Photo courtesy of Max Strang

Architect Max Strang is revisiting mid century modern past in new project in Winter Haven, Florida. In 1954, architect Gene Leedy moved from Sarasota to the small unassuming town of Winter Haven. It’s about and hour and forty five minutes away from Sarasota. 

At the time Winter Haven was known mostly for Cypress Gardens, orange trees, lakes and where the Boston Red Sox did spring training. It hasn’t changed all that much except that Cypress Gardens left, Legoland came and the Red Sox left. 

It remained Leedy’s home until November of 2018, when he passed away at the age of 90. 

Gene Leedy designed house
Photo courtesy of Max Strang

Winter Haven isn’t a place that most would associate with a man who was a part of the Sarasota School of Architecture (also known as Sarasota Modern), founded by Ralph Twitchell. Other members of  included Paul Rudolph, Tim Seibert Carl Abbott, William Rupp, Victor Lundy, Jack West and Mark Hampton. This ideological school were some of the most talented architects in the world at the time. 

Leedy made quite an impression on his community not only for his work, but because of his warmth. As one person told me, he seemed like a character out of Mad Men. 

An early photography of the Leedy residence (1957).
An early photography of the Leedy residence (1957). Courtesy of Max Strang

One of the people that he made an impact on was Max Strang, who is now a successful architect in his own right. He has offices in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Sarasota. Max who is 48 grew up in Winter Haven. His father and Leedy were friends, and Max interned for Gene when he was in college. Leedy has been an influence and the two remained friends until the end of Leedy’s life. 

Max Strang FAIA in the courtyard of the Leedy Residence
Max Strang FAIA featured in the courtyard of the Leedy Residence in 2019. Strang and his firm are spearheading a renovation of the home.

Max and Gene were working on a project they called the reissues. The reissue project comprises of new designs by Strang, and renovations of old designs. The new designs will reference and be an extension and a continuation of Leedy’s work in Winter Haven.  

Leedy lived on Drexel Avenue from 1956 until his death. Drexel has come to be known as Leedy Row. His home was one of ten that he designed on that road. Seven are on the audio tour that can be found on Gene Leedy’s website. The audio tour is way to explore Leedy Row, and throughout the town you can see his other designs. Unfortunately three of his houses on Drexel have been renovated beyond recognition. 

Construction will soon commence on a Leedy-inspired home in Winter Haven designed by Strang’s firm.
Construction will soon commence on a Leedy-inspired home in Winter Haven designed by Strang’s firm. Courtesy of Max Strang

The first phase of Strang’s reissue project is in motion. Strang along with investors just purchased the Leedy house. It’s the house he lived in when he died. It was built in 1956. It is also known as a Craney Spec Home. Craney was the builder of the Leedy Row houses. 

The house was beat up pretty badly in 2017 by Hurricane Irma. Strang will restore it to what it once was. His future plan is to design and build homes in the same neighborhood that are based on the originals thus continuing Leedy’s legacy. 

Later this year, Strang will be offering conceptual drawings that will be available for purchase and can be downloaded online. For more information about the project email info@strang.design.