He didn't have formal training, and he couldn't draw blueprints. But Addison Mizner's architectural style captured clients -- especially the rich.
Born in Benicia, Calif., in 1872 to the U.S. minister to Guatemala, Mizner and his brother Wilson, a Hollywood playwright, traveled around the world at an early age.
He began his career in San Francisco, where he became well-known for his designs, and later moved to New York. But at 46, Mizner became ill and dispirited. He decided to move to Palm Beach.
There, Mizner introduced the Spanish revival architecture. His first commissioned house, El Mirasol, had 37 rooms, a half-dozen patios, an illuminated pool and a 40-car underground garage. "It began looking like a convent and ended looking like a castle," one observer said.
In the spring of 1925, he started Mizner Development Corp. His goal was to turn the tiny unincorporated town of Boca Raton into a luxurious resort community that would rival nearby resort areas.
He bought more than 1,500 acres, including two miles of beach, and sent out promotional material that boasted a 1,000-room hotel, golf courses, parks and a street wide enough to fit 20 lanes of traffic. Other developers followed.
Despite all his efforts, Mizner was hampered by the land bust. Left bankrupt in 1927, he turned to writing. In 1932, he published the first volume of his family's history, "The Many Mizners." In 1933, he died at 61 of a heart attack, leaving the second volume of his memoirs unfinished.
Mizner drew some of his inspiration from a scrapbook of postcards, photographs, drawings and sketches he kept sorted by subjects. He'd browse through the scrapbook whenever he needed an idea.
Striving to capture the diversity of periods and styles that comprise Spanish architecture, he once criticized modern architects for "producing a characterless copybook effect." His ambition, he explained, was to "make a building look traditional and as though it had fought its way from a small unimportant structure to a great rambling house."
Addison Mizner Quotes...
"God gives us relatives; thank God, we can choose our friends"
"The worst-tempered people I've ever met were the people who knew they were wrong"
"Ignorance of the law excuses no man from practicing it"
"Misery loves company, but company does not reciprocate"
"Never call a man a fool; borrow from him"
"Where there's a will, there's a lawsuit"
"Poets are born, not paid"