SUN PHOTO/PAT COPELAND
Above, Pat Fletcher studies an expansion planned for
Eckerd Theater Company at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.
By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
Architect H. Patterson (Pat) Fletcher, in business on the
Island for more than 30 years, says the Island is losing its
cozy, tropical ambiance.
"Homes are being overbuilt with respect to the size of
the lots," Fletcher explained. "People want mega-structures.
They want to fill up every bit of land that they can with
some concrete thing in a style thats not appropriate
for the Island.
"Homes should blend in with the environment and nestle
into the trees. We all came here for the beach, the palm trees
and the lush vegetation, not for ostentatious homes. Thats
the charm of the Island and were losing it."
Fletcher knows a bit about the Islands past his
family came here in 1956 when life was much simpler and beach
"My parents bought two beach cottages on Aqua Lane, and
I came down here to help rebuild them," he recalled.
"We used Holmes Construction.
"My family loved the Island, so we spent a lot of time
here. We flew from Ft. Wayne, Ind., to the Pinellas Airport,
which is now the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport. From there
we took an air taxi to the landing strip on the Island (where
Holmes Beach City Hall and adjacent field are now)."
Fletcher said he got sand in his shoes, so after graduating
from high school, he attended the University of Miami with
a dream of becoming an architect.
"I was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., and one day I saw
a house that I really liked and found out that it was designed
by Frank Lloyd Wright," he said. "I started reading
about him and from then on I knew where I wanted to go and
what I wanted to do."
Fletcher was accepted as an apprentice at Taliesin to learn
Wrights style of architecture. Students traveled between
Taliesin East in Wisconsin in the summer and Taliesin West
in Arizona in the winter.
After a hitch in the U.S. Navys submarine service during
the Vietnam War, Fletcher returned to Florida, working in
Ft. Lauderdale designing hotels, homes and condominiums. In
1974, he sat for the Florida boards, got his license and returned
to the Island to build his home and start his practice.
Fletchers home reflects his beliefs.
"My house is very organic," he explained. "It
was designed using cement block in its natural from
not covering it up with stucco. It has a metal roof,
a cypress interior and mitered corner windows."
The house was one of the last homes built before the Federal
Emergency Management Agency required that homes be elevated.
His parents home, which he built next door to his, also is
not elevated, but for a different reason. His father was handicapped,
so he received permission to build it on the ground, an option
that is no longer allowed.
One of the first homes he designed on the Island was for a
Lakeland banker and is located near the Manatee County Public
"It was one of the first homes built after the coastal
construction control line was established," Fletcher
said. "No one really knew what to do. We had to go to
Tallahassee for discussions with DEP (Florida Department of
Environmental Protection) officials.
"The connectors for the roof and foundation that we use
today were not yet available then, so we had to improvise.
We used threaded steel rods and ran them through the whole
Fletchers business began to boom. In addition to private
residences, he has designed a number of public buildings such
as the Island Branch Library, Holmes Beach City Hall, the
Island Baptist Church and an addition to Gloria Dei Lutheran
"When we do churches, we treat them like theaters,"
he pointed out. "Island Baptist Church has the same type
of acoustics as Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota."
In 1980, he was asked to serve as associate architect with
Taliesin Architects for Wes Peters design of Ruth Eckerd
Hall in Clearwater. The facility and the design team were
honored with the Governors Design Award in 1986. Patterson
also worked with Peters on renovations to Van Wezel.
Fletcher has spent the past five years designing and supervising
construction of renovations and additions to Ruth Eckerd Hall.
The $28 million project doubled the halls space.
With an eye on last years four hurricanes that devastated
parts of the state, Fletcher recently attended a seminar on
wind borne debris protection that focused on building and
window design. The seminar was given by the states Hurricane
Research Advisory Committee, and the groups findings
will be incorporated into new state building codes that are
"The committee studied what caused buildings to collapse
during Hurricane Andrew and last summers four storms,"
he said. "They found that tile roofs were the worst and
the tiles just flew off in the wind, while metal roofs seemed
"If buildings got much above 35 to 37 feet, there was
terrible wind damage. This shows that the Island cities are
right to hold buildings to those heights. However, in Anna
Maria, they should allow homeowners to come down into the
flood elevation instead of making everybody build to 13 feet,
which reduces the interior ceiling height."
Another thing he learned, which underscores his belief that
homes should nestle into the trees, is that trees lower wind
speed against a house frame. So, surrounding your house with
trees can protect against storm damage.
Currently, Fletcher is working on designing an expansion to
the Eckerd Theater Company at Ruth Eckerd Hall.