Famous Blueprints: Our Humble Historic Home



A few years ago we were delighted to discover that our unassuming little home in Grand Bahama was born from famous blueprints—designed by Alfred Browning Parker, whose post-World War II contemporary modernist work in and around Miami made him one of the most sought-after architects in the U.S., garnering high praise even from Frank Lloyd Wright—a guiding influence in Parker’s organic architecture philosophies.


Originally constructed for a former chief executive of The Grand Bahama Development Company, our modest two-bedroom home shares architectural roots with a much grander home, built by one of Freeport’s founding families on Sea Shell Lane. This property was recently sold by Coldwell Banker James Sarles Realty and photographed by fine art photographer Christine Matthäi. Matthäi’s artful images capture the home’s classic oceanfront elegance and the timeless organic nature of Parker’s work.

Sea Shell Lane residence photographed by Christine Matthäi

Parker shared a passion with Frank Lloyd Wright for designs that worked with local climate and natural materials. In tropical climes that meant louvered shutters and windows that allowed prevailing ocean breezes to cool things down in the days before air conditioning became commonplace. Parker’s sensitivity and commitment to use of indigenous materials is also evident in the limestone rock that is incorporated into both our humble abode and the Sea Shell Lane residence.

Beautifully blending local materials, recycled materials with then-modern techniques like poured concrete was part of Parker’s modernist mission. His designs are still relevant today in the way they seamlessly merge the interior with the exterior—blurring the boundaries between building and landscape in classic organic architecture.

Sea Shell Lane photos by Christine Matthäi. 2010 ChristineMatthai.com

In our little part of paradise, the grand old trees that surround the property are visible everywhere and bring a particular kind of contentment and sense of well being found only in the shade of their longevity. Our stands of mature trees were planted by Lila Gonsalves—the first President of the Freeport Garden Club—and I send her quiet thanks on an ongoing basis for the green goodness we regularly enjoy in the garden.  Sir Jack Hayward also had a hand in our arbor abundance, having given the now towering 40-foot tall Royal Poinciana tree that graces the front entry, to the original home owners in a coffee can—a tiny sapling housewarming present that bursts out in dazzling splendour every May & June.

Royal Poinciana entryway tree in full bloom

A kiss of the sun for pardon

The song of the birds for mirth

One is nearer God’s heart in a garden

Than anywhere else on earth.

— Dorothy Frances Gurney


Our small home and the Sea Shell Lane property are the only two known surviving residential works of Alfred Browning Parker on Grand Bahama—a tie to modern day Freeport’s history that still smiles on the ideal of harmony between human habitation and the natural world—an essential element in preserving our island’s inherent beauty and grace as we make our way into the future.

Related Alfred Browning Parker Links:

Alfred Browning Parker: The Master of Coconut Grove:

Modernism Magazine (Volume 11, No. 2 | Summer 2008)

House Beautiful Magazine

The legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright commented on a home Alfred Browning Parker built for himself in the Coral Ridge area of Miami, featured as House Beautiful Magazine’s 1954 Pace Setter House:

“This Florida house aims at the highest goal to which architecture may aspire: organic architecture. Along this new but ancient way a home where the enlightened mind can flower, where people can develop their fullest potentials, is still a possibility.”

Slide Show: More of Christine Matthäi’s photographic images of Sea Shell Lane residence, click here.

Explore posts in the same categories: art, design, Garden, Grand Bahama Island, The Bahamas

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17 Comments on “Famous Blueprints: Our Humble Historic Home”


  1. A beautiful write-up about organic architecture and its lasting imprint on Grand Bahama. The photos are stunning. Everyone should read this piece in order to appreciate the living history that exists here. Thank you for sharing.

  2. paulasparadise Says:

    Thanks for your wonderful note. I consider this high praise indeed from an organization that is working so hard to preserve and honor all the parts of our Grand Bahama culture and history through a variety of artistic projects that deserve our support. Thank you!

  3. Joyce Harrison Says:

    Paula, what a wonderful bit of Grand Bahama history. You touched briefly on it at book club but your musings regarding your bit of paradise were great. See you soon. I return to the “rock” on Monday.


  4. What a great post Paula! So interesting to find out the history of certain things. I’ll definetly share this with Don I know he’ll be most interested!

  5. Myra Says:

    Hi Paula,

    Your place looks gorgeous, and your blog is nicely done. Good writing and lovely artwork. If you ever want to swap
    houses, let me know.

    • Paula's Paradise Says:

      Thanks, Myra! The gorgeously photographed house is not ours, but one created by the same architect that designed our little place (the one over the graphic of the blueprints!) Our grand old trees are quite stunning though (and I actually like a not-so-big cozy house!) Thanks for your note and kind words!


  6. thanks for visiting my blog! This is a lovely post, it must be so nice to know that your home is part of architectural history! The photos are wonderful too

    • Paula's Paradise Says:

      Thank you—I am enjoying keeping up with your writings on the natural wonders in Scotland (quite a few close friends here who hail from or have ties to that lovely part of the world!).

  7. Dr. Galen Harris Says:

    Paula:

    How lucky you are. Lived just up the street from you for many years. Spent most of my time in the Hayward home. Was chatting last week with friends and telling them of fond memories in front of Jack’s fireplace with storms raging outside. Good food, wonderful conversations – miss them.

    Your pictures and posting are a wonderful treat.

    Thank you.

    Galen

  8. Paula's Paradise Says:

    Dr Harris:

    Thank you so much for your warm note. So lovely to hear about some of the good memories the Sea Shell Lane home holds.

    The timing of your comment is also wonderful. I just this afternoon received a link from an architect who is writing a book about Alfred Browning Parker, noting a short video produced recently as part of a Lifetime Achievement Award given to Parker by the American Institute of Architects, Miami Chapter. Thought you might enjoy it too:

    http://www.designbook.us/events/abp

    Many thanks and all best wishes,

    Paula

  9. Dr Galen Harris Says:

    Pauly:

    First – please call me Galen.

    Secondly – thank you for the note and link. Very enjoyable. When I lived in Lucaya – Parker was very active in the Bahamas. It is my understanding that your home and the Hayward’s are the last two on Grand Bahama. What a shame.

    The Grove home (Jack’s neighbor) was a Parker design. It was larger – but had smaller rooms, lower ceilings and didn’t seem to flow together. Never really liked that house.

    When I left Freeport for Bermuda – the interior decorator for the Hayward home was living in the guest cottage. He had been there for 9 or 10 years still decorating. Often wondered how long he stayed.

    Once again – thanks for the note. You and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

    Galen

    • Dr Galen Harris Says:

      Paula:

      Please excuse another public note to you – but just read my reply and realized I typed Pauly instead of Paula. That’s what I get for typing without my glasses.

      Ciao,

      Galen

      • Paula's Paradise Says:

        Galen:

        Thank you for both of your wonderful notes (and I was just searching for my reading glasses myself!).

        It is a pity the home Parker designed for the Groves no longer exists, but your description gives me a another perspective to consider. I was told the Groves entertained extensively downstairs during the island’s development, and used the upstairs as more of a private residence.

        Loved hearing about the Hayward interior decorator. Your memories of that special time in Freeport’s history are a treasure! As far as I know, our home and the Hayward home are the two remaining Parker designs still intact out of the many island buildings to which he lent his hand.

        If you like, I’ll keep you posted on any news on the release of the book being written about Alfred Browning Parker (which will hopefully have more information on Parker’s work here), and I’ll send you a separate note in a moment with my personal email.

        Many thanks and joyous wishes for a happy holiday season,

        Paula

  10. DeShea Dean Says:

    Hi Paula;

    I stumbled across your blog through Laurie’s “Grand Bahama Flash Mob” article. I really enjoyed reading about the architecture on Sea Shell Lane. What a beautiful home! I’ve always loved driving around Grand Bahama and looking at the different architectural influences, one wouldn’t expect to see on a island. Your article has definitely inspired me to not only “drive by” and wonder but to actively research a vital and enriching part of Grand Bahama’s history. Thank you again.

    • Paula's Paradise Says:

      Dear DeShea,

      Thanks so much for your kind words and thoughtful note. I am especially glad that the Sea Shell Lane property, as well as our own little Alfred Browning Parker-designed home still exist as a reminder of Parker’s organic philosophies and willingness to be involved in designing places spanning a wide range of price points and purposes. I was sad to learn that Parker passed away a couple of few weeks ago (age 94), and I plan to post another tribute to him and his inspiring work soon. Grand Bahama was quite the happening place in the early 1960s and attracted quite a few creative visionaries, movers, and shakers in all sorts of fields. Here’s to Grand Bahama setting its sights on building a new tomorrow—by design—and by building a community where creative expression flourishes through a fresh organic embracing of the past, present, and future. Oh my, I do get a bit misty eyed and sounding like I’m making a campaign speech when I start thinking about the incredible possibilities and natural beauty that are here to be celebrated! Happy rantings anyway. If you ever want to get together and chat when you’re back home, I’d love to catch up! Hugs and many thanks for taking time to comment!


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