Historic photos of the Glenn Curtiss House c. 1925 and c. 1934
Photos from National Register
collection, later photo by Mr. Hiram Owen Goodlet
The Glenn Curtiss House was constructed in 1925 for this aviation pioneer
who had established his own airplane company before becoming the developer
of Miami Springs, Florida. Located in his Miami Spring development, Curtiss
lived in this large, two-story residence designed in the Pueblo Revival
style until his death in 1930. Glenn Hammond Curtiss, born in 1878 in
Hammondsport, New York, was a rival of the Wright Brothers. Like the Wright
Brothers, Curtiss was interested in bicycles as a young man, opening a
bicycle repair shop in 1900 after his marriage to Lena Pearl Neff. Interested
in speed, he soon turned to motorcycles and designed a machine with a
lightweight, high-power engine. He created the G.H. Curtiss Manufacturing
Company in New York in 1902, and began producing the Hercules motorcycle.
Although setting records for motorcycle racing, his company also drew
the attention of aeronautical experimenters--in July 1904 Thomas Scott
Baldwin used a Curtiss two-cylinder engine to power the first successful
dirigible to fly in the United States, the California Arrow.
Alexander Graham Bell, the famed inventor, was also impressed by the Curtiss
engines, and invited Curtiss to join the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA).
Curtiss turned to airplanes after Bell's man-carrying motorized kite was
deemed a failure. The AEA designed and built several airplanes, including
the Red Wing which first flew on March 12, 1908. This was followed two months
later by the White Wing, which employed Bell-contrived ailerons for lateral
control, a system that was superior to the wing warping used by the Wright
Brothers. Curtiss became an enthusiastic flyer, and after the AEA disbanded
in 1909, established his own airplane company in Hammondsport, New York.
The second airplane company that Curtiss established, the Curtiss Aeroplane
Company, became the world's largest aircraft manufacturer during the war.
He developed an airplane that could land on water for the Navy, but he soon
found himself in a legal battle with the Wright Brothers, who held a patent
on their wing-warping system. While the Wrights won in court, Curtiss paid
no penalty, and a Wall Street syndicate formed the Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor
Company, with Curtiss as president. The most widely produced model during
World War I was Curtiss's JN-4 "Jenny." When the company underwent major
financial reorganization in 1920, Curtiss moved to southern Florida, where
he became a real estate developer during the 1920s. As William M. Leary
wrote in American National Biography, "Curtiss stands in the forefront
of American aeronautical pioneers, second only to the Wright brothers in
Glenn Curtiss in plane
Courtesy of U.S. Centennial
The Glenn Curtiss House is one of the largest and most architecturally distinguished
of the Pueblo Revival residences associated with Curtiss's Miami Springs
development. Its architect, Martin Luther Hampton, was one of Miami's most
prominent architects during the 1920s--his designs include the former Miami
Beach City Hall and the Congress Building in downtown Miami. The house is
roughly V-shaped in plan and constructed of hollow clay tile with a rough
textured stucco exterior. The roof is flat with very irregular parapet walls
embellished by projecting waterspouts and irregular shaped openings. The
main entrance to the residence is set within a deeply recessed T-shaped
opening and marked by a flat-roofed porte cochere. The southeast central
courtyard of the building features a later oolithic (rock consisting of
small round grains) limestone facing on its first story pierced by modern
windows and glass doors.
Detail of Curtiss Mansion
Photo courtesy of Peggy
Rickets, Curtiss Mansion, Inc.
After Glenn Curtiss's death in the early 1930s, Lena Curtiss married an
old friend and business associate of her husband, H. Sayre Wheeler. Wheeler
served as mayor of Miami Springs from 1942 to 1944 and was also part owner
of the Michaels and Wheeler Insurance Company. The couple lived in the house
until the late 1940s. It was subsequently converted into the Miami Springs
Villas House in 1953.
Architect's rendering of the building
at completion of the restoration efforts
Rendering courtesy of
Peggy Rickets, Curtiss Mansion, Inc.
The Glenn Curtiss House, at 500 Deer Run in Miami Springs, Florida,
is one block off of NW 36th St. It is currently not open to the public
while it is being restored to serve as a museum honoring the life of Glenn
Curtiss. The museum plans to open in 2005 or 2006.