Addison Mizner’s influential style continues to shape Palm Beach and Boca Raton’s architectural ambiance. And yet, what some consider Mizner’s magnum opus, his only religious building, remains far-removed from this protective limelight. One of 16 churches and more than 2,000 contributing buildings comprising Jacksonville’s Riverside Historic District, the Riverside Baptist Church is as distant geographically as it is economically from Mizner’s pervasive South Florida presence where appreciation for his work evolved from indifference and mockery to reverence. While this remoteness could be seen as the reason it has escaped major modifications, demolition or the impulse to be modern that beset many of even Mizner’s finest works, it is also a cause for concern whether there are available resources that will insure its preservation for another century.
During a recent visit I noticed the landmarked building’s exterior appeared stabilized but interior aesthetic and structural elements were noticeably distressed since my last stopover nine years ago. As much as I value a worn patina and displays of the aging process and the church is to be commended for preserving a significant page in architectural history, I was alarmed by the decomposition of Mizner’s original designs. Significant painted figurative scenes and geometric designs have faded into near oblivion. Light fixtures need restoration. The nave’s scored stucco walls show surface deterioration. Wrought iron and stone work require maintenance and refurbishment. By restoring the sanctuary’s original visual character, the church recaptures its historic sense of time and place.
For more information contact Riverside Baptist Church
Photography by Augustus Mayhew.
Augustus Mayhew is the author of Palm Beach-A Greater Grandeur