M. LEO ELLIOT (1886-1967)
Renowned Tampa Architect M. Leo Elliott was born in the Catskill Mountains of New York in 1886. He journeyed to New York City at the age of 15, where he studied at Cooper’s Institute, and received training at New York’s Welch, Smith & Provost. Early in his career he helped design buildings for the Jamestown Exposition of 1907 in Norfolk Virginia.
He relocated to Tampa at the age of 21, formed a partnership with Bayar C. Bonfoey and experienced great success winning design competitions. Together, the team designed the Tampa YMCA in 1909, Centro Asturiano in 1914, and Tampa City Hall in 1915. Elliott went on to design the Italian Club in 1917 and Ybor City’s Cuban Club in 1918.
In 1920, he founded M. Leo Elliott Inc, with offices in Tampa, Sarasota and St. Pete and by 1925 the firm was working on projects throughout Florida. Many of Elliott’s notable Tampa design projects remain in downtown Tampa, on Davis Island and in Temple Terrace.
He designed two of the oldest buildings in Tampa, now part of Florida College’s campus. Sutton Hall – originally the clubhouse for the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club in 1922, and the Student Center – originally the Club Morocco Nightclub and Casino in 1926. Other notable design projects include Temple Terrace Estates, one of the first Mediterranean Revival planned golf course communities in the U.S. was established in 1921. The Temple Terrace Community Church, once known as the Temple Terrace Estates Real Estate Office, was built in 1922 and is among a number of M. Leo Elliott’s designs still standing.
In Sarasota, Elliott designed 1901 Webber Street, now Southside Elementary, (shown on page 65) designed in 1926 in the Mediterranean Revival style and added to the National Historic Register in 1984. In 1926 he also designed the Sarasota High School. In October 2004, the School Board voted to lease the historic Sarasota High School to Ringling College of Art and Design for an adaptive re-use of the facility as the Visual Arts Education Center and the Sarasota Museum of Art. Elliott also designed the second skyscraper in Sarasota; the former American First National Bank building, 1330 Main Street which was added to the National Historic Register in 1998. After an illustrious career designing some of Southwest Florida’s most significant architectural treasures, Elliott retired in 1954 and passed away in 1967.
Mr Elliott’s love of architecture was passed down to his grandchildren. One of his three grandchildren, Lynn Elliott Rydene, is a respected interior designer in Tampa today. “My memories of my grandfather involve pranks at Palma Ceia during family dinners, playing with the poker chips on the floor in his den, and his unbelievable bar, wallpapered in his worthless stock certificates from the crash. My interest (in architecture) began early: instead of playing with dolls, I designed floor plans in concrete on the sidewalk. This came naturally to me. I work with R James Robbins, who also worked with Eliot Fletcher, a former partner of my grandfathers.”
Many thanks to Mrs. Rydene for her generous contributions to this article.