Modernist Architecture in West Volusia County

By Oscar Brock

This first in a three-part series on Modernist architecture in West Volusia focuses primarily on Mid-Century Modern, 1954-1964. Recent years have brought a rage for Mid-Mod material culture: Homes with low-pitched or butterfly roofs, aqua and pink kitchen appliances, spikey-legged furniture, boomerang coffee tables, flying saucer lamps - the list goes on. Young people, especially, are outfitting their homes with old-modern furniture, decor and wall hangings found at thrift stores or picked up roadside. This series is offered in the hope that members, young and old, might look back and smile nostalgically at "the way we were."

Part One looks at the post-WW11 housing phenomenon in DeLand that included traditionally styled Pine Hills and modernist styled Valencia Villas. Part Two offers a more thorough look at Mid-Mod and the postwar prosperity and optimism which drove Modernists, examples of which are shown in photos accompanying the narrative. Part Three, in recognition of the Postmodern era, takes a look at some late 20th Century Modernist homes.

Art Deco, 1925-1942, has not been included in these pages due to its seeming absence in West Volusia. Readers, does anyone know of any Art Deco commercial buildings, apartment complexes or houses on our side of Volusia County? The photo of Daytona Beach's Streamline Hotel shows the style in its finest form.

West Volusia's first postwar housing subdivision, not unlike one in Levittown, N. J., offered affordable housing for returning GI's and young starter families. Pine Hills, clustered just east of the Stetson University campus, featured modest but attractive homes on generous lots. Some first-generation Baby Boomers grew up there. Today a wide demographic of residents, including retired university professors, make Pine Hills home. Owners can feel proud that their homes, for the most part, have retained their original character.

Valencia Villas, located just north of downtown, is DeLand's first and only Mid-Century Modern subdivision. Houses, built in the mid-Fifties by Sanford developer Brailly Odum, were placed in an orange grove and first owners, many from the north, were delighted to have backyard pick-it-yourself fruit. Odum's homes featured varied floor plans, facades and roof lines, making it difficult to depict a "typical home." Those shown here, though different, are united by a dynamic Modernism.

Valencia Villas is bordered by Rosehill Avenue on the north, East Kentucky Avenue on the south, North Amelia Avenue on the east and North Alabama Avenue on the west. Bordering and contained within the development are 50 homes. Another nine Odum homes lead north from Rosehill on Villa Court, ending in a cul de sac. Though detached from the main portion, these nine houses are part of the Odum development. The several houses along Rosehill do not share the Odum look and they may have undergone later modifications.

The main east to west thoroughfare, Valencia Court, features a left and a right cul de sac. The generally level terrain is relieved at the northwest by an ancient dune, offering six homes a bit of hilltop drama. Classic features of Mid-Mod villas include low, side pitched roofs, corner windows, glassed corner sunrooms, decorative block carport enclosures, front entry privacy walls and jazzy front brickwork. Possibly less than one percent of DeLand homes have these character-defining attributes, making "The Villas," without overstatement, a stand-out community gem. Today all the original homes remain, and a few are in as-before condition. A decorative "Valencia Villas" entry marker might serve to enhance a sense of community identity and pride.

Watch for Part Two of our investigation of West Volusia Modernist Architecture, particularly home interiors.