Monday, September 27, 2010

House of the Week - Shutze Beach House


I noticed this house immediately from the beach, but had no idea that Philip Trammel Shutze was the architect. When my godmother gave us a driving tour of the island she told me this was "Aunt May's house" and that it was designed by Shutze. Of course I jumped out of the car and starting taking pictures. Later I got the whole story on the house, called Southwind, and the wonderful woman who lived there.

Southwind in 1938, photo by Gottscho-Schleisner

May Patterson Abreu (1891-1976)was from Atlanta. In the 1920's she worked at the interior design firm of Porter and Porter in Atlanta to help her family financially. She married James Goodrum in 1926. Sadly he only lived two years after they were married. May met Cuban born architect Francis Abreu at Sea Island and they were married in 1938. Francis Abreu designed many homes in Florida in his early years as an architect, but he is best known for his commercial and public buildings. He designed Eugene O'Neill's house on Sea Island. In Atlanta Francis and May lived in the Shutze designed house on W. Paces Ferry that was the Southern Center for International Studies, or the Peacock House.

Southwind was May's beach house - Shutze was the architect. May commissioned the house when she was still married to James Goodrum. Shutze used the stucco architecture of Bermuda as the design precedent for the beach cottage even though most of the architecture on the island was either designed by or inspired by Mizner and his Eclectic Spanish style. In American Classicist, Elizabeth Downling says of the project: "This new model employed the canted walls and peculiarly Bermuda-esqu stepped roof, which effectively break from Mizner's use of the Spanish precedent. For interior and exterior detailing, Shutze used a scallop shell motif to refer symbolically to the seaside location." (p173)

Southwind garden entrance, 1938

Garden entrance today

The living room in 1938, you can see the shell motif at the cornice.

From the Abreu Charitable Trust website:

"After their marriage, they were active members of Atlanta society during the 1940s and 1950s and were staunch patrons of the arts. May enjoyed the opera, arts and the symphony, while Francis preferred golfing, hunting and fishing. However, while Francis may not have shared May's love for cultural events, he did attend events to be social. May and Francis lived on West Paces Ferry Road in the home that is now headquarters for the Southern Center for International Studies.

May was an active participant in many charities in Atlanta, supporting the Atlanta Humane Society and the American Red Cross, as well as individual citizens. After the Depression, May provided several people with financial assistance to help them get back on their feet. One day when walking down Peachtree Street in Atlanta, May saw one of these people look at her and cross the street to avoid repayment. At Christmas, she sent "paid in full" messages in her Christmas cards to all who had received money from her with the simple message, "Merry Christmas."

May established the Francis L. Abreu Charitable Trust in her will to honor her husband. Today, the Trust carries on the tradition of giving begun many years ago and continues to benefit the Atlanta area arts and cultural programs, education, health associations, human services, children and youth services."

The house is currently under renovation - which is great news for all of us who love historic buildings and good architecture. Shutze of course planned the gardens as well as the house. The garden is directly behind the house and one enters the house through the garden. There are several raised bed, walled planting areas with stone paths. At either end of the garden sit two guest houses.

One of the guest houses.

At the North end of the gardens and house is this building now being used to store garden tools.

View of the south side of the house.

What fun to find such architectural history at the beach!


  1. This - has - been - fabulous!!!! Thank you for this wonderful historical info on this residence and all the photos, you really surprised me this morning! Great read with my first cup of coffee!

  2. You just wouldn't know unless you knew. And once you know, it's obvious. Oh those porches!

  3. Wow! What a beach house!!! And what a history, thanks!

  4. What an amazing story. Thank you for taking the time to research and share the history of this amazing house.

  5. Such a great house. Thanks for sharing and the details on the background.

  6. I am glad you like our beach house. Our decorator sent this to us- much to our amazement. We can't wait to be done with the renovation. We would love for you all to see the finished product. We plan on making sure we don't change any of the historical aspects of the house. We love it too!
    Kimberly George

  7. Kimberly -
    We would to see the house when you are finished! It is a jewel!!!
    Let us know when the renovation is complete.

  8. I have often wondered about other views of this house other than the few in the P.T. Shutze book. Many thanks for this great post on an extraordinary beach house.

  9. Oh wow! I was so floored to come across this blog post! My family, along with two others, have rented this house in the summer for the last 10 years. We have so many wonderful memories here, dance parties on the porch, charades in the living room, family pictures in the garden. We were so sad when the house sold, but I am so thrilled to see in the comments that the new owners plan to keep the historical integrity of the house. I absolutely love reading about the history of this house. I feel so lucky that it is a part of some of my greatest memories. It is a very special place!

  10. I have loved that house for many years...about 20-25. I first discovered It when we were staying in a cottage on 9th St. We always refered to IT as the "Emmet Barnes" house. I was quite surprised to see the new pictures you see above because they were taken by me over several visits to the island in 2011. Each time I'm there I always go by and try see what's been done. I live in Atlanta and am great admirer of Phillip Shutze, as my father worked as a draftsman for him in the 1920's, and before he got his architecture license. I would love to be included in the unveiling of the refreshed and refurbished jewel of a home. Thank You, Candy

  11. We have finished the renovation to our wonderful home and the landscaping is done.

    It turned out beautiful. If you are ever down there again, stop by and look at it. We are honored to own this house that has so many great memories.

  12. I just stumbled across this blog & wanted to say hello! My grandmother is May P. Abreu & it's so wonderful to see Southwind being so well maintained. We have have pictures of Daddy playing at Southwind & it's always felt like home (he sold it to Mr. Barnes shortly before/after I was born). I hope to get to Sea Island sooner than later & will take a peek! Thank you for the pictures, history & update!
    Best, Claire Abreu