By: Dr. Brett Gillis
The Paist & Steward-designed 1930s cottage located at 2214 Segovia Circle is looking for its next lucky owner. This residence is significant not only for its original architecture but also for its association with Phineas Paist and Harold Steward.
Mr. Paist was an architect of Quaker decent from Philadelphia that moved to Miami in 1916 to work on Villa Vizcaya. He was one of a few architects in the area with formal training at the time and became well known due to Vizcaya’s huge success. Coral Gables Founder George Merrick brought him on as supervisor of color when Coral Gables was just a fledgling community. Old Spanish/ Mediterranean architecture was so new that Paist provided valuable insight into what colors should be used and how buildings could be constructed in harmony. Miami and Coral Gables grew rapidly from towns on “America’s last frontier” to bustling cities during this time, and Mr. Merrick promoted Paist to the first supervising architect. Harold Steward was Paist’s draftsman during the early 1920s, and the two eventually opened a joint architectural firm. The Paist & Steward partnership produced some of our most cherished buildings—City Hall, San Sebastian Apartments, First Church of Christ Scientist, and several unique residences like this one. Paist’s contribution to Coral Gables history cannot be overstated—he had a hand in designing or approving almost every building that was constructed in Coral Gables in the 1920s and 30s. Mr. Steward went on to open his own firm and become a prominent architect in his own right.
To study 2214 Segovia Circle is to constantly discover new charms. The broad entry loggia is the first to greet owner and guest. This and the squat, whimsical chimney show that this home is somehow special, somehow different from a 1920s home. When 2214 Segovia Circle was built in the 1930s, Coral Gables architects were experimenting with new typologies that moved away from the decorative Mediterranean style that had become passé and tired during the Great Depression. Other lovable features must be the loggia’s moongate “full moon” arch and whimsical masonry planter alongside. To the delight of those that enjoy sipping a cup of morning coffee out of doors, this loggia was positioned to maximize southeastern exposure and thus capture both the morning light and the southern breeze. Inside, the hand-crafted fireplace is an objet d’art, and an original Art Deco bathroom brightens up the most utilitarian of rooms (though, interiors of private homes are not historically designated in Coral Gables like they are in Palm Beach).
Phineas Paist died in 1937, so this was one of his final designs. In a tribute, Richard Kiehnel (who was the father of Mediterranean architecture in greater Miami) wrote: “Paist was a true artist. To him remuneration was not the inspiration for his superior productions. He possessed that rare urge to do everything well and put the full force of his soul into it regardless of size, compensation or importance. He did not measure the scope of his commissions with a yard stick of dollars and cents; so likewise the rare value of his artistic productions cannot be measured by any standard. This is inestimable. This reflects the soul of the true artist” (Florida Architecture and Allied Arts, 1938).
Candy bars are not the only thing that come in fun size! This one-of-a-kind cottage is a gem from the Depression Era when little construction occurred in Coral Gables. With ample room for a tropical garden, a pool, a sensitive addition…. this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make it your own.
What’s more—location, location, location! Segovia Circle has always been one of my favorite, if lesser known, streets in the Gables. Conveniently located near downtown but miles away in spirit, this one-of-a-kind winding street is dotted with numerous historic residences and has a tranquil vibe that transports resident and guest—perhaps to a quaint village in Andalusia or the Coral Gables of our youth.
The thoughts and opinions in this column are my own. This home is currently listed for sale by EWM, but I have not received payment of any kind. I chose to highlight this home because of its special architecture and history.