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RUFUS H. NIMS, AIA (1913-2005)

Born in Pensacola FL in 1913, Nims went to NC State University to study journalism. After completing his first year he bought a Ford for $5 and drove to Oklahoma to join his father on a construction job. There he saw a structure that had a profound effect on him and changed his major to architecture. We'd like to know what that was! Do you know?

Nims graduated from NC State in 1934 with a degree in Architectural Engineering. After graduating he sought adventure aboard a freighter ship as a merchant seaman. He returned to Raleigh to work with Thomas Cooper. There he designed his own house in Raleigh, below. Nims moved to Miami in 1943, started his firm in 1945, and lived there the rest of his life. He is best known for designing the Howard Johnson motel template from which many were built. 

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Nims was one of a handful of architects who defined the modern tropical house following World War II before central air-conditioning. Throughout his career, Nims received more than 18 national and international awards for architecture including the AIA Florida Silver Medal. Nims' work, especially houses in Florida and the Caribbean, is archived at the University of Florida. Many thanks to researcher Catherine Westergaard Cramer.


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1938 - The Rufus Nims House, 1506 Canterbury Road, Raleigh NC. Sold in 1942 to Ronie Sheffield. Sold in 1981 to Paul and Judy Swenson who still owned it as of 2012. 


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1938 - The R. S. Matthews House, 506 Dogwood Drive, Chapel Hill NC. Thomas Cooper was too busy to take the project on and gave the work to Nims, then a draftsman. It would become the first ranch-style house in town, an island of modern design in a sea of colonial revivals. The living room is triangular, and each room of the house has an outside door, said to be because the first owner had claustrophobia.  Sold to Josephine Pritchard in 1940. Sold to Catherine Peele in 1941. Sold to Agnes Lepper in 1951. Sold to Elizabeth Williams in 1979. Sold to Terry Hudgins in 1990, after which Dail Dixon did renovations. As of 2013 still owned by Terry Hudgins. Photo by Julie Hollenbeck.


 1946 - The $5,000 G. I. House Plans, Miami FL. Unsure if built. Featured in the Miami News, May 13, 1946. The AIA sponsored a design competition for a “$5,000 GI House” in 1946, drawing notable submissions from Parker, Polevitzky, Nims, and many others. These houses were designed as prototypes meant to be built en masse. While the competition specifically addressed the needs of GIs, they reflected the aspirations of other Florida newcomers, both young families and retirees.  


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1946 - Bay Harbor Island, Miami. Two islands being constructed by Howard Kane, developer. Elaborate apartment house plans. Opened September 1946. Status unknown.


  

1947 - The Harry Eisenberg House, aka The Flexible House, 3542 Flamingo Drive, Miami Beach FL. Designed with Wahl Snyder. Sold in 1952 to George Goldberg.


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1948 - The House of the Future Development, South 20th Avenue and Wiley Street, Hollywood FL. Twenty homes. Interiors by George Farkas. Example house: 2019 Wiley Street.


1948 - The Paul L. Robinson House, 4150 Crawford Avenue, Coconut Grove, Miami FL. Attributed to Nims in The Miami News, 10/22/1950, though he later had no knowledge of designing it. Sold to Louis and Jean Johnson. Sold to to Louis and Jean Johnson who extensively remodeled it. Sold in 1984 to Clement S. Crystal.


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1948 - 858 NE 97th Street, Miami Shores FL.








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1949 - The Charles Roman Residence, 5261 NE 5th Avenue, Miami FL. Sold in 2015 to Jetson Corporation, who did not move in and the house was vacant two years. For sale in 2020.


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Around 1949 - The January 1950 Holiday Magazine featured a Nims house in an article entitled "Homes in the Sun." Status unknown.


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1950 - The Four Corners House, aka House on Corner of Patio. Status unknown.


1950 - Residential Development for August Tobler, between NW 5th and 6th Avenues and 126th and 129th Streets, Miami FL. 50 homes, CA bungalow style. There were 6 floor plans and owners could choose exterior design. Example house: 520 NW 127th Street, sold in 2013 to Wilson and Maria Cerrato Rodriguez.


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1951 - The Sky House, condominium concept, Key West FL. Status unknown.


1951 - The JNK Builders and Developers Housing Development (William Jameson, Nims and others), Flagler Avenue between 17th and 19th Streets, Key West FL. 44 houses were all approximately 1,100 sf. 


  

 1951 - The Kinsman House, 3695 Matheson Avenue, Miami FL. Two-story duplex, one was a bedroom/bath unit for their son. Sold around 2016 to David M. Turner. Appears to have been updated.


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Nims Adler Guest House in Florida

1951 - The Ralph W. Adler House, 235 North Hibiscus Drive, Hibiscus Island, Miami Beach FL. Bottom photo is of guest house.


 1952 - The Paul Willens House, 600 West 51st Terrace, Miami Beach FL. Sold to William and Denise Kranichfeld. Sold in 1998 to Francois and Maria Englemajer.


 1953 - aka Small House Plan, Orlando FL. Status unknown.


 

1953 - The Angelo A. Barbieri House, 144 South Hibiscus Drive, Hibiscus Island, Miami Beach FL. Featured in The Miami News, 5/23/1954. Sold in 1955 to Beverly Fisher. Destroyed. New house built in 1998.


1953 - The Ron Stillman House, Miami FL. Status unknown.


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1953 - The J. Jamieson House, Miami FL. Status unknown.


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1954 - The Jerry Conrad House, Miami FL. Aka the Cook House, the Nagler House. Status unknown.


1955 - The Albree E. Miller House, Palm Island, Miami FL. Designed with Robert B. Browne. Featured in Architectural Record Houses of 1956Status unknown.


1955 - The D. G. Williams House, Hibiscus Island, Miami Beach FL. Designed with William Jameson.  Featured in House & Home, March 1954. Status unknown.


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1956 - A Salhaven Village House, part of a short-lived retirement village in Jupiter FL. Photo by Rudi Rada. Status unknown.


 1956 - aka House for Frigidaire Series, aka Kitchen Plan Program. In July of 1955, Frigidaire asked architects Robert Little, Carl Koch, Harwell Hamilton Harris, A. Quincy Jones/Frederick Emmons, and Nims to design houses showcasing the kitchen. One could order the booklet for $1.00. Published in several January 1956 newspapers plus the July 1955 issue of House & Home magazine. Status unknown.


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1956 - The John H. Messmore House, 100 Sonomo Avenue, Redington Beach FL. Commissioned 1954. Featured in Architectural Record Houses of 1957. Status unknown.


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1956 - The LaRicos House, Roanoke County VA. Status unknown.


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1956 - The Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity House, University of Florida, Gainesville. Destroyed.


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1957 - The Nat Ratner House, 1 Palm Avenue, Palm Island, Miami Beach FL. Featured in Progressive Architecture, January 1958, and Arts & Architecture, February 1958.


1957 - 10520 SW 124th Street, Miami FL. For sale in 1971. Sold to Gerald and Diane Cooke. Sold in 2009 to Daniel Marmorstein.


 

1959 - The Ben Bloom House, Keystone Island #5, Miami FL. Status unknown.


 

1960 - The K. C. Moore Builder House, Pine Street, west end of Orange Gardens, Kissimee FL. Street names have changed; needs verification.


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Around 1961 - The Woman's Day Vacation House. According to Dr. David Hill of NCSU, "between 1958 and 1963 Woman's Day magazine commissioned seven different architects to design summer cabins." Nims was one of those architects. We don't know if his design was ever built.


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1961 - The Mrs. J. B. Hoffman House, Coral Gables FL. Unbuilt.


1962 - aka Nuclear Survival Shelter, through Styleview Aluminum Awnings. Unknown if any were built.


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1962 - Various house plans/models, Bolivia. No indication these were built.

1963 - The Robert Goldman Condominium, Marion County FL. This was probably part of a development. Unbuilt.

 1963 - The Burl Johnson House, Magens Bay area, St. Thomas Virgin Islands. Unbuilt.

 1963 - The Bokone Hills Housing Development, Monrovia, Liberia. 500 one-story houses with 2-4 bedrooms. Developed by Burl Johnson and the International Trust Company of Liberia. Unbuilt. 

1963 - Apartments for Burl Johnson, Merritt Island FL. High density condominium type houses or apartments, 20 units per acre. Unbuilt.

 

 1963 - The West Bay Beach Development aka Cayman Sands Village, Maple Leaf Enterprises, Ltd, West Bay Beach, British West Indies. 


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1965 - The Montserrat Housing Development for Charles Koche and Burl Johnson, Island of Monserrat, British West Indies. Unbuilt.

 1965 - The Berry Hill Barn Living Units, Don Rise Developer, Grand Kayman Island. 26 living units for land plan in Kayman Kay. Unbuilt.


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1966 - aka Boulder Hill Ranch, Aurora IL.


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1967 - The J. Goodkin House, Keystone Island #5, North Miami FL. Commissioned 1966. Unbuilt.

1967 - aka Sweetland. Unbuilt.


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1968 - The Sam and Frances Coslow House, 21 Palm Avenue, Palm Island, Miami Beach FL. Nims also designed furniture for the house. Commissioned 1966.


1968 - The Clifford Straus House, aka Igloo, Key Biscayne FL. Nims experimented with applying concrete or stucco through a spray gun, making building cheaper. The use of shotcrete was thinner, which gave Nims a lot of freedom in creating free-forms. Drawing from the Miami Herald, June 10, 1973. Unsure if built.  


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1969 - The Alan Hutchison House, Grand Cayman, British West Indies. Commissioned 1966. Unbuilt.


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1971 - The Charles Hall House. Status unknown.


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1972 - The Howard and Rosalie Aronson House, 4538 East Lake Road, Cazenovia NY. Plans drawn first by Nims, a second set by William Oliver. Another house designed for them in Florida in 1989.


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1972 - Housing Development Studies, Curacao. Product of Steelco. Unbuilt.

 1973 - The Thomas Collens House, Key Biscayne FL. Unbuilt.

 1973 - The Frank Hudson House, Old San Antonio Road, 8 miles north of Benchley. No location listed but this was near Benchley TX along the Old San Antonio Road, aka County Line Road. Likely unbuilt. 


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1973 - The Clifford Straus Studio, 592 Fernwood Road, Key Biscayne FL. Alterations. Destroyed around 2005. Not the "igloo" house designed in 1968.


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1973 - The Barnett Guthartz House. Guthartz was a developer in the Palm Beach area. 


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1974 - 300 Island Drive, Key Biscayne FL. For sale in 1978 as a Nims house in the Miami News. Destroyed in 1996.


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1977 - The Joyce Mitchell Apartment, 404 Building 1 Quayside, Miami FL. Unbuilt. 

1979 - The Fred C. Berg House, Plantation Key FL. Two story house, plans only, no indication built.  

1979 - The Jean Paul Barbier House, Island Drive, Key Biscayne FL. Early schematic drawings only, unbuilt.

Around 1980 - The John Hamer House. No location. Unbuilt.

1980 - Residences: Playas de Punta Leona, Punta Leona Costa Rica. Commissioned 1976. Unbuilt. He also designed Villas for the same area, also unbuilt.


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1981 - The James McDonald House, Grand Cayman, British West Indies. Commissioned 1973. There was a James McDonald who was a lawyer who moved to Grand Cayman with his wife Eileen in the 1970s, then there is a builder named Jim McDonald who did work with Nims on a group of townhouses, a Uni-Built system, in Grand Cayman. Not sure if these are the same person. He also designed a home for James and Eileen in Miami that appears to be unbuilt.


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1981 - The Florida-Atlantic Builder's Association House. This may have been a design for the Affordable House Home Show, April 1981, a full size, 2-bedroom house built inside the Town Center. Status unknown.


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1984 - Hotel and Transient Housing for College of Boca Raton FL. Unbuilt. Commissioned 1983.


 

1989 - The Otto Cohen House, 1 DiLido Drive, DiLido Island, Miami Beach FL. Not sure how long they lived there or if they ended up living there as the collection shows "remodeled for Garrison Boyce and Donald Laier (art glass designers)" in 1989. Sold in 2011 to race car driver Luca Fendi, who destroyed it and built a new house, Villa Fendi, photo. Sold in 2013. Needs verification.


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1989 - The Dave and Kathleen Robinson House. Unbuilt.

1989 - The Howard and Rosalie Aronson House, 4666 Bocaire Blvd, Boca Raton FL. Needs verification.


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1992 - The Mark Ancet House Addition, 7790 SW 110, Miami FL. Destroyed in 2007 and a new house built.


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1995 - The Sarah M. Nims House, Woodford KY. His daughter. Unbuilt.


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Year unknown - aka City House. Unbuilt.


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Year unknown - The Don Verkins House. 3 bedroom atrium house, no location. Collection includes drawings, some with corrections. Found another house for Verkins but not as described. Unbuilt.


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Year unknown - The C. F. Bohlig House, Naples FL. Unbuilt.

Year unknown - The B. I. Binder House, Miami Beach FL. Unbuilt. Binder was the operator/owner of the Lucerne Hotel.

Year unknown - The Elieen McDonald House, Miami FL. Unbuilt. This was the wife of James McDonald who Nims designed homes for in the British West Indies. Year unknown house just listed under her name.

 Year unknown - The Nosara Development, Nosara Beaches, Costa Rica. Unbuilt.

 Year unknown - The Roscoe House. Unbuilt.


Sources include: Catherine Westergaard Cramer, Son Cameron Nims, Terry Hudgins, Dail Dixon