Murry S. King

Through his numerous commissions in the early 1900’s Murry King created the sophisticated image of downtown Orlando with its classical midrise brick and stone landmarks which we still cherish today. The growing highway system was making Orlando more accessible by car. The city was developing a reputation as a tourist destination. Murry King arrived in Orlando at a prosperous time.


Angelbuilt Hotel with the Rose building to the left, COURTESY OF ROBERT EGLESTON


Murry S. King was born in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. He learned carpentry, construction and architectural design while working as a construction superintendent in Pennsylvania. He moved to Orlando with his family of seven children in 1904 at the age of 34. He was influenced by a friend who had moved to Orlando. He first opened a carpentry shop on East Pine Street, but soon was working again as a building contractor. His early work included houses and smaller commercial work.


His first known commission is the Wescot Beardall House at 214 S. Lucerne Circle in 1912. This Italianate home is now used as an office. It features a clay tile roof with broad overhanging eaves and supporting brackets, arcaded porte cochere and windows at the first floor, and second story windows more akin to prairie style but embellished with a decorative relief band below the sills, and elegant brick parapet details on the one story wing which projects toward the street.



Wescot Beardall residence, COURTESY OF ROBERT EGLESTON


Another commission at this time, the Seth B Woodruff house at 263 S. Lucerne Circle is a more mature prairie style design completed in 1916. The shallow arch above the front porch is repeated in the transom windows at each end of the house. The symmetrical design executed in a warm tan brick includes flanking chimneys at both sides of the upper story block.


Woodruff residence, COURTESY OF ROBERT EGLESTON


He also designed the four story Yowell Duckworth (later Ivey’s) Department Store, at 1 South Orange in 1913, the First Presbyterian Church in 1914, the Astor Hotel 215-217 S Orange, and the Grand Theater before 1915.


In the 1920’s as one of the first registered architects of the new state licensure program, his practice flourished. Besides more residences, he completed the Angelbuilt Hotel at 37 North Orange, an eleven story U-shaped tower with a striking two story glass roofed lobby in the center, between 1921-1923. There were additional retail entries in the cut limestone base along the street. The graceful iron canopy on sculpted wrought brackets is still in excellent condition today. The upper tower is red brick with arched windows at the top floor below the robust cornice capping the composition.


Angelbuilt Hotel Entrance canopy, COURTESY OF ROBERT EGLESTON


Also completed in 1923 was the State Bank and Trust Company Building a block away, at 1 North Orange Avenue. A cut stone entablature and cornice terminates the rusticated stone façade of the banking hall, giving way to the brick upper stories. The bank boasts a much more elaborate top with intricate banding at the tenth floor including an ornate frieze, and greek acroterions punctuating the front edge of the top molding finishing the tower against the sky. The Athens Theater, 124 N. Florida Avenue in Deland was finished this year as well.



State Bank and Trust Company Building, COURTESY OF ROBERT EGLESTON


He built the Watkins Block of offices which included his own office in 1923. In some publications, including the Orlando phone book, his name was spelled “Murray” but a photo of his office sign outside the Watkins block spells it correctly “Murry” King. In 1924 he completed the Rose building shaded in pink for developer Walter Rose. The Mediterranean styling includes an unusual sinuous pediment roofline at 49 N Orange, next door to the Angelbuilt. The Park Lake Presbyterian Church, 309 E. Colonial Drive on the edge of Park Lake was also finished that year.


Two neo-classical designs showed how well he understood the intricacies of the style. The Albertson Public library built in 1923, was a beautiful cut stone edifice, beloved by the city it seems, unfortunately for King, replaced in the 1980’s by the current library on Central Avenue. The other is the Beaux Arts Orange County Courthouse built in 1926-27, which was the last building he designed before his sudden death in 1925.


His son, James, B. King, listed as associate architect, completed the structure following Murry’s passing. The exterior was clad in limestone from a quarry in Bloomington, Indiana. The entry steps to the main entrance on Magnolia faced the east, and were of granite from Stone Mountain, Georgia. The entrance is framed by arches in the rusticated stone base. Above this base, a row of Tuscan columns with Tuscan pilasters at the corners supported an entablature which wrapped the building, below an attic story. The beautiful interior included a grand jury room paneled in American Walnut with English Jacobean period carvings and stenciled ceilings. The long columned front was a grand façade for the maturing city. Secondary entrances on the north and south were also well composed.


Orange County Courthouse, East (original) entry façade, COURTESY OF ROBERT EGLESTON


An international style annex was added to the south in 1959, but has since been razed. In 2000, the historic courthouse was renovated as the new home of the Orange County Regional History Center. The grand marble staircase and the grand jury room, also known as the Orange County Commission Room, were preserved and renovated as part of the museum. The original plans for the renovation included the preservation of Courtroom B, but the mural by Aderente and the front of the courtroom were destroyed in a construction fire in 1999. The courtroom was restored using the front portion of Courtroom A, including the oak judge's bench and dais, the witness box, and the William de Leftwich Dodge mural behind the judge's bench which graces the courtroom today.


Orange County Courthouse South restored façade, COURTESY OF ROBERT EGLESTON


Courtroom ‘B’ with bench and mural from Courtroom ‘A’, COURTESY OF ROBERT EGLESTON


King realized in the years after moving to Florida, that the Florida Association of Architects was organizing to establish a state Architect’s licensing program. While he lived a few hours from Jacksonville and further from Tallahassee, he became involved in the professional organization and in 1915 was the president that year. As luck would have it, he received the first license from the newly established program. His architect’s seal is engraved with the number 1.



References:


Murry S. King, Orlando Architect (1870-1925), Sara Van Arsdel, ARCHITECTURAL GUIDE TO CENTRAL FLORIDA, Orlando Foundation for Architecture & AIA Orlando, 2017, pg 26-29


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murry_S._King

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