Riverside Baptist Church

2650 Park Street

Date: 1924-1925
Architect: Addison Mizner – Palm Beach
Builder: Ponder-Hammell Company

Addison Mizner was the flamboyant architect of great mansions in Palm Beach and Boca Raton and was the most important individual in popularizing the Mediterranean Revival style in Florida during the boom years of the 1920’s. Although Mizner was not known for his religiosity, he was persuaded by Dr. Marshall Taylor and other members of Riverside Baptist to design this church. Perhaps because Mizner had promised his mother that he would design a church in her memory, he agreed to work on Riverside Baptist, the only church he ever designed. Mizner charged no fee for this work. True to the architect’s eclectic tastes, the resulting building combines ingredients of Romanesque, Byzantine and Spanish church architecture. Built in the shape of a Greek cross, the church has a large octagonal nave at its center. The interior and exterior are richly adorned with stone carvings, religious ornamentation, and statuary. The red tiles used on the floor were obtained by Mizner from the ruins of a 16th-century Spanish cathedral. Upon completion of the building, some members of the congregation resigned, complaining that the new church was better suited to Episcopal or Catholic taste. Such humorous touches as the sculptured faces of a nun and a monk looking down from the transept walls led some members to feel the architect was mocking them. However, there is evidence Mizner took the design very seriously. Before beginning his design, he sat on a crate every day for a week in the vacant lot, studying the movement of light on the building site. As a result of this careful study, a pleasant bluish light is diffused over the congregation from the blue-tinted windows high above, and the altar is illuminated with a golden glow from the amber windows in the rear gable. The walls of the church were sprayed with milk and rubbed with umber to simulate centuries of age and to create an Old World atmosphere. Riverside Baptist Church displays the vivid genius of Addison Mizner and ranks as one of the most remarkable churches in Florida.


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