespread, thanks to the many notable Coral Gables and Miami Beach homes he’d designed, including several in the Country Club of Coral Gables Historic District.
The Mystery of the Master Plan
The permit to build the home was issued on October 31, 1938. Alas, the plans appear not to have survived into the 21st century. Despite an exhaustive search, they have never been located.
Historic photos do survive, however, from as far back as 1940. They show that very few changes have been made to the original, character-defining features of the home, ensuring its historical integrity.
Goudie surveyed and recorded the home’s distinctive Art Moderne characteristics in detail for his historic designation request to the city.
Among its Modernistic qualifications, the 2320 Segovia structure has a horizontal orientation and massing with smooth stucco. A series of low-pitched roofs with wide flat eaves, pronounced fascias, wall-cave moldings, and a narrow masonry screen on the otherwise blank garage wall are dominant factors in establishing the Modernistic horizontal orientation of the home.
Three dominant features establish its look and character: the curved, one-story south wing with a continuous band of ribbon windows; the convex front door surrounded by reeding, low built-in planters, and cascading steps; and the one-story curved bay to the right of the front entry.
The ornamentation is minimal, limited to decorative metal grates on the front door and picture window, as well as the earlier mentioned masonry screen on the garage wall.
For all its clear Art Modern properties, Neill and Shanklin chose to retain a few of the city’s Mediterranean Revival details, perhaps as a tribute to the city’s hurricane-ravaged architectural heritage. These include its single-casement windows, shutters, and projecting bays.
It’s also worth noting that Shanklin designed the curved south wing to echo the street curves of the property’s prominent location on Segovia Plaza. While the property was subdivided in 2016, this feature of the home serves as a permanent, nostalgic nod to the inspiration for its design.
This part of the story, we can think of no better way to tell than with a jaw-dropping Before & After tour. At least one amazing detail, however, must be pointed out. Among so much else that is incredible about the rescue and restoration of this nearly lost treasure, is the treasure-within-the-treasure.
Beneath the worn, dusty, musty carpeting, Goudie discovered the home’s original Italian marble and hardwood floors – kept in pristine condition by the very nature of being unappreciated and covered over for so long. A particularly nice bonus for the future homeowner!
Goudie’s restoration masterpiece is currently on the Coral Gables, Florida market for $1.775M.
Watch the remarkable transformation in this Before & After video slideshow.