Between father and son, James Gamble Rogers II and Jack Rogers have a combined 102 years of experience practicing architecture in Winter Park.
Gamble first set his eyes on Winter Park in 1917, Jack said, after he visited the city for his uncle’s wedding.
“‘I think Winter Park was an awfully nice place to live,’” Jack recalls his father telling him as to why he had chosen to move from Daytona Beach and open his business here in 1928.
Gamble founded the RLF architecture firm and began to help craft the architectural design that Winter Park still boasts today by designing historical buildings such as what is now the Casa Feliz Home Museum on Park Avenue.
In 1965, his son Jack joined the firm and the pair began to work together in architectural design until Gamble retired in 1985. Their last project together was the design of the Olin Library at Rollins College. Jack took over his father’s firm and later retired in 2006.
Last month, the pair received the American Institute of Architects Orlando Chapter’s Medal of Honor for their outstanding work in the Central Florida community.
James Gamble Rogers II, who was posthumously awarded the medal, was not always praised for his innovative architecture, Jack said.
In the 1930s, when he took his test to become a licensed architect in the state of Florida, Gamble was asked to design a luxury hotel. His product was one of great stature designed around an open courtyard. A jury of architects from around the state reviewed the plans to determine his fate.
“They took one look at the solution and the position of all these rooms designed around a centralized atrium, and they said ‘This is too impractical to pass,’” Jack said. “They flunked him on it.”
Forty years later, Jack said, in the 1970s, John Portman, an architect in Atlanta, built a hotel with the same concept and it was heralded as having redefined hospitality architecture. “My father was just 40 years too soon on his design.”
After passing the exam, Gamble put to use in Winter Park the thinking that had once failed him. His designs are now credited with having helped to define the architectural style that Winter Park still sports today.
“I think he more than any other architect defined the architecture and urban development of Winter Park,” RLF Chairman Ronald Lowry said.
In addition to designing the Olin Library at Rollins College and Casa Feliz, Gamble is responsible for other historical structures in the city, such as the McAllaster House off Alexander Place, Grenada Court on Park Avenue, and the first home he designed in Winter Park, “Four Winds” on the Isle of Sicily. He is also credited with designing the Florida Supreme Court Building in Tallahassee.
The next generation
Jack Rogers brought his father’s business into a new era. Today the firm focuses on institutional projects, including hospitals, higher education buildings, and projects for the national Department of Defense across the country.
Before he retired in 2006, Jack and the RLF firm helped design the Walt Disney Memorial Cancer Institute as well as Moral Welfare and Recreation Projects for military bases in Italy.
Rogers says his favorite projects, however, were helping to design churches and worship centers, from the Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe in Lake Buena Vista, to a 20-feet-by-20-feet prayer chapel in Leesburg. He described the process of designing such buildings as a “labor of love.”
“There’s a passion for those buildings, which is very similar to the passion that people have for their residences,” he said. “It’s on a larger scale, but it’s wonderful to be able to work with people who care that much.”
No matter what the project, Jack took the teaching of his father with him, and he is doing all he can to preserve not only Gamble's legacy, but also the history of Winter Park.
The Friends of Casa Feliz presented the fifth annual James Gamble Rogers II Colloquium on Historic Preservation on April 27, where Jack spoke to residents about his father’s legacy in Winter Park.
“The history is in place, the buildings are in place,” Jack said. “What we have to do is get together to have a mindset to protect it and preserve it.”
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